Will Periodontal Teeth Disease Kill a Dog?

by Jo Chester
    Your dog's teeth should be white and shiny from tip to gumline, all the way to the back of his mouth.

    Your dog's teeth should be white and shiny from tip to gumline, all the way to the back of his mouth.

    Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    Periodontal disease is caused by untreated gingivitis. Gingivitis is caused by the development of plaque on a dog’s teeth. Both gingivitis and periodontal disease are preventable, but many dog owners let them occur by neglecting their pets' teeth. Periodontal disease not only can cause discomfort to dogs but can cause disfigurement and even death. Dogs of all breeds can be affected by periodontal disease.

    Gingivitis is the precursor to periodontal disease. It begins with inflammation of the gums caused by leftover food particles and bacteria that are deposited along the gumline. If left in place, these items will develop into a film called plaque, which can quickly absorb the minerals in saliva and then solidify. Solidified plaque takes the form of calculus and tartar. As long as the plaque remains unsolidified, the inflammation and infection it causes can be reversed. Once the solidified plaque travels below the gumline, gum loss and bone loss occurs as the oral disease becomes periodontal disease. Periodontal disease, unlike gingivitis, is irreversible even with cleaning. Periodontal disease can be corrected only with surgery and tooth extraction. Left untreated, the pockets formed by bone and gum loss can harbor potentially deadly bacteria.

    Leftover food is one cause of the plaque that causes gingivitis and periodontal disease. A dog’s type can have an effect on the possibility of plaque formation: Small breeds and other dogs with crowded teeth can develop plaque because of the difficulty cleaning between their teeth. Broken teeth and poor nutrition can also be causes of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is also more common in older animals.

    Gum loss, bone loss and tooth loss are three noticeable complications of periodontal disease. Over time, bone decay can become so extensive that the dog’s jaw can fracture with a minimum of pressure. The infection that causes bone loss can also infect the blood itself, a condition called bacteremia, sepsis or septicemia. Bacteremia can cause the infection to accumulate in the dog’s organs, becoming systemic. Untreated gingivitis or periodontal disease may even cause the dog to be at greater risk of developing liver disease, kidney disease or heart disease, any of which might cause serious illness or death.

    The best way to prevent periodontal disease is to clean your dog’s teeth on a daily basis, or at least a frequent one. Tooth-brushing is idea; the earlier you start and the more frequently you do it, the easier it will be for you and the pooch. Tooth-friendly chew toys and tooth-cleaning treats and dog foods may also aid in preventing gum disease. Along with a brushing regimen, oral examinations as part of your dog’s semiannual wellness care, and periodic dental cleaning and scaling performed by a veterinarian, constitute a preventative dental plan.

    Photo Credits

    • Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Jo Chester has been a professional writer and editor for more than a decade. She holds a Master of Arts in professional writing. Chester specializes in dog-related subjects and is a registered agent for Onofrio Dog Show Superintendents. She is also a certified dog trainer and has stewarded at numerous dog shows.

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