Pyorrhea--a neo-Latin word meaning "discharge of pus"--is an advanced stage of periodontitis, a severe yet common dental condition. Pyorrhea can affect dogs of any age, but is most common in older animals. The disease can cause tooth loss and infection of the bone that can spread to other organs.
Teeth have deep support structures, but when inflamed from food particles and bacteria that collect on a dog's gum line, plaque (a sticky deposit) forms; plaque eventually turns into calculus (tartar), which can irritate the gums, leading to gingivitis. After a while, calculus builds up under the gum and separates it from the teeth, causing spaces where bacteria grow. As pus forms, tissue may destruct and teeth loosen.
Because pyorrhea is an advanced stage of periodontal disease, loose teeth and eventual tooth loss, as well as bad breath caused by infection are the two most common symptoms. However, according to K9 Magazine, other signs your pup may have poor oral health include loss of appetite, touchiness around the mouth, problems chewing and eating, pawing at the mouth, and bleeding, inflamed or receding gums. Yellow teeth are also cause for concern.
Treatment for Pyorrhea
If you think your dog may have pyorrhea, get him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Your vet will probe his gums and teeth and may take x-rays. Treatment depends on how extensive the periodontal disease is. If caught early, your vet may recommend daily brushing and a professional dental cleansing. In more advanced cases, antibiotic gels may be used, and in severe cases bone replacement and tissue regeneration may be necessary.
Prevention is Best
Because the worst case scenario of pyorrhea is an infection that can lead to hepatitis and heart, kidney and lung disease, as well as other conditions, the best dental offense is a good defense: prevention. And a toothbrush, used daily or at least once a week, is a great weapon. However, if your dog refuses to let you use a toothbrush, a good bone (large, non-splintering) or a dental chew is an acceptable alternative.
Debra Levy has been writing for more than 30 years. She has had fiction and nonfiction published in various literary journals. Levy holds an M.A. in English from Indiana University and an M.F.A. in creative writing/fiction from the Bennington Writing Seminars.