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What Are the Symptoms of Gum Disease in Dogs? continued...

Some symptoms of severe gum disease include:

  • Problems picking up food
  • Bleeding or red gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Blood in the water bowl or on chew toys
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • "Talking" or making noises when a dog eats or yawns
  • Bumps or lumps in the mouth
  • Bloody or ropey saliva
  • Not wanting the head touched (head shyness)
  • Chewing on one side of the mouth
  • Sneezing or nasal discharge (advanced gum disease in the upper teeth can destroy the bone between the nasal and oral cavity)


Complications of Gum Disease

Periodontal disease can cause more problems than tooth pain, says O'Morrow. For example, dogs with unchecked gum inflammation may be at higher risk for heart, kidney, and liver disease.

"The ultimate complication is one I see too commonly, and that is pathologic jaw fracture," Beckman says. Over time, untreated gum disease can destroy bone to such an extent that even a little pressure will fracture a small dog's weakened jaw.

Preventing Gum Disease in Dogs

Pets’ teeth should be brushed twice a day, just like humans’ teeth, O'Morrow tells WebMD. "If we can minimize bacteria and their by-products, a normal body will provide a suitable defense to maintain a healthy mouth."

Working with your veterinarian, follow these four steps to prevent or slow painful gum disease in your dog:

  1. Take your dog in for regular oral exams and cleanings. Oral exams with dental X-rays done under general anesthesia are the only way to get a full picture of what's happening in your dog's teeth and below the gum line. 
  2. Brush your dog's teeth every day. You know that the best home care for keeping your pearly whites in top form is daily brushing -- well it's the same for your pooch. While the task may seem a little daunting, it doesn't have to be. Patience, the right tools, and some guidance from your veterinarian can lead most pet owners to success. As a matter of fact, if you take it slow, most dogs and cats, even senior pets, will allow you to brush their teeth. 
  3. Feed your dog quality dog food. Some dogs will benefit from "dental diets" that help scrub their teeth as they chew, or from foods that have additives that prevent plaque from hardening. Talk to your vet about what diet is right for your dog. 
  4. Offer safe toys and treats for daily chewing. Chewing every day on tooth-friendly goodies is another way to help prevent gum disease in dogs. Look for treats and toys that aren't hard, like: rubber balls, thin rawhide strips that bend, as well as rubbery toys in which you can hide treats. (Beware that hard rawhide can cause gastrointestinal problems if your dog swallows a large piece.)

To prevent fractures and broken teeth, avoid hard treats of any kind, such as animal bones (raw or cooked), nylon bones, or cow and pig hooves.

How to Brush a Dog's Teeth

See techniques and tips for brushing your dog's teeth – the easy way.
View slideshow