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Periodontal Disease in Dogs: 5 Easily Missed Signs

Dr. Sara Ochoa

Reviewed by Sara Ochoa, DVM

Periodontal disease is the most common disease in dogs.

Typically, gum disease is painless. When it first begins, there are no visible indications or symptoms. However, if gum disease has progressed, it can wreak havoc on your dog’s mouth.

Are you concerned about your dog’s dental health?

There are some tell-tale signs that might give you a hint that something’s not right. If your dog has really bad breath or doesn’t appear to be chewing properly, you’re in the right place.

This post will help you understand the common signs of periodontal disease. It can be subtle in the beginning, but after reading this you’ll have a better understanding of what to do to prevent or treat the problem.

What is Periodontal Disease in Dogs?

In its early stages, periodontal disease starts as gingivitis. When gingivitis isn’t treated, it can progress into a more serious condition known as periodontitis. At this point, the gums can pull away from the teeth leaving the to eventually fall out.

It begins as dental plaque and tartar build-up on the teeth. Unfortunately, periodontal disease is a condition that affects the canine teeth and their supporting tissues.

If left untreated, periodontitis may result in gum infections, bone loss, tooth loss, and other major health concerns.

Causes of periodontal disease

Periodontal disease in dogs is caused by the build-up of plaque and tartar on the teeth.

But how does plaque develop?

Bacteria buildup in a dog’s mouth may ultimately form plaque, which hardens in two to three days. Calculus is notoriously tough to scrape off teeth and it’s definitely not something you can do yourself.

As the immune system attempts to combat the bacteria accumulation, inflammation of the gums and other obvious signs of the condition become visible.

Nutritional and dietary deficiencies may contribute to plaque and bacteria that cause periodontal disease. Poor grooming habits, tooth alignment, dirty toys, and poor oral hygiene may also contribute to the problem.

Serious Symptoms of Periodontal Disease

By the time severe periodontitis symptoms occur, your dog may be experiencing chronic pain and the loss of teeth.

Dogs naturally self-isolate to avoid displaying weakness to predators. This makes it difficult to determine when something is wrong because they hide it so well.

Unfortunately, periodontitis affects more than your dog’s mouth.

Bacteria seeps into the blood and travels through the body. This can wreak havoc on key organs and could even result in heart disease. A long time could pass before you start to notice something is wrong. Once the disease reaches a more advanced stage, you may notice the following signs:

  • Teeth that are loose or missing
  • Irritability due to pain
  • Weight loss
  • Changes to the jaw bone structured
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
periodontal disease in dogs is preventable

Stages of Periodontal Disease in Dogs – 5 Easily Missed Signs

When a veterinarian sees your dog for regular yearly wellness checks, he/she will likely spot the signs of periodontal disease long before things get really bad.

The following stages can be avoided through professional dental cleanings, good nutrition, and regular wellness checks.

1. Bad Breath

A dog’s breath may not be pleasant, but it shouldn’t be foul. If you’ve noticed that your dog suddenly has foul or sour smelling breath, it could be a sign of problems.

At this point, gingivitis may be apparent. There could be tartar and bacteria present leading to gum swelling. If this is happening, you might notice a broad red line around and next to the teeth.

Breath problems aren’t necessarily related to dental issues. However, dental problems should be suspected.

2. Early Periodontitis

Following stage 1, the next stage of periodontal disease in dogs is a more severe form of the dental disease called ‘early periodontitis’. At this point, the tissues around the teeth deteriorate. This can easily be missed without a veterinarian examination.

At this point, there could be mild bone resorption where the jaw bone begins to weaken and deteriorate. If periodontal pockets develop the gums will separate from the tooth.

There could even be some mild gingival recession. When this happens, it exposes the roots of the teeth. This can be painful and lead to severe sensitivity.

3. Moderate Periodontal Disease

When periodontal disease reaches becomes severe, it is called moderate periodontal disease. At this point, further damage to the gum tissues around the teeth occurs.

Signs can include:

  • Significant loss of bones, estimated to be between 25% and 50%
  • When handled or treated, gums often bleed quickly.
  • Breath problems are evident.
  • Periodontal pockets enlarge.
  • Gingiva ulceration is a possibility.

4. Severe Periodontal Disease

The fourth stage of canine periodontal disease is the most severe stage. At this point, your dog may experience extreme discomfort.

Eating dry kibble will be painful. In fact, your dog may not want to eat much of anything. This results in weight loss.

Severe periodontal disease may warrant a tooth extraction or several. The extraction of teeth involves general anesthesia which can be risky. Couple that with the potential for infection and harm to internal organs, and you’ve got a big problem.

If your dog has reached this stage, he/she likely has greater than 50% bone loss in the jaw. An examination by a licensed veterinarian may reveal numerous plaques and dental calculus.

Any periodontal pockets are probably deep due to the damage of alveolar bone.

5. Weakness

Dogs with painful teeth and gums will not be able to chew kibble. Unless the dog is on a wet food diet, it may be hard for him/her to chew and digest properly.

Over time, inadequate nutrition can cause a host of other secondary conditions. However, what you may notice are signs of weakness and fatigue.

Prevent periodontal disease through checkups

Prevention of Dog Gum Disease

Older dogs will naturally have darker, stained teeth. However, there are things you can do when your dog is still a puppy to help offset gum disease in dogs.


Pets’ teeth, like human teeth, should be cleaned daily to eliminate food particles. It’s easy to forget and not always convenient to do. However, every effort should be made to brush your dog’s teeth.

Starting early gets them used to the sensation which makes it easier later on. If your dog has crowded teeth, food particles are more likely to become stuck between their teeth. Getting those food particles out may help keep your dog’s gums healthy.

Brushing helps to reduce the number of germs and their by-products.

Daily brushing is the finest home care for maintaining your beautiful whites in tip-top shape, and the same is true for your dog. IMPORTANT NOTE: Never use human toothpaste on dogs. It may contain dangerous ingredients not designed for animal use.

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Regular Wellness Checks with Veterinarian

Bring your dog in for routine dental exams and professional cleanings. Oral examinations with intraoral radiographs performed under general anesthesia are the only method to get a complete image of what is going on within your dog’s teeth and below the gum line.

Regular dental exams enable you to monitor your dog’s health and detect any problems in the very early stages.

Feed High Quality Food to Your Dog

Certain dogs will benefit from “dental diets” that help clean their teeth as they eat. Some treats are designed to assist in reducing tartar and plague build-up on your dog’s teeth.

Consult your veterinarian to determine the best diet for your dog. Poor nutrition can result in your dog’s bad dental health.

Dental chews help clean your pet’s teeth, avoiding the accumulation of tartar.

Protect Your Dog’s Teeth From Damage

Provide safe chew toys for your dog.

Chewing on tooth-friendly treats is another technique to help avoid canine gum disease. Look for soft snacks and clean toys, like rubber balls, thin rawhide strips that flex, and rubbery toys that may conceal rewards.

You may want to avoid hard rawhide. In can cause intestinal blockage in some cases and may cause gastrointestinal upset.

Periodontitis Therapy

Treatment for this condition will vary according to the severity and progression of the disease.

Early periodontitis is easier to treat and less painful to the dog. Poor prognosis can be reversed if you frequently take your pet for check-ups.

Below are some of the treatment options available:

Mouthwash for dogs

Dog mouthwash may be used to maintain a dog’s dental health.

It is particularly developed for dogs and is completely safe to consume. Dog mouthwash is beneficial for reducing germs, eliminating bad breath, eradicating the buildup of bacteria and chronic plaque buildup on the tooth surface.

The following are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through, I may earn from qualifying purchases:

Dental Water For Dogs:

Arm & Hammer Dental Flavorless & Odorless Tartar Control Dog Dental Water Additive 16 oz bottle.

Arm & Hammer Doggy Toothbrush and Toothpaste Combo

Paws & Pals Natural Beef Flavored Dog Toothpaste & Toothbrush 2 count

Nylabone Advanced Oral Care Puppy Dental Kit

Pain relief

due to anti-inflammatory properties
A veterinarian may administer non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines to alleviate gum tissue infection-related discomfort. Anti-inflammatory medications and antibiotics will almost certainly be necessary after any surgical procedure.


Antibiotics may be used to treat dental infections, most notably tooth abscesses caused by periodontal disease. Antibiotics are often given to dogs with severe dental disease days before and after a dental cleaning.

Professional Dental Hygiene

Professional dental cleaning is a more involved process that removes plaque and tartar buildup. Your dog will be sedated since this is the only safe approach to use while undertaking any dental procedures on your dog. Professional cleaning is recommended once in a while.

While sedated, a veterinarian may take dental X-rays to rule out any additional dental or bone abnormalities. This is critical for identifying a periodontal disease since many symptoms occur below the gum line.

Periodontal probing may also be used to determine the state of your dog’s gum and get a treatment method early enough. If there is detected calculus in the pet’s mouth ultrasonic scaler is used to remove it. Intraoral radiographs are clearer when detecting any dental issues and are reliable.

Results of Untreated Periodontal Disease

Not only is gum disease painful for your dog, but it can wreak havoc on their entire body if left untreated.

Fractures of the Jaw

Since advanced periodontal disease destroys the bone that supports the teeth, it can result in jaw fractures.

The risk is greatest in toy breed dogs, as the roots of their teeth are extremely close to the jawbone edges. It can cause bone loss in a very short time.

Abscesses of the Teeth

Gum disease can also cause tooth root abscesses, which can rupture and create open wounds on the cheeks or chin. This is a painful condition. Once the roots have abscessed, the cavity fills with bacteria. That bacteria can continue to the blood stream causing serious problems.

Abnormal Opening in Gums

Oronasal fistulas, or holes connecting the mouth and nasal passages, can develop due to untreated, periodontal disease.

Dachshunds are particularly susceptible to this. Chronic sneezing and nasal discharge are common symptoms.

Eye Problems

Additionally, because the teeth in the back of the mouth are located directly beneath the eyes, tooth root infections can result in eye problems. If not addressed promptly, this can result in the dog losing its sight, which is irreversible damage.

Risk of Organ Damage

Gum disease in dogs may also be detrimental to distant organs. This illness will result in bacterial toxins and toxic inflammatory substances entering the circulation and spreading throughout the body.

Periodontal disease increases the risk of chronic renal disease, liver disease, and heart disease in dogs.


There are many ways to keep your dog happy and healthy. Good nutrition, exercise, vaccines, wellness and dental checks are vital to prevent small issues from turning into major ones.

Regular dental appointments along with diligent at-home dental care, will help keep your dog’s mouth healthy. It requires daily commitment, but it is vital for dogs predisposed to or currently suffer from periodontal disease.

Healthy teeth and gums indicate that your dog is physically fit. Dental treatment regularly may help dogs enjoy longer, happier lives as they age. It’s important to realize that many pet insurance plans do not cover dental procedures, which is why it’s critical to keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy.

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