You may be groaning inwardly at another post on canine periodontal disease, but the doggone truth is, many of us pet parents could stand to freshen up on the topic. That’s not a guess, it’s a fact: 17 out of 20 dogs over the age of three have some level of periodontal disease that needs treatment. One of the most common canine diseases, it’s also one of the most easily prevented. Dental disease not only “stinks” at the source, it’s also known to negatively impact the health of the whole body. It’s not a stretch to say that to have true wellness, your dog’s teeth and gums need to be as healthy as possible. I know all of you are busy, so I’ll briefly cover the three most salient points to remember when it comes to canine dental care. You might want to take notes, or simply print this out for reference, as there will be an oral exam. At least, I certainly hope so!
1. Dental Disease Can Be Painful, Even Deadly
I’m sure all of you know that dental disease causes “doggie breath”, but you may not be aware that chronic inflammation can cause pain, lead to infections, and serves as a precursor to much more serious issues. For instance, severe periodontal disease is significantly correlated with increased risk of heart disease, such as infected heart valves (Glickman et al., 2009). Chronically inflamed and infected gums also increase the risk for kidney disease, limiting the amount of toxins they can purify from the blood (Glickman et al., 2011). I’d ask that you keep in mind that inflamed and infected gums are just as painful for dogs as they are for humans, potentially lowering your companion animal’s quality of life. The bottom line is, a healthier mouth makes for a happier dog!
2. For Dental Disease, There is No Magic Bullet
Even though periodontal disease is all-too-common, many veterinary researchers are still baffled by its causes, and therefore, the best method for prevention. We do know that plaque-forming bacteria play a role. A recent study (Riggio et al., 2011) showed a wide diversity of canine oral flora, both in health and disease states, including previously undiscovered species of bacteria!
Not knowing exactly what’s going on makes it especially difficult to find a cure, but that hasn’t stopped big companies from trying. In 2006, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer introduced a vaccine for periodontal disease, aimed at targeting three specific bacteria associated with periodontitis (including Porphyromonas denticanis, P. gulae, and P. salivosa). Following the release of the vaccine, Pfizer Animal Health conducted a 4-year review to determine the true effectiveness of the vaccine. Not surprising to me, there was no demonstrable reduction in the progression of periodontal disease, and the company discontinued this product in April of 2011. As a holistic veterinarian, I don’t usually put much faith in vaccines, other than core vaccinations.
Simply put, when it comes to periodontal disease, there are no magic bullets.
3. An Ounce of Prevention is Your Best Bet
Recent studies indicate that treatment of canine periodontal disease may not resolve the attendant inflammation, which means negative repercusions may continue for some time (Rawlinson et al., 2011). The only dependable method is to try and prevent onset of the disease in the first place. I can’t stress this enough … for the most part, periodontal disease is preventable! I strongly encourage you to make canine dental care a top priority at an early age. Your efforts will be rewarded, as proper dental can improve your dog’s chances of long-term health.
The most effective way to prevent gum disease is to brush your dog’s teeth on a regular basis. Don’t worry if you don’t know how – simply watch this Dr. Sarah video to learn the proper technique. In addition to routine brushing, a sound, wholesome diet provides a great foundation for health, and feeding your dog Life’s Abundance Gourmet Dental Treats will provide additional nutrients to help support healthy teeth and bones. Our Dental Treats also feature a variety of whole grains, added calcium, extra phosphorous and even a dash of parsley to help freshen breath.
If your pup already has tartar build-up and evidence of gum disease, do not despair! Make an appointment today to have her teeth cleaned and any infections treated. Soon, she’ll be back on the road to wellness.
Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for companion animals.
Dr. Jane Bicks
Riggio MP, Lennon A, Taylor DJ, Bennett D. Molecular identification of bacteria associated with canine periodontal disease. Vet Microbiol. 2011 Jun 2;150(3-4):394-400. Epub 2011 Mar 10.
Rawlinson JE, Goldstein RE, Reiter AM, Attwater DZ, Harvey CE. Association of periodontal disease with systemic health indices in dogs and the systemic response to treatment of periodontal disease. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2011 Mar 1;238(5):601-9.
Glickman LT, Glickman NW, Moore GE, Lund EM, Lantz GC, Pressler BM. Association between chronic azotemic kidney disease and the severity of periodontal disease in dogs. Prev Vet Med. 2011 May 1;99(2-4):193-200. Epub 2011 Feb 23.
Glickman LT, Glickman NW, Moore GE, Goldstein GS, Lewis HB. Evaluation of the risk of endocarditis and other cardiovascular events on the basis of the severity of periodontal disease in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2009 Feb 15;234(4):486-94.
Beard G, Emily P, Milligan & Williams C: American Animal Hospital Association, Veterinary Dentistry, Course I, 1989.