Gingivitis, the first stage of periodontal disease, is a bacterial infection in the gums that causes swelling and discomfort in mild cases but can lead to infection of the jaw bone and tooth loss in more severe instances.
What Is Gingivitis?
Much like the human variation, gingivitis is caused by a buildup of plaque on the teeth. This plaque contains a mix of bacteria, food and saliva which interact in such a way with the body’s immune system that enzymes are released in the area that in turn, begin to disintegrate the gums leading to inflammation.
The common symptoms include:
- Swollen gums
- Red gums
- Bleeding gums, especially when brushing their teeth
- Receding gums
- Loose teeth
- Excessive plaque and tartar build up (a white sticky film on your dog's teeth, usually close to the tooth/gum border)
The later stages of gingivitis is named periodontal during which the gums begin to recede as well as other hard tissue surrounding the tooth. Thanks to the bacteria laden area it's not uncommon for dogs to develop liver, kidney and heart disease as well as bone and tooth loss.
Is It Contagious?
Gingivitis is actually rather easily transmissible in theory due to the nature of bacterial infections. The chances of transmission occurring are really extremely low to the point of being negligible as the amount of saliva carrying bacteria that would need to be exchanged between dogs isn’t feasible naturally; what dog do you know that continuously licks another dog’s tongue?
The only considerable way that gingivitis could be shared between dogs is when they share a water bowl but even this is unlikely as few dogs salivate dramatically into their bowls; To be on the safe side perhaps separate your dog bowls if you have a known case of gingivitis in the house.
How Can I Prevent It?
Thankfully gingivitis is extremely preventable with a little oral care. Brushing your dog’s teeth daily with a dog specific paste will go yards in preventing any plaque and subsequent bacteria build-up.
In trying to get your pup to at least tolerate having their teeth brushed, introduce them slowly using a flavour-friendly toothpaste that’s made for dogs. A minty fresh dog does sound appealing but tooth brushing will become a battle, it’s best to stick with the meat flavoured variety for you to be able to have the most consistent routine with your little one.
In between brushes dental sticks and liquid supplements for your dogs water bowl will show some slight benefits for their teeth and gums, preventing plaque build up. These are not, however, replacements for a good tooth brushing so don’t skimp out on them!
It’s recommended by most vets that your dog gets to them for a professional teeth cleaning once a year. This is quite a lengthy and costly process to try to avoid any more sessions than is necessary by keeping on top of your dog's tooth cleaning. As much as training your dog to feel neutral at worst about having their teeth cleaned can be frustrating and seem endless, it's a much easier and more affordable route than relying on professional teeth cleaning from your vet.
A healthy and balanced diet primarily from kibble is a great way to keep your dog’s teeth healthy. Dry food leaves less residue in the mouth and has a mild abrasive effect on the teeth removing a slight amount of plaque and tartar build up. This abrasive effect is not pronounced enough to substitute at home or professional teeth cleaning.
My Dog Has Gingivitis. What Do I Do Now?
If your dog is unlucky enough to develop this infection it can be relatively easily managed by teeth cleaning, debridement and removal of irreparably damaged tissue.
Gingivitis can be extremely costly and painful for your dog even despite it being such a common affliction.
It’s therefore highly recommended that you invest in a toothbrush and paste and get going to prevent any unnecessary pain.