Dog Tooth Decay Stages

As a pet owner, you need to be aware of dental health issues that can affect your dog. Here at University Veterinary Hospital in Shreveport, LA, we aim to provide you with detailed information about the various stages of dog tooth decay. Understanding these stages can help you take the necessary steps to keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy. If you have any concerns about their care or need more information about dental problems and treatments for your pet, don’t hesitate to contact us at (318) 797-5522.

dog tooth decay stages

The Early Stage: Plaque and Tartar Buildup

The initial stage of tooth decay in dogs begins with the formation of plaque. Plaque, a sticky film, develops when food particles and saliva mix with bacteria in your dog’s mouth. Over time, this plaque hardens into tartar, which is impossible to remove with teeth brushing. Signs of this stage include slightly discolored teeth and mild bad breath. Catching tooth decay at this stage is necessary to prevent more serious dental problems.

The Progression: Gum Disease and Gingivitis

Gingivitis is a sign that tartar is accumulating in your pet’s mouth. Gingivitis occurs in the second stage of tooth decay, where the gums become red and inflamed. They may even bleed a little at this stage. Bad breath also becomes more noticeable, and your dog may show discomfort while they’re eating. It’s essential to catch signs of gingivitis in your pet as early as possible so that treatment can be provided to reverse the effects.

Advanced Decay: Tooth Damage and Loss

Your dog’s dental issues can start to become severe in the third stage. This is when the health of the tooth becomes significantly compromised, with its supporting structures deteriorating, leading to serious gum recession and tooth mobility. Teeth can also be prone to breakage at this stage, and tartar buildup can be at risk of secreting infectious bacteria below the gum line and into the bloodstream. Oral infection can spread into the jawbone and even affect the heart, kidneys, and liver. 

The Impact of Tooth Decay on Your Pet’s Overall Health

Tooth decay in dogs is often more than just a dental issue; it has significant implications for their overall health. Bacteria from infected teeth and gums can enter the bloodstream, potentially leading to systemic infections. 

For instance, bacteria can cause endocarditis, a serious condition where the inner lining of the heart becomes inflamed. Liver and kidney functions can also be compromised, as these organs filter the blood and may become overwhelmed by bacteria and toxins. Maintaining your dog’s oral health is therefore essential not just for their dental well-being but for their general health and longevity.

Signs It’s Time for Veterinary Care

It’s crucial to recognize when your dog needs professional dental care. Persistent bad breath is a common sign, but other symptoms shouldn’t be ignored. 

These include:

  • A noticeable decrease in appetite or difficulty chewing might indicate pain or discomfort in the mouth. 
  • Excessive drooling, especially if it’s tinged with blood, is another red flag.
  • Behavioral changes, such as increased irritability or a reluctance to play with chew toys, can also indicate dental discomfort. 

If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to contact your veterinarian to schedule a comprehensive dental checkup for your pet. 

Preventing Tooth Decay in Dogs

Tooth decay can cause a lot of trouble for pets, but total prevention is possible with the right treatment approach. This usually involves a combination of daily at-home care and routine professional support from your veterinarian. At home, brushing your dog’s teeth is the most impactful thing you can do to initiate good dental habits and ensure excellent dental health. 

Ideally, you need to use a toothbrush designed for dogs and pet-safe toothpaste. Dental chews and toys designed to promote oral health can also be helpful. These items help to mechanically remove plaque and can be a fun way for your dog to contribute to their dental care. 

Additionally, feeding your dog a balanced diet formulated for dental health can also aid in reducing plaque and tartar buildup. Remember, while these at-home practices are vital, they do not replace the need for regular professional dental cleanings and exams with your veterinarian. University Veterinary Hospital is dedicated to supporting you and your pet and empowering you to provide them with the best care. If you need more information or would like to book an appointment, call us today at (318) 797-5522!

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About University Veterinary Hospital

UVH has a phenomenal team of veterinarians and specialists available to meet all your pet’s needs. From the moment you walk through our doors, you will be met with friendly faces and warm greetings from our wonderful front desk team, and then ushered into an exam room to meet with your veterinarian. We are deeply invested in your pet’s longevity and happiness, and in your satisfaction.