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Dog Stomatitis, Gingivitis, and Gum Care

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It’s so important to take great care of your dog’s teeth. Poor dental hygiene can lead to gum disease and serious health issues.

Gingivitis in Dogs

Gingivitis is a type of gum disease that causes inflammation in the mouth. Gingivitis is typically located at the gum margin (or gingiva). Signs of gingivitis can include red and swollen gums, drooling, and bad breath.

Gingivitis is caused by poor dental hygiene. Food particles build up along the gumline resulting in plaque, which is a filmy substance that contains bacteria. If the plaque isn’t cleaned regularly, it can move below the gumline and lead to inflammation.

Plaque absorbs minerals and hardens into a substance called tartar or calculus that attracts bacteria. Left untreated, this can lead to periodontal disease, which damages the gums. Advanced periodontal disease leads to loss of bone around the teeth causing them to loosen and fall out. Bacteria can also spread throughout the body affecting organs, such as the heart, liver, and kidney. 

Fortunately, gingivitis in dogs is preventable with proper home dental care, including regular brushing. Dogs should also have a yearly teeth cleaning and exam at their veterinary clinic.

Most dogs will have initial signs of gum disease by the time they are 3 years old, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

How to Treat Gingivitis in Dogs

Dog gingivitis treatment consists of a professional teeth cleaning, which is done under anesthesia. Your veterinarian will remove plaque and tartar. They’ll polish the teeth and typically take X-rays. After a thorough examination of the mouth and X-rays, the veterinarian will remove any loose or broken teeth. Following treatment, you’ll need to take great care of your dog’s teeth and gums at home to avoid a recurrence.

Dog Gingivitis Treatment Cost

The cost of treating gingivitis in dogs varies depending on the severity of the situation. Your dog may need diagnostic tests, dental X-rays, and a professional cleaning done under anesthesia. They could also require medications and follow-up visits. All of this could cost hundreds of dollars or more.

If you’re concerned about the cost of your dog’s dental care, you should consider pet insurance with optional preventive care coverage, available for an additional monthly cost.

Stomatitis in Dogs

Stomatitis is a form of gum disease that’s associated with an oversensitivity to plaque. It can cause inflammation and sores on the gums, tongue, and soft tissues of the mouth.

A common type of stomatitis in dogs is ulcerative paradental stomatitis (CUPS). With CUPS, sores or “kissing ulcers” appear in the paradental region where the gum meets the inner lip line.

Any dog can get stomatitis, but it is more prevalent in certain breeds. These include Maltese, Terriers, German Shepherds, and Greyhounds.

Symptoms of Stomatitis in Dogs

If your dog has stomatitis, you might notice them pawing at their face due to the pain. They may also stop chewing on their toys and be reluctant to open their mouth. Other signs of stomatitis in dogs include:

  • Bad breath
  • Drooling
  • Blood in the saliva
  • Inflamed gums that bleed easily
  • Sores on the gums and in the mouth

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian.

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Dog Stomatitis Treatment

To treat stomatitis, your veterinarian will perform a thorough teeth cleaning and polishing. They’ll extract any diseased teeth and potentially apply a barrier sealant to help reduce plaque buildup. They may also prescribe antibiotics and medications to control pain and inflammation.

Can Humans Catch Stomatitis from Dogs?

There are certain diseases and parasites that you can catch from your dog, such as ringworm, roundworm, and rabies. However, stomatitis is not transmitted to humans by dogs. You probably want to avoid those sweet and slobbery doggie kisses anyway if your poor pooch is still offering them.

Zoonotic diseases are health conditions you can get from your dog. Learn more and get tips on how to avoid them.

How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly is one of the best things you can do to help prevent gum disease. Here are some tips to help:

  • Choose a good time. It’s best to wait until your dog is in a relaxed mood or tired out after a long walk to brush their teeth.
  • Buy the right toothbrush. You’ll want to use a toothbrush designed for dogs. They’re typically smaller and softer than a human toothbrush. You can also purchase a rubber brush that goes over your finger if you prefer.
  • Use toothpaste that’s made for dogs. The toothpaste we use contains fluoride and other ingredients that can harm your dog, especially since they’re likely to swallow a lot of it.
  • Try flavored toothpaste. Dog-safe toothpaste comes in tempting flavors like poultry and beef. This can help make the process easier for you and your dog.
  • Enlist an extra set of hands. It can help to have someone your dog trusts nearby to pet, praise, and hold them steady while you focus on their teeth and gums.

How to Get Started

If you’ve never brushed your dog’s teeth, you can start by gently massaging their lips and gums with your fingers. Once they’re comfortable, add a dab of doggie toothpaste to your fingers so they can get used to the smell, taste, and texture. You may need to do this over a few sessions until they’re comfortable.

After that, you can introduce the toothbrush slowly. Have them look at it, smell it, and even taste it with and without the toothpaste before you begin brushing.

When you’re ready to brush their teeth, sit or kneel in front of them. Avoid coming at your dog from above or behind, which can put them on guard. Place the brush at a 45-degree angle against their teeth and brush in small circular motions.

You may only be able to brush a few teeth at a time at first. Don’t get discouraged. Be patient and keep at it. Your dog should get used to the process in time.

Gum Care for Dogs

In addition to regular tooth brushing at home, there’s a lot of other things you can do to help keep your dog’s gum in top shape. For instance:

  • Schedule a professional cleaning. Take your dog to the veterinarian at least once a year for a dental exam and cleaning.
  • Use dog dental wipes in a pinch. While wipes can’t get into all the nooks and crannies like a toothbrush, a dental wipe can give your dog’s teeth a quick cleaning.
  • Check their mouth at home. When your dog is calm, take a careful peek at their lips, gums, tongue, and teeth. Look for redness, swelling, discoloration, broken teeth, and other signs of gum disease.
  • Offer your dog dental treats. These treats are made to help clean your dog’s teeth and freshen their breath.
  • Give your dog safe chews. The act of chewing itself can help boost your dog’s oral health by scraping off plaque and strengthening their jaw. Some chews also have dental cleaning properties. Avoid real or nylon bones, cow hooves, and antlers, which are harder than your dog’s teeth and can break them.

Good dental care can help keep your dog’s smile bright and their gums healthy.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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