Gum Disease in Dogs
Gum Disease in Dogs

Gum Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention

How often do you clean your dog’s teeth and gums? If your answer isn’t “every day,” your dog is at elevated risk of developing gum disease. Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, can impact more than just your dog’s oral health.  Bacteria from this dental disease can travel to other parts of the body via the bloodstream, leading to serious issues in the heart, liver, kidneys, and more.

Luckily, there are steps pet owners can take to help avoid periodontal disease in dogs. Read on to learn more about canine gum disease, including what causes it and what you can do to help prevent it. 

What Is Periodontal Disease in Dogs?

Plaque consists of food particles, bacteria and components of saliva that stick to the surface of the teeth. Plaque can easily be removed by brushing your dog’s teeth or giving them dental chews. But if left untreated, plaque hardens and turns into a substance called tartar.  Tartar causes irritation of the gums and eventually result in gum disease.

Gum disease presents differently in each dog, depending on the severity of the disease. When looking at your dog's mouth, you may notice discoloured teeth, or inflamed or bleeding gums. In more severe cases, you may notice loose teeth, or your dog exhibiting loss of appetite or weight loss.

Dogs with crowded teeth are more prone to gum disease, as a crowded mouth makes it difficult to remove leftover food particles. However, all dogs are at risk of developing gum disease if they do not receive regular at-home dental care.

What Causes Periodontal Disease in Dogs?

Gum disease starts with excessive plaque buildup in your dog’s mouth. Without regular teeth cleaning, the plaque will harden and form tartar. Tartar will continue to build up on your dog’s teeth and gumline, eventually causing inflammation. As the inflammation increases, the connection between teeth and gums will begin to break down. Dogs who do not receive proper dental care,  are at high risk of developing periodontal disease. 

Stages and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease in Dogs

The signs of gum disease in dogs vary greatly. There are some outwards signs of gum disease that pet owners may observe at home, but in some cases, symptoms can go unnoticed for a long time. 

There are four stages of periodontal disease in dogs, ranging from mild to severe. The time it takes for gum disease to progress varies, depending on the dog’s age, diet, and oral hygiene routine . Furthermore, it is possible for different areas of your dog’s mouth to be in different areas of your dog's mouth be more severely affected than others.

What does gum disease look like in dogs? That depends on which stage of periodontal disease your dog is experiencing. Here is a breakdown of the four stages of canine gum disease:

The 4 Stages of Periodontal Disease in Dogs

The first stage of canine gum disease is inflammation of the gums, also known as gingivitis. At this stage, the teeth are still firmly attached. While some symptoms might be apparent, it’s not uncommon for the first stage of gum disease to go undetected.


Symptoms of Stage 1 periodontal disease include:1-2
•    Red, swollen gums
•    Bad breath 
•    Bleeding gums, especially when chewing


A dog enters Stage 2 gum disease when up to 25% of the tooth’s attachment is lost. Your vet may notice mild bone loss or abnormally deep tooth pockets when performing an X-ray of your dog’s mouth.

Symptoms of Stage 2 periodontal disease include:1-2
•    Red, swollen gums
•    Bad breath
•    Bleeding gums, especially when chewing
•    Receding gums.

In Stage 3 periodontal disease, the teeth become even more detached, with 25%-50% of tooth support being lost. Moderate to severe bone loss and abnormal tooth pockets will be apparent on an X-ray. Your vet may or may not decide to extract the teeth that have reached Stage 3 of the disease

Symptoms of Stage 3 periodontal disease include:1-2
•    Red, swollen gums
•    Bad breath
•    Bleeding gums, especially when chewing
•    Receding gums
•    Loose, wiggling teeth

In the fourth and final stage of canine periodontal disease, more than 50% of the tooth’s connection is lost. Teeth that have reached Stage 4 gum disease will need to be extracted. 1-2

Severe periodontal disease can have serious consequences. These include jaw fractures, bone death, eye infections, and even fistulas between the mouth and the nasal cavity.3 Severe periodontal disease has even been linked to oral cancers.3 Severe periodontal disease can require major surgery.

Should You Give a Dog Dental Chews if They Have Gum Disease?

If you think your dog may have gum disease, please book an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. Your vet will determine if your dog has gum disease or not and they can provide further advice about using dental chews in your dog’s specific situation.

Is Periodontal Disease Reversible in Dogs?

Stage 1 gum disease, also known as gingivitis, is the only stage that is reversible. At this point there is no bone loss and the tooth’s supporting structure is still fully intact. Once the disease progresses past Stage 1, reversal is not possible. However, with immediate and proper dental treatment, it is possible to slow or stop the progression of the disease. 

How to Prevent Periodontal Disease in Dogs

The best way to avoid gum disease and all the complications it brings to be proactive about your dog’s oral hygiene from the start. Regular vet visits and routine oral care can prevent plaque and tartar buildup and prevent disease from forming.

Another easy way to promote good dental hygiene and improve your pet’s oral health is to administer daily dental chews, like OraVet® Chews. OraVet Chews work by helping to clean the teeth and establish a barrier against plaque, tartar, and bad breath.

Ready to protect your dog’s dental health?