Gum Inflammation in Dogs (Gingivitis)

Vet examines dog for Gingivitis

Regular check-ups are important in order to recognise gum inflammation in dogs in good time. The photo shows a healthy dog dentition.

Does your dog have bad breath? If so, seeing a vet is advisable, because gum inflammation in dogs (gingivitis) can lead to bad breath. This article will tell you how this comes about and how you can treat your pet’s gingivitis.

Which dogs can suffer from gum inflammation?

Generally, any dog can develop gingivitis – regardless of breed, sex or age. Nevertheless, small dog breeds and old dogs are particularly prone to this dental disease. 

Symptoms: What are the signs of gum inflammation in dogs?

The gums can become inflamed in just one area (locally) or extensively. It is typical for it to be reddened, swollen and painful. Affected dogs often show only a few symptoms. 

However, you can observe the following symptoms in your dog if the gums are severely inflamed: 

  • Your dog eats less or chews for longer than normally. 
  • Its gums bleed. 
  • It has severe bad breath.

If the inflammation spreads to nearby structures, there is a risk of inflammation of the entire periodontium. In this case, it is also possible for teeth to loosen and fall out. If gingivitis is left untreated, the bacteria may reach the internal organs via the bloodstream, and the risk of heart, kidney and liver disease increases.

Dog with severe gum inflammation and periodontitis © dalajlama /
This Jack Russell Terrier is suffering from a severe gum inflammation and periodontitis.

Diagnosis: How does the vet recognise problems with the gums?

The vet will pull the flews to one side to be able to take a look at your dog’s mouth. From there, they can examine the outer and partly lower side of the front teeth. 

If the vet suspects that the molars are in poor condition or your dog doesn’t cooperate, they will have to put your dog under anaesthetic. This is the only way they can survey the entire oral cavity and if necessary, perform a dental cleaning after the examination. 

Beforehand, however, they examine the state of the gums with a probe. They also carry out an X-ray to assess all the jaw bones. 

Treatment: How is gum inflammation in dogs treated?

The vet has to carry out a dental cleaning in order to alleviate gum inflammation in dogs. This usually takes place after the dental examination to spare your dog a further stressful and high-risk anaesthetic. 

During the treatment, the vet will remove tartar from the surface of the teeth as well as between the narrow gaps between the teeth using a special device. Depending on the severity, the vet will also give your dog painkillers and antibiotics. The latter are mainly to prevent severe bacterial infection. 

What is the prognosis?

If you regularly monitor your dog’s dental health, you can combat gum inflammation at an early stage and prevent it from getting worse. However, if the gums are inflamed all over and other structures are already affected, bacteria can spread throughout the entire body and prove fatal. 

Causes: What are the causes of gum inflammation in dogs?

Specialists also call the gums the gingiva. If they are inflamed, this is known as gingivitis. The gums mostly become inflamed if the underlying tooth is diseased. 

A common trigger for this are tartar and plaque, which develop if food remains and bacteria deposit on the surface of the teeth. 

Read our article: Dog dental care – How to keep your dog’s teeth healthy.

Prevention: How to protect your dog from gum inflammation

Correct mouth hygiene is the best way to combat gum inflammation in dogs! Regular teeth cleaning and check-ups at the vet reduce the risk of tartar and therewith gingivitis too. Special dental dog snacks, chew bones etc. can also have a positive effect on your dog’s dental health.

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