the dangers of periodontal gum disease in chihuahuas: what you need to know

famous chihuahua editor chihuahua health concerns

healthy chihuahua teeth

chihuahua with strong and healthy teeth – model: bella the famous chihuahua

when gum disease starts, it’s usually goes unnoticed because there are no outward signs and symptoms.  however, once it begins to accelerate in growth, it can damage your chihuahua’s mouth resulting in eroded gums, teeth falling out, bone loss, internal pain, suffering and even death.

the good news is that gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, can be prevented.

why do chihuahuas get gum disease?

after your chihuahua eats, bacteria mixed with saliva and food begins to create an unpleasant film over the teeth called plaque that’s recognized as foreign matter to the immune system.  this foreign matter triggers the immune system to react and it begins to assemble white blood cells to attack the foreign matter.

enzymes then released by the white blood cells fight to break down gum tissue resulting in inflamed gums, damaged tissue and bone loss.  in chihuahuas, it eventually leads to tooth loss if proper dental care is neglected.

because chihuahuas have a more alkaline environment in their mouths that propels plaque formation than humans do, they are five times more likely to get periodontal disease.

chihuahua back molars gum disease

brushing the hidden back molars of your chihuahua’s teeth should not be overlooked

plaque-forming bacteria also multiplies if your chihuahua’s teeth are not brushed every day, which also includes lifting their lips and thoroughly cleaning their hidden and hard to get at back molars.

the dangers of gum disease in chihuahuas

if plaque and mineral deposits (dental calculus) on your chihuahua’s teeth is not cleaned with regular brushing and routine veterinary dental care, it will result in halitosis (bad breath), gingivitis (painful inflammation of the gums), tooth loss and full on periodontal disease.

because the bacteria from gum disease in your chihuahua’s mouth enters their blood stream and circulates in the arteries surrounding their hearts, they are then prone to heart disease and organ damage that can not be reversed if left untreated.

recognizing gum disease in chihuahuas

the first thing you can do is your own oral examination and ask yourself these questions:

  1. does your chihuahua’s breath stink?  this is probably the most common early sign
  2. does your chihuahua have red or swollen gums?
  3. is your chihuahua’s teeth yellow or brown?
  4. are any of your chihuahua’s teeth loose or missing?
  5. has your chihuahua’s appetite changed?  are they losing weight or having trouble chewing bones?

severe periodontitis in chihuahua

severe periodontitis in 8 year old male chihuahua with neglected dental care

symptoms of severe gum disease include:

  • halitosis – alarmingly bad breath
  • red, inflamed and bleeding gums – gingivitis
  • troubles picking up their food
  • teeth that are loose and move when touched
  • blood appears in their water bowl or on their chew toys
  • their saliva is bloody or stringy
  • they shy away when you try to touch their heads
  • they make noises when they eat or yawn
  • they chew on only one side of their mouth
  • there appears to be bumps or lumps in their mouth
  • nasal discharge or progressive sneezing (bone between the nasal and oral cavity deteriorates)

preventing gum disease in your chihuahua

if caught early, gum disease can be prevented, treated and even reversed.  here’s what you need to do:

  • brush your chihuahua’s teeth everyday
  • take your chihuahua in to your vet for routine oral exams and cleanings
  • give your chihuahua chew toys and tooth-friendly chew treats
  • give your chihuahua quality dog food (ask your vet about dental-oriented dog food options)

treating periodontal gum disease in your chihuahua

chances are your chihuahua may already have some gum disease.  according to the american veterinary medical association, an estimated 80 percent of dogs will have some form of periodontal disease by the age of 2 or 3 years old. 

the four stages of periodontal disease

the four stages of canine periodontal disease

treatment is dependent on the stage of disease with all treatment requiring an exam and x-rays.

stage 1 mild gingivitis (redness or inflammation of the gums), without periodontal pockets (deep space around the teeth) between the gum and tooth.  treatment can reverse condition.  a cleaning above and below the gum line is the only treatment required.

note: if your chihuahua’s teeth look like the picture below, its time to get their teeth cleaned!

periodontal gum disease in chihuahua stage one

stage one of periodontal disease in chihuahuas – mild gingivitis

stage 2  there are periodontal pockets between the gum and tooth, but no significant bone involvement.  gums are inflamed and swollen and halitosis (bad breath) is noticeable.  treatment can reverse the condition.  the gum tissue and tooth root are cleaned, rinsed, and treated with a gel to help reattach the gum to the tooth root.

stage 3  periodontal pockets around the teeth go deeper than 5 millimeters, meaning there’s bone loss.  bad breath, bleeding of the gums, infection and tartar.  treatment can reverse the condition.  exposing the defect by opening a gum flap and cleaning out the diseased tissue around the tooth root and bone and the use of special therapies to grow new tissue and bone.

stage 4  the bone loss is over 50%, chronic bacterial infection may have spread throughout organs of the body via the bloodstream.  non reversible. tooth extraction is the only treatment.

conclusion

if you notice your chihuahua has bad breath, red inflamed gums, loose or missing teeth or appetite changes, bring them in immediately to see your vet for an oral examination.

just as you keep on top of your own health, you need to stay on top of your chihuahua’s health.  if you do this, you can prevent several health problems in your chihuahua and very expensive vet bills.

 

health problems in chihuahuas

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article references:
banfield.com
pets.webmd.com/dogs/
features/perlis-gum-disease-dogs

photo references:
kongyuensing.com
iheartdogs.com

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