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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Condition Overview

Gingivitis develops when bacteria build up between the teeth and gums, leading to irritation, inflammation, and bleeding. The edges of healthy gums fit tightly around the teeth.


A characteristic sign of gingivitis is bad breath. The halitosis may have been present for some time, and possibly even accepted as normal. The gums appear red and swollen, and bleed easily when touched. Pressing on the gums may cause pus to ooze from the gum line.


This tarter build up on the teeth is the primary cause of gum inflammation. This occurs to some extent in all dogs over the age of 2. Certain breeds such as Poodles and smaller dogs, seem to form tarter more readily. Dogs who eat dry kibble and chew on bones or dog biscuits have less tarter buildup than dogs who eat only soft, canned food.


Diagnosis is made by a veterinary examination of the teeth.


Treatment is directed toward preventing gingivitis from progressing to periodontitis and delaying the process periodontitis once it is established.


The teeth should be professionally cleaned, scaled, and polished to remove all plaque and calculus. Many vets now use ultrasonic dental units, similar to the ones used on people, for cleaning dogs teeth. For optimum results, the dog should be heavily sedated, or given a general anesthetic.

The cleaning should be followed with a regular regimen of home oral care. Oxyfresh washes and rinses are also helpful.


Please contact your veterinarian if you think your pet may have this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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