Periodontal disease is an inflammation of some or all of a tooth’s deep supporting structures (the gum tissue that attaches the tooth to the dog’s jaw bone). Over time, tartar from gingivitis builds up under the gums and causes the gums to separate from the teeth. Bacteria can form in the space under the teeth and, without treatment by a veterinarian, can lead to bone loss, tissue destruction and pus formation in the cavities between the gum and teeth.
Small dog breeds, including the Chihuahua, Pomeranian, Yorkshire Terrier and many other toy breeds, tend to be prone to periodontal disease. This is because small breeds have the same number of teeth as larger breeds in a much smaller mouth, Stone says.
Periodontal disease, characterized by a range of symptoms including bad breath, drooling, inflamed and/or bleeding gums, and tooth loss, can be prevented by regular teeth brushing at home or by a vet, Stone notes. Early stages of the disease can be reversed through regular dental care; later stages are irreversible and can lead to serious health problems, including damage to the liver, kidney and heart.