Gingivitis describes an inflammation of the gums. It is often caused by excessive scaling of the teeth and/or a bacterial infection.
Gingivitis may remain undetected and hidden for a long period of time. Increased salivation, which may contain traces of blood and a foul mouth odor, are common symptoms when the condition is affecting larger portions of the gums. Animals lose their appetite and become lethargic and depressed if the lesions are painful. In such cases pets may paw and rub their noses against objects or the carpet. Upon closer inspection the gums show a bright red lining around the teeth and are usually swollen. In severe cases the gums regress from the tooth and leave the root exposed. The inflammation can descend into the periodontium, which causes teeth to become loose, and possibly completely lost.
Gingivitis is often caused by the excessive buildup of tartar and/or a bacterial infection. In some cases, a diet low in vitamins and nutrients may result in poor gingival health. Also, while not very common, allergic reactions to certain ingredients in dog food and overall diet can cause of gingivitis, and should be taken into account.
By opening the mouth fully, inflammation of the gums can be examined even around the last molars. Full clinical examination of the animal and laboratory testing are necessary in order to rule out possible underlying causes such as viral infection or organ failure. Since bacteria are often involved in the development of gingivits, the administration of an antibiotic can help to regress the inflammation. In case of primary gingivitis the prognosis for full recovery is good.
The most effective way to prevent gingivitis is to maintain good oral hygiene. Older dogs especially should be checked by your vet for oral health at least once a year. If necessary, removal of the tartar and a teeth cleaning should be performed. Toothbrushes for animals are available in most pet shops, and regularly brushing your pet's teeth you help eliminate the tartar that causes gingivitis. Also, alternative specialized diets that are lower in irritants and have a soothing effect on inflamed gums can be fed to your animal. Generally, the food should not be too dry or contain rough material. If you are feeding your animal dry pallets, sprinkle some lukewarm water on the pellets in order to soften the consistency.