Stomatitis is any inflammation or erosion of the oral mucosa. Causing agents can be bacterial infections, viruses, renal failure or poisoning.
Oral ulcers can affect the mucosa covering the inside of the cheeks, the gums or the tongue. Smaller lesions may remain without symptoms and thus unnoticed for some time. Once stomatitis has reached a certain extent increased salivation and problems chewing or swallowing appear. The dog eventually refuses to eat and becomes lethargic and depressed. Fever may be present in some cases.
Stomatitis occurs independently or develops as a symptom of other systemic diseases. Likely causes of primary stomatitis are burning, local infections, trauma, or foreign bodies (i.e. fragments of bone or wood) lodged inside the mouth. Poor oral hygiene and the accumulation of tartar on the animal's teeth contribute to stomatitis. Note, chronic kidney insufficiency or diabetes mellitus can lead to the development of stomatitis and ulcers of the oral mucosa.
Oral ulcers are found by thoroughly examining of the mouth. Full clinical examination of the animal and laboratory testing are necessary in order to rule out possible underlying causes, i.e. organ failure. Since bacteria are mostly found inside the lesion, the administration of an antibiotic can help to regress the ulcers. In case of primary stomatitis prognosis for full recovery is good.
The best way of preventing stomatitis is to maintain good oral hygiene. Older animals in particular are prone to tartar buildups, and can cause stomatitis. In order to promote good oral hygiene, have animal and dental check-ups with the vet at least once a year. For dogs who are already suffering from stomatitis, wet food should be preferred. If the only option is to use dry food, sprinkling the food with lukewarm water can soften the consistency of the food and thus reduce further irritation of the oral mucosa.