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Swollen Gums in Dogs

Gingivitis in Dogs

Gingivitis in Dogs refers to a reversible inflammation of the gums and marks the earliest stage of periodontal disease. During the initial phases of gingivitis, some plaque accumulates, causing mild redness of the gums, though the gum surfaces remain smooth.

The gingival sulcus, also known as the gum pocket, denotes the narrow space between the inner gum wall and the tooth. As gingivitis progresses, the bacterial composition within these pockets deteriorates, leading to the accumulation of more harmful bacteria that release toxins, ultimately damaging the gums.

In advanced stages of gingivitis, plaque and calculus (a mixture of calcium phosphate, carbonate, and organic matter) develop beneath the gums. The gums exhibit moderate-to-severe redness, and the gum surfaces become irregular. Plaque, a combination of food particles, debris, bacteria, dead skin cells, and mucous, forms within 24 hours on clean tooth surfaces. The gums react to plaque by inflaming blood vessels, causing swelling, and resulting in collagen loss.

Gingivitis affects over 80 percent of pets aged three or older. It tends to manifest earlier in toy breeds and generally affects dogs earlier in life compared to cats.


  • Red or swollen gums, particularly on the side of the gum facing the inner cheeks.
  • Bad breath, known as halitosis.
  • Variable amounts of plaque and calculus.


The primary cause of gingivitis in dogs is the accumulation of plaque. Predisposing factors may include:

  • Old age
  • Crowded teeth
  • Consumption of soft food
  • Open-mouth breathing
  • Poor chewing habits
  • Lack of oral health care
  • Conditions such as uremia and diabetes mellitus
  • Autoimmune diseases


Your veterinarian will conduct a comprehensive physical examination of your dog, considering the history of symptoms and potential conditions that may have contributed to the current state. Providing a detailed history of your dog’s health and symptom onset, including when bad breath started, dietary habits, eating difficulties, and any previous health issues, is essential. It’s important to share your dental care routine for your dog, including the products you use.

During the physical examination, your veterinarian will closely inspect your dog’s mouth to assess the condition. Subsequently, your veterinarian will schedule a dental examination, which will require your dog to be anesthetized. During the dental examination, your veterinarian will assess the depth of gum pockets, the extent of plaque and bacteria on the tooth surfaces, and may extract any decayed or overcrowded teeth. Plaque and calculus will be meticulously removed using specialized dental equipment through scaling, and root planning may be performed if necessary. The tooth surfaces will be polished, and a post-cleaning examination of the teeth will be conducted.


If your dog’s teeth are overcrowded or if baby teeth are still present in adulthood, your veterinarian may opt to extract some teeth. Specialized dental instruments will be utilized to thoroughly remove all plaque and calculus, polish the teeth, and rinse them. Your veterinarian will then provide instructions on how to effectively clean your pet’s teeth at home, and follow-up examination appointments should be scheduled.

Living and Management

To maintain your dog’s oral health, you can brush or rub its teeth daily or at least twice a week using veterinary toothpaste or a special finger pad. Your veterinarian might also provide you with a veterinary antibacterial solution to apply to your pet’s teeth, which helps reduce plaque accumulation. Additionally, incorporating rawhide chew strips and specialized food recommended by your veterinarian can help reduce tartar buildup and enhance your dog’s oral health.

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