Dental issues are a frequent concern for dogs, and if not addressed, they can result in various severe health problems. Worry not! Dog owners can identify dental diseases by understanding the different phases of tooth decay in dogs. This article will outline the various dog tooth decay stages and the indicators of each phase. Additionally, it will offer suggestions on how to avoid and alleviate dental disease in dogs.

Dog Tooth Decay Stages: What Is Periodontitis in Dogs?

Dogs can suffer from a severe dental disease called periodontitis, which affects the tissues supporting and surrounding their teeth. The disease results from the accumulation of plaque and tartar on the teeth, causing inflammation, infection, and, ultimately, the destruction of gums, ligaments, and bones that keep the teeth in position. Periodontitis is a prevalent and alarming condition affecting dogs' dental health that pet owners should take seriously.

What Causes Periodontal Disease in Dogs?

Periodontal disease in dogs stems from the accumulation of plaque and tartar on their teeth. This buildup triggers inflammation and infections in the surrounding tissues. Plaque, a sticky bacterial film, forms on teeth after eating. It can solidify into tartar and require professional dental cleaning to remove. Bacteria in plaque and tartar release toxins that irritate and inflame gums, resulting in receding gums and pockets where more bacteria can accumulate.

Dog teeth

What Are the Stages of Doggy Dental Disease?

Dental illness among dogs is a complex ailment that evolves gradually over time. It usually starts with an early stage known as mild gingivitis, which is typified by bleeding, swollen gums as well as reddened gums. The infection progressively worsens, leading to noticeable tartar accumulation, halitosis, and teeth degeneration.

Failure to control the dental condition can result in periodontitis, which is much more serious and can cause considerable damage to the teeth, gums, and surrounding tissue, eventually leading to tooth loss. At its most severe stage, periodontitis can cause severe health problems like systemic infections and damage to vital organs. Prevention is key, and dental care and early diagnosis play a significant role in stopping the disease from progressing to a more advanced phase.

Stage 1: Gingivitis

The first stage of dental disease in dogs is called gingivitis. It happens when the teeth and gums are covered in gross plaque and tartar, which causes the gums to be painful, swollen, and bright red. Sometimes, dogs with gingivitis may have stinky breath and difficulty eating or playing with toys. But, if gingivitis goes untreated, it can progress to even more serious dental issues like periodontitis, which can lead to tooth loss, infections, and abscesses. Good dental hygiene, like regular brushing, professional cleanings, and dental diets or treats, can help prevent and manage gingivitis in dogs, as well as other dental diseases.

Stage 2: Early Periodontal Disease

The progression of gingivitis causes inflammation that affects the tissues around the teeth. This is known as early periodontal disease, which can make the gums recede, exposing the roots of the teeth. As the ligaments and bones holding the teeth in place get damaged, the teeth may become mobile and sensitive. Pockets can form between the teeth and gums, which creates a thriving environment for bacteria.

Apart from showing discomfort during meals and play, dogs may also develop halitosis. To prevent periodontal disease from worsening, it's important to seek prompt treatment. This includes professional dental cleanings and periodontal therapy, along with consistent home care. Such measures can help preserve good oral health, as well as the overall well-being of our furry friends.

Stage 3: Established Periodontal Disease

The third and most severe stage is established periodontal disease. This stage causes significant damage to the teeth and surrounding tissues and can lead to tooth loss. Dogs with this disease experience chronic pain, have difficulty eating and have a lower quality of life. Additionally, inflammation and infection can have wider health effects, such as developing heart, kidney, and diabetes problems.

To treat periodontal disease, dogs require extensive dental work, consisting of gum surgery, tooth extractions, and pain medication. However, prevention and early intervention are critical to avoid the development and progression of this disease. Regular dental care, including brushing, professional cleanings, and dental diets or treats, can help dogs maintain healthy teeth and gums, preventing the need for more invasive treatment later on.

Stage 4: Advanced Periodontal Disease

When a dog's teeth reach the advanced stage of periodontal disease, things aren't looking great. It is the most severe form of dental disease and can cause extensive damage to the teeth and gums. Tooth loss is inevitable at this point. The consequences don't stop there.

Dogs with advanced periodontal disease also have to contend with chronic pain, loose or missing teeth, and difficulty eating or drinking. That's just the tip of the iceberg. Getting this disease under control might require significant dental work or even the extraction of teeth, as well as antibiotics and pain management medicine.

Periodontitis vs. Decaying Teeth in Dogs

Periodontitis and decaying teeth are both serious dental issues that can affect dogs. While they share some similarities, they are two distinct conditions with different causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

Periodontitis is a problem that targets the gums and supporting structures of your teeth. It happens when too much plaque and bacteria accumulate on your teeth and gums, leading to inflammation and infection. Your dog's bad breath, swollen or bleeding gums, loose teeth, and trouble eating can all be signs of periodontitis.

Decaying teeth, also known as dental caries or cavities, are caused by bacteria-produced acid that erodes the tooth enamel, creating a hole in the tooth. Decaying teeth are more common in dogs that consume a high-carbohydrate diet, as the bacteria that cause decay feed on sugars and starches. Decaying teeth can cause pain, discomfort, and infection and may require extraction or filling to prevent further damage.

Both periodontitis and decaying teeth can lead to bad breath, drooling, difficulty eating, and oral pain. Regular dental care, including brushing your dog's teeth, providing dental chews or toys, and scheduling regular dental cleanings with a veterinarian, can help prevent these dental conditions and maintain your dog's oral health.

brown dog with teeth

Stages of Decaying Teeth

Dental decay is a process that happens in stages. It begins with the weakening of the tooth enamel and moves on to the deterioration of the tooth structure. There are four phases of dental decay: enamel weakness, enamel decay, dentin damage, and pulp injury. As each stage is reached, the severity of the decay increases, and catching it early is critical in preventing further injuries and discomfort.

Stage one:

Dental decay in dogs starts with demineralization, caused by bacteria in their mouths producing acid that gradually weakens and erodes their teeth's enamel. During this phase, there might not be any apparent signs of decay. Nevertheless, during a dental check-up, your veterinarian could spot changes in the enamel's texture or color.

Stage two:

At stage two of decaying teeth, the decay advances beyond the enamel, reaching the dentin layer. This layer is more delicate than enamel and is more prone to decay. At this point, dogs may feel a level of discomfort or pain in the affected tooth. They might also avoid eating or chewing on hard foods. Notably, the affected tooth may appear discolored, with signs of erosion or cavities. Proper dental care can still reverse stage two decay.

Stage three:

The third stage of decay is more advanced. This happens when the decay has penetrated the pulp of the tooth, where sensitive nerves and blood vessels are located. At this point, the dog may be in distress, have trouble eating or chewing, and have some unsavory breath. The infected tooth may even become loose or fall out entirely.

Ignoring this condition can cause further health issues as the infection can spread throughout the body. For stage three decay, the recommended treatments are either a root canal or extraction of the affected tooth to alleviate the discomfort.

Stage four:

Pulp damage is the fourth stage of dental decay in dogs. This occurs when the decay gnaws its way into the deepest layer of the tooth, known as the pulp. This part of the tooth contains vital nerves and blood vessels that nourish it, and when it gets inflamed or infected, your pup could suffer intense pain and discomfort.

Stage five:

The dog is in agony at this point; a significant portion of its tooth has been lost, leaving the sensitive root visible. Seeking help from a veterinarian is imperative to extract the remaining portion of the tooth and alleviate the dog's pain.

What should I do if my dog’s teeth are rotting?

If you have concerns that your dog's teeth are decaying, the initial step is to plan a dental check-up with your vet. They can assess the extent of deterioration and suggest a course of action, which could involve a dental clean-up, tooth extraction, or similar measures. It's crucial to establish good oral hygiene practices at home, such as brushing your pup's teeth and providing them with dental toys or chews.

Moreover, observing their oral health and providing a healthy and balanced diet can aid in avoiding further decay and supporting optimal dental health. By taking prompt action and collaborating largely with your veterinarian, you can ensure your pet's teeth and gums are comfortable and healthy.

Signs of oral disease and rotting teeth in dogs

Several signs may indicate oral disease and rotting teeth in dogs. Here are some of the most common signs to look out for:

  • Bad breath: A particularly unpleasant odor coming from your pup's mouth could signal dental disease.
  • Discolored teeth: Teeth that appear yellow or brown and with irregular coloring could signify decay and rotting.
  • Trouble eating: Dogs experiencing dental disease may shy away from eating or have trouble chewing due to pain or discomfort.
  • Drooling: Excessive drooling could mean there is discomfort or pain in the mouth and oral cavities.
  • Pawing at the mouth: If your dog is pawing or rubbing their face against hard objects, it could be a clear indication of dental distress.
  • Swollen or bleeding gums: Irritation or bleeding of the gums is a telltale sign of gingivitis or any other dental complication.

How long can dogs live with periodontal disease?

Dogs with periodontal disease can have varying lifespans depending on the extent of their condition and the pace of its progression. Overall, periodontal disease can negatively impact a dog's quality of life, causing constant discomfort and heightening their odds of developing other chronic illnesses like kidney and heart disease. Luckily, with attentive medical care and frequent teeth cleanings, many dogs with periodontal disease can continue to live fulfilling, extended lives.

Close up of the face of a yellow Labrador

How fast does dental disease progress in dogs?

As a pet owner, it's important to know that dental problems don't usually show up overnight. They can creep up on your pup without you even noticing. But certain factors can make things worse, like not brushing your pet's teeth, feeding them too much sugar or carbs, or having medical issues that weaken their immune system. Not forgetting about genetics, breed, and age—they can all play a part in how quickly dental issues develop and progress. So, it's crucial to stay on top of your pet's oral health to avoid any unpleasant surprises down the road.

Final Thoughts

Knowing the different stages of dog tooth decay can aid pet owners in spotting dental issues and taking action to prevent them from worsening. Consistent dental check-ups with a vet, practicing proper oral care at home, and providing a balanced diet for your dog are all keys to maintaining their healthy teeth and gums. Detecting and treating dental diseases early on can prevent further damage and contribute to a fulfilling life for your dog.

For more helpful articles about pet-parenting tips, check out the Off Leash blog at

Want to know more about The Fi Dog Collar is a GPS tracking collar that not only keeps track of your dog’s location, activity levels, and sleep patterns, but it also alerts you if your dog escapes your backyard. This is the fastest way to find your dog after an escape. Try the Fi Dog Collar today!