Your Cairn Terrier and Dental Disease

Cairn Terriers and Dental Disease: Part 1

Did you know that dogs over 3 years old have an 80-90% risk of having some degree of periodontal disease?

Dental disease is common in Cairn Terriers. Studies have shown that the incidence of periodontal disease is increased in dogs under 15 kg, with the highest risk in very small (<6.5 kg) and small (9-<15 kg) breed dogs. 1

Periodontal disease is comprised of two conditions – gingivitis and periodontitis.

Gingivitis: the gingiva is medical name for the oral mucosa along the teeth. When gingivitis is present, the mucosal tissue will appear reddened and swollen and may be tender. Gingivitis is caused by bacterial growth in dental plaque and in the gingival crevices along the teeth. This bacterial growth causes a local inflammatory reaction and build-up of more bacterial growth.  In severe cases, abscesses may form. Gingivitis is reversable with proper treatment and ongoing dental care.

Periodontitis is a more advanced form dental disease with inflammation of the supporting structures of the teeth (ligaments and bone). Periodontitis develops as a progression of gingivitis and creates deepening pockets between the gums and teeth and extending into the ligaments and bone.  Untreated periodontal disease will lead to dental loss.

How can I know if my dog has periodontal disease?
Dogs with periodontal disease may show signs of oral / dental discomfort in their mouth such as: rubbing or pawing at the mouth, drooling, difficulty, or reluctance to eat or take hard treats, reluctance to tug, pick up toys and reluctance to have the head or mouth touched.  Bad breath can also be a sign of advanced dental disease.

Complications of periodontal disease
There are many potential complications of periodontal disease including: dental loss, infection of the bone around the tooth, jaw fractures, eye infections and blindness (more likely in brachycephalic breeds), oronasal fistula (abnormal passage from mouth to nose).  Dogs with heavy bacterial growth in the subgingival area or in gingival abscesses are more prone to developing bacteremia (bacteria in the blood stream), which in turn can lead to sepsis and deep-seated infection in other tissues of the body.

In the human medical literature, there are increasing studies showing a link between periodontal disease and a variety of systemic disorders: cardiovascular disease, renal disease, liver disease, diabetes, arthritis, and preterm birth. Experimental data from rodent and porcine models have shown that a common periodontal pathogen (Porphyromonas gingivalis) is associated with lower birthweights in neonates compared to controls.  Diabetic dogs with periodontal disease will have better sugar control.  The causal relationship between dental disease and systemic disease is unclear but is thought to relate to the occurrence of bacteremias and downstream effects of chronic inflammation.

Our next blog post will give you some tips on caring for your dog’s teeth.

1.     Wallis C, Saito E. K., Salt C., Holcombe L.J., Desforges N. G., Association of periodontal disease with breed size, breed, weight, and age in pure-bred client-owned dogs in the United States. The Veterinary Journal Volume 275, Sept 2021