Freelance writer Rachael Zimlich worked as a reporter for dvm360 magazine before returning to school to become a registered nurse. She now works at The Cleveland Clinic.
A Purdue study has shown a higher incidence of heart disease in dogs with bad gums.
West Lafayette, Ind.
-- Gum disease, which can occur in up to 75 percent of dogs by middle age, has been linked in a new study to the occurrence of canine heart disease.
The study, conducted by Dr. Larry Glickman at Purdue, examined the records of nearly 60,000 dogs with some stage of periodontal disease and about 60,000 without, and revealed a correlation between gum and heart maladies.
"Our data show a clear statistical link between gum disease and heart disease in dogs," says Glickman.
Each dog was followed on average for 2.5 years, and some as long as five, Glickman says. Of the dogs that had no signs of periodontal disease at the onset of the study, about 0.43 percent were diagnosed with congestive heart failure by the end of the study. On the other hand, 0.49 percent of the Stage 1 periodontal disease subjects, 1.09 percent of the Stage 2 subjects and 1.90 percent of the Stage 3 subjects were diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
The correlation was even stronger when it came to endocarditis, or inflammation of the heart valves, Glickman says. In the dogs with no periodontal disease, about 0.01 percent were diagnosed with endocarditis, compared to 0.15 percent of the Stage 3 periodontal disease dogs.
"For many candidates for heart disease, you're not talking about a single cause," says Glickman. "But it clearly speaks to more emphasis on dental care."
Glickman's full study was published in the February issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. He was assisted in his research by George Moore, a veterinarian at Purdue University's Small Animal Hospital, Gary Goldstein, a veterinary dentist at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota at St. Paul, Minn., and Elizabeth Lund at the Banfield Pet Hospital in Portland, Ore.
Moving forward, Glickman says he would like to study exactly how gum and heart diseases are related in hopes that his research could help pet owners understand the risks and get pet-food companies to develop more foods that could prevent gum disease.