Local Researchers are Working on a Canine Gum Disease Vaccine

A Boston University School of Medicine professor received a grant to develop the treatment.

Just look at those pearly whites. Smiling dog photo via shutterstock.

Just look at those pearly whites. Smiling dog photo via shutterstock.

Gum disease, a.k.a. gingivitis, is something most people try to prevent by brushing and flossing (hopefully). But, it turns out, that it’s also one of the most prevalent medical conditions in adult dogs.

In fact, it’s so common, most dogs will start to show signs of damage to their teeth and gums by age three. Ever wonder why your dog’s breath is so bad? Now you know.

“Gingivitis, oral bone and teeth loss are major consequences of periodontitis, a disease caused by infection with oral pathogens, and widely affects companion animals,” says Paola Massari, Ph.D, a research assistant professor of infectious disease at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM). “In most adult dogs, halitosis is also highly reported.”

Massari says that if the disorder is left untreated, it can lead to pain, gum damage, and even tooth loss. That’s why she was recently award a grant from the AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) to help improve the oral health of dogs. She will be using the grant money to develop a vaccine against the most common types of bacteria that lead to periodontal disease in dogs.

“The most common treatment is based on manual removal of plaque and tartar, but this only delays disease progression and the benefit/cost balance of such treatment is uneven, since antibiotics, anti-inflammatory and pain medications are also required,” Massari says. “Periodontitis is also responsible for complications in distant organs [kidney, heart, and liver]. The severity of this disease is strongly influenced by the patient’s own immune response, as shown in human periodontitis studies.”

Massari and her team hope that their research will be able to develop a vaccine “in the near future” but a time table is still pretty far off.

“The first step in creating this vaccine, and any vaccine in general, is the extensive study of the efficacy and the safety of each prospected component through rigorous testing in vitro prior to immunization of animals,” Massari says.

For now, it seems like over the counter remedies are the only option when it comes to your dog’s mouth health (and breath), but fortunately, it seems, hope is on the horizon.