Dogs can experience problematic dental health issues just like people can. If you've ever developed a cavity in one or more of your teeth, you know how uncomfortable they can be. Dogs can develop cavities too and here, our Benicia vets explain the causes, symptoms and treatments of cavities in dogs.
Can Dogs Get Cavities?
It's possible for our pups to develop an array of different oral health issues if their teeth and gums aren't routinely cared for and cleaned, including gum disease and cavities (also known as tooth decay).
The Cause of Cavities in Dogs
As our dogs eat, the leftover food debris residue is consumed by the bacteria that naturally reside inside their mouths, turning it into plaque.
You may recognize plaque as the while substance that sticks to your teeth over the course of the day. Plaque is mildly acidic and quite sticky, slowly eating away at the protective outer layers of your dog's teeth over time (as well as causing the mild-to-severe bad breath we often think of as normal more middle-aged or senior dogs).
If your dog's oral health is neglected long enough, the acidic plaque on their teeth can cause holes in their enamel, called cavities, tooth decay, or dental caries.
Certain pre-existing conditions in your pup's mouth may make them more likely to develop cavities in addition to a lack of routine cleanings. These include:
- A diet with lots of fermentable carbohydrates (often found in poor-quality dog food or high-carb table scraps)
- Poor general health
- Misaligned or crowded teeth in your dog's mouth
- Gaps between teeth and gums caused by gum recession
- A low pH level in your dog's saliva
- Weaker-than-normal tooth enamel (caused by poor mineralization)
Symptoms Of Cavities in Dogs
Depending on how severe your dog's cavities are, they could be experiencing varying levels of pain or discomfort due to caries. Cavities are rated on a scale of 5 stages to describe their severity, from 1 (where only your pup's enamel has been damaged) to 5 (where the majority of their crown has been lost and their roots are exposed).
The following are some of the most common symptoms that are caused by or accompany a dental cavity in a dog:
- Abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food from the mouth
- Tooth discoloration
- Noticeable tartar buildup
- Oral bleeding
- Bad breath
- Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
- Pain or swelling in or around the mouth
Sometimes, the pain and discomfort of a cavity can be enough to stop dogs from eating enough (or eating at all). If you notice any of the above symptoms, bring your dog to your Benicia vet for a dental checkup and treatment as soon as possible.
Treatments for Your Dog's Cavity
There are two broad categories of treatment that can be applied to cavities in dogs: professional treatment of existing cavities and preventive treatment of cavities early in their development or before they have a chance to arise in your pup in the first place.
Restorative Dental Treatment For a Canine Cavity
The best treatment for your dog's case will depend on its severity. If you have caught a cavity just as it was starting to form, your vet may use a fluoride wash or bonding agent to protect the site against further degradation and will monitor it in the future.
If your four-legged friend's cavity has progressed any further than that, the diseased enamel, dentin or pulp will need to be removed and the tooth restored with a filling, root canal or other restorative treatment. If the cavity has advanced further (to stages 4 or 5), the tooth may not be salvageable and may have to be removed from your pup's mouth to prevent further degradation of their oral health.
Recovery from filling or tooth removal treatment are often quite quick, but you may have to provide specialized after-care to your dog in order to prevent them from harming their mouth or their new filling.
Routine Care to Prevent Cavities
By far the most reliable way to preserve your dog's dental and overall health and prevent cavities is to maintain a regular routine of oral hygiene care at home, using specialized toothbrushes and toothpaste custom-made for dog mouths.
In addition to at-home oral health care, make sure you bring your pup to our Benicia vets at least once a year for a professional dental exam and cleaning. These dental checkups give us an opportunity to conduct a more thorough hygiene cleaning of your dog's teeth as well as to detect cavities as they are just starting to develop and when they can be prevented.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.