Unfortunately, our beloved canine companions are susceptible to dental disease and concerns just as we are. This means that preventive care is also important for our furry friends. Here, our Nashville vets explain the causes, symptoms and treatments of cavities in dogs and what you should do if your dog gets a cavity.
Can Dogs Get Cavities?
It's possible for our pups to develop a whole host of different oral health issues if their mouths aren't routinely cared for and cleaned, from gum disease to cavities (also known as tooth decay).
Causes of Dog Cavities
The food particles and debris left in your dog's mouth can cause a buildup of bacteria if not properly cleaned away each day.
You may recognize plaque as the 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 mouth is left uncleaned for long enough, the acidic plaque on your dog's teeth and cause large or small holes in their enamel, called cavities,m 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 a Dog Cavity
The severity of the cavity and damage to your dog's tooth will determine the amount of pain that they experience. 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
- Discolored teeth
- Noticeable Tartar buildup
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Bad breath
- Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
- Pain or swelling in or around the mouth
If your dog is in enough pain then you will likely witness them stop eating completely. If you notice any of the above symptoms, bring your dog to your Nashville vet for a dental checkup and treatment as soon as possible.
Treatment Options for a Dog Tooth 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 Dog Cavity
The necessary treatment for your dog's cavity will depend on how bad the decay is. 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 progressed far enough (to stages 4 or 5), the tooth may not be genuinely treatable 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 is 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 Dog Cavities
When it comes to protecting your pup's oral health, daily at-home dental care along with routine professional care and cleanings will be key.
In addition to at-home oral health care, bring your pup to our Nashville vets at least once each year for a professional dental exam and cleaning treatment. This will 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.