Can dogs get cavities?
Many pet parents are skeptical of the need for dental care for their pet, but cavities, tooth decay and gum disease are very common in pets and can lead to pain or more severe conditions.
So what exactly is a cavity? A dog cavity is an area of damage on one of your pup's teeth caused by prolonged exposure to the bacteria found in food. When bacteria remain on your dog's teeth for a long time they can result in acid build up which in turn begins to eat away at the outer layers of the tooth causing decay and damage.
Over time the enamel on your dog's tooth will be completely destroyed and the root of the tooth will be damaged. In severe cases, this will result in the tooth falling out or needing to be extracted.
Canine cavities are relatively rare thanks in part to the low amounts of sugars and acids in most dogs' diets, but there are some breeds that are more likely to get cavities than others. Pugs, Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, bulldogs, poodles, and Shih Tzus are all predisposed to have higher instances of tooth decay.
What are the signs of dog cavities?
It's not easy for pet parents to notice if their canine companion is developing a cavity until it causes clearly visible advanced tooth decay. This is why it's important for your dog to attend regularly scheduled dental checkups with your veterinarian.
If your dog is exhibiting any of the following symptoms it could be an indication of a cavity or another oral health issue and you should make an appointment with your vet right away:
- Excessive drooling
- A dark spot anywhere on the tooth
- Discomfort or pain in the mouth area
- Tooth discoloration, especially yellow or brown deposits near the gum line
- Dropping food
- Lack of appetite
How are cavities in dogs treated?
When your dog is diagnosed as having a cavity your vet will assess the level of damage the cavity has caused to your pup's tooth. There are 5 stages of damage:
Stage 1: Only enamel affected
Stage 2: Enamel and dentin affected
Stage 3: Enamel, dentin, and pulp chamber affected
Stage 4: Structural crown damage
Stage 5: Majority of crown lost, roots exposed
Treatment for your dog's cavity will depend on what stage of damage your dog's tooth has been diagnosed with.
For a Stage 1 or 2 tooth decay, the enamel surrounding the cavity will be removed and the crown will be restored with an amalgam filling.
For a dog tooth cavity that has reached Stage 3, your vet will perform a root canal procedure, in which the root canal will be disinfected and scrubbed and then filled. The procedure will finish with the restoration and sealing of the crown.
If your dog has been diagnosed with a Stage 4 or 5 cavity the tooth will likely need to be extracted since it will be too damaged to restore. Your veterinarian may use a sealant on the surrounding teeth help protect your dog's teeth against further tooth decay and cavities.
What can I do to protect my dog's teeth against cavities?
Regular dental exams at your vet's office are essential when it comes to maintaining your dog's oral hygiene and preventing cavities. When you bring your dog in for regular cleanings your vet can also catch any developing oral health issues and suggest treatment options before they turn into a more serious problem.
There are also at-home measures you can take to help your dog maintain their oral hygiene such as at-home brushing in between vet visits and providing your dog with special chew toys designed to promote plaque removal.
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.