Dental care for dogs is important for protection against serious oral diseases and dental decay. Here, our Rockland County vets share the signs of cavities in dogs, what the signs might be if your dog has a cavity, and how they can be treated and prevented.
Do dogs get cavities?
One of the biggest questions that we are asked is 'Can dogs get cavities?'. The answer to this question is yes. Dog cavities are areas of damage on one of your dog's teeth caused by prolonged exposure to the bacteria found in food. When bacteria remain on your pup's teeth for a long time they cause acid to build up which in turn begins to eat away at the outer layers of the tooth causing decay and damage.
With a lack of care and continued decay, the enamel on your dog's tooth will wear down, and eventually, damage to the root will begin to occur. Unfortunately, if cavities are left untreated, it can result in more serious complications such as tooth or bone loss.
Luckily dog cavities are not affected by added sugars like a human's cavities would be. But some breeds 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.
Signs That a Dog Has Cavities
If your dog has a damaged tooth or cavity, it can sometimes be difficult to see the signs. This makes it incredibly important for your dog to attend regular dental checkups at your vet's office.
There are many signs associated with cavities in dogs and if your dog shows any of them you should contact your vet right away to schedule a dental examination. Some of the most common signs of cavities in dogs include:
- 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
Treating a Cavity in Dogs
If your dog has a cavity, the vet will grade it during diagnosis. 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
The treatment plan that your vet recommends will depend on the stage of damage that your dog is experiencing.
For 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. Once the root canal is complete, the vet will place a crown on the tooth to seal it and provide ongoing strength and protection.
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 vet will also apply a dental sealant to the teeth surrounding the damaged tooth. This will help to protect those teeth in the time following the visit.
Preventing Cavities in Dogs
Regular dental visits to your vet are key when it comes to maintaining your dog's oral hygiene and preventing cavities. Routine visits can allow your vet the opportunity to spot any potential concerns giving them the chance to recommend preventive care and treatment options to stop possible issues in their tracks.
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.