Dental health issues in dogs can be just as problematic as they are in people. If you've ever developed a cavity in one or more of your teeth, you know they can be uncomfortable. Dogs can develop cavities too and here, our Ocala vets explain the causes, symptoms, and treatments of cavities in dogs.
Can dogs get cavities?
Yes, they can. If our dogs' mouths aren't cared for and cleaned regularly, they can develop a variety of oral health issues ranging from gum disease to cavities (also known as tooth decay).
The Cause of Cavities in Dogs
Just like people, as our dogs eat, the leftover food debris residue is consumed by bacteria that naturally live in their mouths and turned into plaque.
Plaque is a sticky substance that sticks to your teeth throughout the day. Plaque is mildly acidic and quite sticky, slowly eating away at your dog's teeth's protective outer layers 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)
The Symptoms of Canine Cavities
Your dog may experience varying degrees of pain or discomfort as a result of the tooth, depending on the severity of the cavity. Cavities are classified into five severity levels, ranging from 1 (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
The pain and discomfort of a cavity can deter some puppies from eating enough (or eating altogether). If you notice any of the above symptoms, take your dog to your Ocala vet as soon as possible for a dental checkup and treatment.
Treatments for Your Dog's Cavity
Cavities in dogs can be treated professionally or preventively. Professional treatment of existing cavities as well as a preventive treatment of cavities early in their development or before they arise in your puppy in the first place.
Restorative Dental Treatment For a Dog Tooth Cavity
The exact treatment for your dog's cavity will be determined by its severity. If you catch a cavity just as it begins to form, your veterinarian may use a fluoride wash or bonding agent to protect the site from further deterioration and will monitor it in the future.
If your four-legged friend's cavity has progressed beyond that point, the diseased enamel, dentin, or pulp must be removed and the tooth restored with a filling, root canal, or other restorative treatment. If the cavity has progressed to the fourth or fifth stage, the tooth may no longer be treatable and must be extracted from your dog's mouth to prevent further deterioration 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 to prevent them from harming their mouth or their new filling.
Routine Care to Prevent Cavities
The most dependable way to preserve your dog's dental and overall health, as well as fight cavities, is to maintain a routine of at-home oral hygiene care, using specialized toothbrushes and toothpaste with textures and tastes designed specifically for dog mouths.
In addition to at-home oral health care, make sure you bring your pup to our Ocala vets at least once each year for a professional dental exam and cleaning treatment. This will allow us 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.