Can dogs get cavities?
Many pet parents considering dental care for their canine companions ask 'Do dogs get cavities?'. The answer is a resounding yes. A dog cavity is an area of damage on one of your dog's teeth caused by prolonged exposure to the bacteria found in food. When bacteria remains 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.
Over time the enamel on your dog's tooth will be 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 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.
What are the signs that my dog might have a cavity?
Spotting a developing cavity before it causes advanced tooth decay can be challenging, so your dog needs to attend regular dental checkups at your vet's office.
If you notice 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 of dog cavities depends on what stage of damage your dog's tooth has been diagnosed with.
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. 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 to 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 visits to your vet are key 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.