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 a tooth cavity too, and here our Smyrna vets explain the causes, symptoms, and treatments of cavities in dogs.
Do Dogs Get Cavities?
Our pups can 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).
The Cause of Cavities in Dogs
Just like in people, as our dogs eat, the leftover food debris residue is consumed by bacteria that naturally live in their mouth and turned into plaque.
Plaque is a sticky substance that sticks to your teeth throughout the day. Plaque is mildly acidic and quite sticky, gradually eroding 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)
The Symptoms of Canine Cavities
Depending on the severity of your dog's cavities, he or she may feel varying degrees of pain or discomfort as a result of their tooth. Cavities are classified into five stages based on their severity, ranging from 1 (where only your puppy'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
For some puppies, the pain and discomfort of a cavity are sufficient to prevent them from eating enough (or eating altogether). If you notice any of the above symptoms, take your dog to your Smyrna vet as soon as possible for a dental checkup and treatment.
Treatments for Your Dog's Cavity
Cavities in dogs can be treated in two ways: professionally and preventively. 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 Canine Cavity
The precise treatment for your dog's cavity will be determined by the severity of the cavity. 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 the cavity in your four-legged friend's tooth has progressed beyond that point, 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 no longer be truly treatable and may need to be extracted from your dog's mouth to prevent further deterioration of their oral health.
Although recovery from filling or tooth removal treatment is usually quick, you may need to provide specialized after-care for 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 oral hygiene care at home, using specialized toothbrushes and toothpaste in textures and flavors designed specifically for dog mouths.
In addition to at-home oral health care, bring your dog to our Smyrna veterinarians at least once a year for a professional dental exam and cleaning treatment. This will allow us to perform a more thorough hygiene cleaning of your dog's teeth as well as to detect cavities as they begin to form and when they can be prevented.