Can dogs get cavities? In a word, the answer is yes. Today, our New York vets explain how a cavity can be identified in a dog, what happens if one develops and how they are treated.
Do dogs get cavities?
Also referred to as caries, cavities occur for the same reason in both dogs and people. These are areas where the teeth are damaged by prolonged exposure to bacteria and food particles. When bacteria buildup on the teeth, acid accumulates and erodes the outer layers of the tooth, resulting in decay.
The enamel on your dog's teeth can be gradually destroyed, and the root of the tooth can be damaged. In severe cases, this will lead to tooth loss or the need for a tooth extraction.
While dog cavities are relatively rare thanks to the low amounts of acids and sugars in most dogs' diets, some breeds are more susceptible to them than others. Chihuahuas, Bulldogs, Dachshunds, Shih Tzus, poodles and pugs are all prone to have higher vulnerability to tooth decay.
Signs Your Dog Might Have a Cavity
Many pet owners will find it difficult to spot early signs of a cavity developing before advanced tooth decay happens. This is why we recommend booking your pooch a regular dental checkup at your vet's office.
If you see any of these symptoms, your dog may have a cavity or other oral health problem and you should schedule an appointment with your vet right away:
- Dropping food
- Lack of appetite
- Excessive drooling
- Tooth discoloration, especially brown or yellow spots near the gum line
- Discomfort or pain in the mouth area
- A dark spot anywhere on the tooth
How to Treat Cavities in Dogs
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 a stage 1 or 2 diagnosis, the enamel surrounding the cavity will be removed and the crown will be restored with an amalgam filling.
For a Stage 3 dog tooth cavity, your dog will undergo a root canal procedure, similar to what happens with humans, 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 tooth cavity, tooth removal will likely be necessary as the damage may be too severe to save the tooth. Your veterinarian will likely use a sealant on the surrounding teeth in order to ensure further cavities do not form.
Preventive Measures You Can Take
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.