Like their human companions, dogs can develop dental cavities due to inadequate oral hygiene. In today's post, our Fort Pierce vets explain cavity treatment and how to prevent your canine companion from developing the condition.
Can dogs get cavities?
Many pet parents might wonder if their dogs can get cavities - after all, they don't eat candy bars! The answer is a resounding yes, your pooch can get a cavity. A dog cavity is an area of damage on one of your dog's teeth caused by 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.
Eventually, the enamel on your dog's tooth will be destroyed and the root of the tooth will be damaged, which can be extremely painful. In severe cases, the tooth will go on to fall out or require extraction.
Canine cavities are relatively rare thanks in part to the low amounts of sugars and acids in most dogs' diets, but there are some breeds that 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 potential signs of a dog dental cavity?
Spotting your dog's oncoming cavity before it causes advanced tooth decay can be challenging, so it's important for your dog to attend regular dental checkups at your vet's office.
If you notice any of the following symptoms it could be a sign of a cavity or another oral health issue and requires veterinary attention as soon as possible:
- Excessive drooling
- A dark spot anywhere on the tooth
- Discomfort or pain in the mouth area
- Tooth discoloration, (especially yellow or brown along the gumline)
- Dropping food
- Lack of appetite
How are cavities in dogs treated?
When your dog is diagnosed with a cavity, your vet will assess the level of damage the cavity has caused to your pet'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
The kind of treatment that your vet chooses for your dog's cavity depends on the stage of the dental problem.
For a Stage 1 or 2 tooth decay, the enamel surrounding the cavity will be removed and the crown will be restored with an amalgam filling.
A dog tooth cavity that has reached Stage 3 will likely require a root canal procedure, in which the root canal will be disinfected, 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 as 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 from cavities?
Regular dental visits to your vet are key when it comes to supporting and maintaining your dog's good oral health. When you bring your dog in for regular cleanings, your vet has an opportunity to spot any other developing oral health issues and suggest treatment options before they turn into a more serious problem.
Your veterinarian can also tell you about 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.