Dogs can develop a cavity on a tooth just like humans. Here, our Fountain Valley vets discuss the causes, signs, and treatment options if your dog has a cavity.
Cavities in Dogs
Cavities also called caries, occur for the same reason in both people and pets. They are damaged areas of a tooth caused by prolonged exposure to bacteria found in food and its acidic waste materials. When the bacteria sit on teeth for too long, they cause the buildup of acidic materials on the surface of the tooth, breaking down and decaying your dog's enamel.
Over time the enamel on your dog's tooth will be completely 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.
Although cavities in our canine companions can be quite rare because of the small amount of sugar and acid in the diet of most dogs, some breeds are more likely to develop them than others. Pugs, Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, bulldogs, poodles, and Shih Tzus are all predisposed to have higher instances of tooth decay.
Signs of a Cavity in Dogs
it may be difficult to spot the early signs of cavities before they cause advanced tooth decay. Because of this, bringing your pup to your veterinarian's office to see them for routine dental checkups is important.
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:
- Lack of appetite
- Dropping food
- Excessive drooling
- Discomfort or pain in the mouth area
- A dark spot anywhere on the tooth
- Tooth discoloration, especially yellow or brown deposits near the gum line
Treating 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
The treatment of cavities in dogs depends on what stage of damage to your dog's tooth they have 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 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 to ensure further cavities do not form.
Preventing Cavities in Dogs
Routinely scheduled dental visits to your vet are key when it comes to maintaining the oral hygiene of your dog 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 some at-home measures you can implement to help your dog to maintain their oral hygiene such as at-home brushing between visits to the vet as well as providing your dog with special chew toys designed to help promote the removal of plaque.