Dental health problems in dogs can pose as much concern as in humans. If you've experienced the discomfort of a cavity in one or more of your teeth, you're aware of the issue. Similarly, dogs can also develop cavities. Our vets inZeeland discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatments of dog cavities.
Cavities in Dogs
If we don't regularly care for and clean our pups' mouths, they can develop various oral health issues, including gum disease and cavities (also known as tooth decay).
The Cause of Cavities in Dogs
Just like people, bacteria naturally residing in your dog's mouth consume leftover food debris as they eat, transforming it into plaque. Plaque, recognized as the white substance adhering to your dog's teeth throughout the day, is mildly acidic and sticky. Over time, it gradually erodes the protective outer layers of your dog's teeth, contributing to the mild-to-severe bad breath commonly associated with middle-aged or senior dogs.
If your dog's mouth remains uncleaned for an extended period, the acidic plaque on their teeth can create both large and small holes in the enamel, leading to cavities, tooth decay, or dental caries. Certain pre-existing conditions in your pup's mouth may increase the likelihood of cavity development, especially in the absence of regular cleanings. These conditions 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, their tooth may cause varying pain levels or discomfort. A scale of 5 stages rates cavities to describe their severity, ranging from 1 (damage limited to your pup's enamel) to 5 (major loss of crown with exposed roots).
Here are some of the most common symptoms associated with 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 pups, the pain and discomfort of a cavity is enough to stop them from eating enough (or eating altogether). If you notice any of the above symptoms, bring your dog to your Zeeland vet for a dental checkup and treatment as soon as possible.
Treatments for Your Dog's Cavity
Two broad categories of treatment can be applied to cavities in dogs: 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 severity of your dog's cavity will determine the specific treatment. If the cavity is detected in its early stages, your vet may employ a fluoride wash or bonding agent to shield the site from further degradation and will monitor it in the future.
For more advanced cavities in your four-legged friend involving enamel, dentin, or pulp, the affected tissues will be removed, and the tooth will be restored through a filling, root canal, or other restorative treatment. The tooth may be beyond effective treatment in cases where the cavity has progressed significantly (to stages 4 or 5). It may need to be extracted to prevent further deterioration of your pup's oral health.
Recovery from filling or tooth removal treatments is often swift, but specialized after-care may be necessary to prevent your dog from causing harm to their mouth or the new filling.
Routine Care to Prevent Cavities
The most reliable way to preserve your dog's dental and overall health and fight cavities is to maintain a regular oral hygiene care routine at home actively. Use specialized toothbrushes and toothpaste with textures and tastes custom-made for dog mouths.
Ensure that you bring your pup to our Zeeland vets at least once yearly for a professional dental exam, cleaning treatment, and at-home oral health care. This proactive approach allows us to conduct a more thorough hygiene cleaning of your dog's teeth and detect cavities in their early stages, preventing their development.