Just like humans, poor oral hygiene can lead to our canine companions developing cavities. Today, our Tracy vets offer tips on how to prevent cavities in dogs and what to do if your dog has one.
Cavities In Dogs
Cavities (a.k.a. caries) happen for the same reason in both humans and dogs. They are sections of enamel that have been damaged by the prolonged exposure to the bacteria found in food. When the bacteria stay on the surface of the teeth for an extended time they cause acid to buildup that eats away at the outer layers of the tooth causing decay and damage.
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 requiring extraction.
Cavities in dogs are somewhat infrequent because of the low amounts of sugars and acids in most dogs' diets, but there are some breeds that are more likely to get them than others. Pugs, Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Bulldogs, Poodles, and Shih Tzus are all predisposed to have higher instances of tooth decay.
Signs Of Cavities In Dogs
It can be difficult to spot the early signs of cavity development before it causes advanced tooth decay. This is why it's important for your dog to visit the vet for regular dental checkups.
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:
- Excessive drooling
- A dark spot anywhere on the tooth
- Discomfort or pain in the mouth area
- Tooth discoloration (watch for yellow or brown deposits near the gum line)
- Dropping food
- Lack of appetite
How To Treat Cavities In Dogs
When your dogs has been diagnosed with one or more cavities, your vet will assess the level of damage the cavity has caused their 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 the tooth crown lost, exposing the roots
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 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.
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.