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Cavities in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Dogs can suffer from dental health issues just like humans. Cavities, which can be painful and uncomfortable for humans, can also develop in dogs. In this article, our veterinarian at Pittsboro explains dog cavities' causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Can dogs get cavities?

If our pups' mouths aren't routinely cared for and cleaned, they can develop various oral health issues, from gum disease to cavities (also known as tooth decay). 

The Cause of Cavities in Dogs

Just like humans, dogs also have bacteria present in their mouths. The bacteria consume the leftover food debris as they eat, turning it into plaque. Plaque, identified as the white substance that sticks to your dog's teeth, is mildly acidic and sticky, slowly eroding the protective outer layers of your dog's teeth over time. It also causes bad breath, usually associated with middle-aged or senior dogs. 

If plaque is not cleaned from your dog's teeth, it can cause cavities or dental caries by creating holes in their enamel. Certain pre-existing conditions in your dog's mouth, in addition to the lack of routine cleanings, can make them more susceptible to cavities, such as:

  • 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, they may experience varying levels of pain or discomfort caused by their damaged tooth. Cavities are categorized into five stages to describe their severity, ranging from one (where only the enamel is damaged) to five (where most of the crown is lost and the roots are exposed). Here are some common symptoms that your dog may experience due to or along with a dental cavity:

  • 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 dogs, the pain and discomfort of a cavity are enough to stop them from eating enough (or eating altogether). If you notice any of the above symptoms, bring your dog to your Pittsboro vet for a dental checkup and treatment as soon as possible.

What happens if a dog has a cavity?

The severity of your dog's cavity will determine the treatment. If you catch the cavity early on, your vet may use a fluoride wash or bonding agent to protect the area and monitor it in the future. However, if the cavity has progressed to the point where it has affected the enamel, dentin, or pulp, your vet will need to restore the tooth with a filling, root canal, or other restorative treatment. In some cases, if the cavity has progressed too far (to stages four or five), then your vet may need to remove the tooth to prevent further damage to your pet's oral health.

Recovery from filling or tooth removal treatment is usually quick, but you may need to provide specialized after-care to your dog to prevent them from harming their mouth or their new fillings. One way to help fight cavities is to maintain a regular routine of oral hygiene care at home, with specialized toothbrushes and toothpaste in textures and tastes custom-made for dogs.

Additionally, ensure you bring your pup to our Pittsboro vets at least once each year for a professional dental exam and cleaning treatment. This practice will allow our team to conduct a more thorough hygiene cleaning of your dog's teeth and detect cavities as they are just starting to develop, allowing for prevention.

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.

Have you noticed any of the listed symptoms of cavities in your dog? Please call our vets in Pittsboro today to book a consultation.

Welcoming New Patients

Our vets at Hope Crossing Animal Hospital are now accepting new patients! Our talented veterinary team is passionate about caring for the pets of Pittsboro. Contact us today to book your first appointment. 

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