Dental health issues in dogs can be just as problematic as they are in people. If you've ever developed a cavity in one or more of your teeth, you know they can be uncomfortable. Dogs can develop cavities too and here, our Los Angeles vets explain the causes, symptoms, and treatments of cavities in dogs.
Can dogs get cavities?
Yes, they can. If our dogs' mouths aren't cared for and cleaned regularly, they can develop a variety of oral health issues ranging from gum disease to cavities (also known as tooth decay).
The Cause of Cavities in Dogs
Just like people, as our dogs eat, the leftover food debris residue is consumed by bacteria that naturally live in their mouths and turned into plaque.
Plaque is a sticky substance that sticks to your teeth throughout the day. Plaque is mildly acidic and quite sticky, slowly eating away at your dog's teeth's protective outer layers over time (as well as causing the mild-to-severe bad breath we often think of as normal more middle-aged, or senior dogs).
If your dog's mouth is left uncleaned for long enough, the acidic plaque on your dog's teeth and cause large or small holes in their enamel, called cavities,m tooth decay, or dental caries.
Certain pre-existing conditions in your pup's mouth may make them more likely to develop cavities in addition to a lack of routine cleanings. These 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 Dog Cavities
The severity of the cavity will determine the level of pain or discomfort your dog may experience as a result of the tooth. There are five levels of severity when it comes to cavities. Level 1 indicates only damage to your pup's enamel, while level 5 signifies significant loss of crown and exposure of roots.
Here are some of the most common symptoms that a dental cavity in a dog can cause or be accompanied by:
- 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
The pain and discomfort of a cavity can deter some puppies from eating enough (or eating altogether). If you notice any of the above symptoms, take your dog to your Los Angeles vet as soon as possible for a dental checkup and treatment.
Treatments for Your Dog's Cavity
Professional or preventive treatment can effectively address cavities in dogs. We offer professional treatment for existing cavities and also provide preventive care to address cavities early on or even before they occur in your puppy.
Restorative Dental Treatment For a Dog's Tooth Cavity
We will determine the appropriate treatment for your dog's cavity based on how severe it is. Your veterinarian can take action to protect the site from further deterioration if a cavity is caught early, using a fluoride wash or bonding agent. They will also monitor it in the future.
If your furry companion's tooth decay has advanced, the affected enamel, dentin, or pulp needs to be eliminated and the tooth repaired using a filling, root canal, or another restorative procedure. If the cavity has reached the fourth or fifth stage, extracting the tooth from your dog's mouth becomes necessary to prevent any further deterioration of their oral health.
Recovering from filling or tooth removal treatment is typically rapid, but it's important to provide specialized after-care for your dog to ensure they don't harm their mouth or new filling.
Routine Care to Prevent Cavities
Maintaining a routine of at-home oral hygiene care is crucial for preserving your dog's dental and overall health, while also combating cavities. Specialized toothbrushes and toothpaste, tailored to the unique needs of dog mouths, play a key role in this process.
In addition to at-home oral health care, make sure you bring your pup to our Los Angeles vets at least once each year for a professional dental exam and cleaning treatment. This will allow us to conduct a more thorough hygiene cleaning of your dog's teeth as well as to detect cavities as they are just starting to develop and when they can be prevented.