You may not realize it but dogs are also able to experience dental concerns such as cavities, just as you would. Today, our New Ulm veterinary dentists discuss cavities in dogs and what you can do to help protect your dog's teeth from unnecessary damage.
Cavities in Dogs
Cavities, also known as caries, happen for the same reason in both humans and dogs. They are areas of damage on the teeth caused by prolonged exposure to the bacteria found in food. When the bacteria sit on the teeth for a long time they cause acid to build up which 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 needing to be extracted.
Although canine cavities are relatively rare due to the low amounts of sugars and acids in most dogs' diets, 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 dental concerns and have a higher rate of tooth decay.
Common Symptoms of Cavities in Dogs
The early signs of cavities and tooth decay in dogs can be difficult to spot. Your dog's veterinary dentist is trained to notice these concerns before they become a larger problem making routine dental exams an important part of your dog's overall care.
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 veterinary dentist right away:
- Excessive drooling
- A dark spot anywhere on the tooth
- Discomfort or pain in the mouth area
- Tooth discoloration, especially yellow or brown deposits near the gum line
- Dropping food
- Lack of appetite
How Cavities in Dogs are Typically Treated
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
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.
How You Can Help Protect Your Dog's Teeth
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 with their veterinary dentist they 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.