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Cavities in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

If your dog doesn't receive proper dental care, they can develop cavities on their teeth just like humans. In this post, our Central Illinois vets discuss the signs your dog has a cavity, how they are treated, and how they can be prevented.

Can dogs get cavities?

Simply put, yes! Cavities can occur for the same reason in dogs as they do for people. This is when prolonged exposure to bacteria and food particles permanently damages the teeth. When bacteria build up on the teeth, acid accumulates and erodes the outer layers of the tooth, causing decay. 

The enamel on your dog's teeth can be gradually destroyed, and the root of the tooth can be damaged. In severe cases, this will lead to tooth loss or the need for a tooth extraction. 

A dog tooth cavity isn't as common as a human cavity. This is thanks to the low amounts of acids and sugars in most dogs' diets, some dog breeds are more susceptible to them and may experience them more often than other dogs. Chihuahuas, Bulldogs, Dachshunds, Shih Tzus, poodles, and pugs are all prone to have higher vulnerability to tooth decay. 

Signs & Symptoms of a Dog Cavity

Many pet owners will find it difficult to spot early signs of a cavity developing before advanced tooth decay happens. This is why regular dental checkups at your vet's office are so important to your dog's oral and overall health.

If you see any of the following symptoms, your dog may have a cavity or other oral health problem that requires veterinary intervention:

  • Dropping food
  • Lack of appetite
  • Excessive drooling
  • Tooth discoloration
  • A dark spot anywhere on the tooth
  • Discomfort or pain in the mouth area

Treating a Cavity in Dogs

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 crowns 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 in which the root canal will be disinfected and scrubbed, and then filled with resin. The procedure will finish with the restoration and sealing of the crown. 

If your dog has been diagnosed with a Stage 4 or 5 tooth cavity, the tooth may need to be extracted to prevent infection from spreading. Your veterinarian will likely use a sealant on the surrounding teeth to prevent them from developing a cavity as well.  

Preventing Dog Cavities

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 detect and treat other health concerns before they develop into more serious issues. 

You should also be caring for your dog's teeth at home to help your dog maintain their oral hygiene. This includes at-home brushing in between vet visits and providing your dog with special chew toys or treats 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. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

Is your dog due for a dental checkup and cleaning? Contact our Central Illinois vets to book an appointment.

Caring for Pets in Central Illinois

Pekin Veterinary Clinic is welcoming new clients to our clinic. Contact our team to book your pet's appointment.

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