Cavity in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Dental health issues in dogs may be just as problematic as they are in people. If you have ever developed a cavity in your smile, you know that it can be uncomfortable. Dogs can develop cavities too and here, our Sacramento vets explain the causes, symptoms and treatments of cavities in dogs. 

Do Dogs Get Cavities?

Just like humans, our pups can develop whole range of different oral health issues if their mouth isn't routinely cared for and cleaned, including gum disease and cavities (also called tooth decay).

The Cause of Cavities in Dogs

Just like in people, as dogs eat, the debris from their meals is consumed by bacteria that naturally live in their mouths and is turned into plaque. 

You may recognize plaque as the white substance that sticks to your teeth over the course of your day. Plaque is a bit acidic and can be quite sticky, slowly degrading the protective outer layers of your dog's teeth over time in addition to causing the kind of bad breathe that people often think of as normal for middle-aged or senior pups. 

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:

  • Poor general health
  • A low pH level in your dog's saliva
  • Misaligned or crowded teeth in your dog's mouth
  • A diet with lots of fermentable carbohydrates (often found in poor-quality dog food or high-carb table scraps)
  • Weaker-than-normal tooth enamel (caused by poor mineralization)
  • Gaps between teeth and gums caused by gum recession

The Symptoms of Canine Cavities

Depending on the severity of your dog's cavities, they may experience varying levels of pain or discomfort that is caused by the root of their tooth

Depending on the severity of your dog's cavities, they may experience varying levels of pain or discomfort caused by their tooth. Cavities are rated on a scale of 5 stages to describe their severity, from 1 (where only your pup's enamel has been damaged) to 5 (where the majority of their crown has been lost and their roots are exposed).

The following are some of the most common symptoms that are caused by or accompany a dental cavity in a dog:

  • Bad breath 
  • Discolored teeth
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Noticeable Tartar buildup
  • Reduced appetite or refusal to eat 
  • Pain or swelling in or around the mouth
  • Abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food from the mouth 

For some dogs, the discomfort and pain of a cavity will be enough to stop them from eating enough, or eating altogether. If you notice any of the above symptoms, bring your dog in to your Sacramento vet for a dental checkup and treatment as soon as possible.

Treatments for Your Dog's Cavity

There are two broad categories of treatment that can be applied to cavities in dogs: professional treatment of existing cavities and preventive treatment of cavities early in their development or before they have a chance to arise in your pup in the first place. 

Restorative Dental Treatment For a Canine Cavity

The precise treatment for your dog's cavity will depend on its severity. If you have caught a cavity just as it was starting to form, your vet may use a fluoride wash or bonding agent to protect the site against further degradation and will monitor it in the future. 

If your four-legged friend has a cavity that has progressed further than just emerging, the diseased enamel, dentin and pulp will need to be removed and the tooth will need ot be restored using a filling, root canal and other restorative treatment. If the cavity has progressed far enough (to stages 4 or 5), the tooth may not be truly treatable and may have to be removed from your pup's mouth to prevent further degradation of their oral health. 

Recovery from tooth removal or a filling are often quite quick. However, you may need to provide specialized after-care to your dog in order to prevent them from harming their mouth or their new filling.

Routine Care to Prevent Cavities

Far and away the most reliable way to preserve your dog's dental and overall health, as well as 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 dog mouths.

Have you noticed emerging or serious health issues in your dog like a cavity? Bring them to the vets at Veterinary Medical Center to have them checked, cleaned and treated for any oral health issues.