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Cavities in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Your dog's oral health is vital to their overall health and quality of life. After all, they use their mouths for more than just eating. Here, our vets in Bakersfield talk about how cavities develop in dogs, the symptoms they might experience and what we can do if they get a cavity.

What is a cavity in dogs?

Have you ever wondered 'Can dogs get cavities?' Like people, dogs can develop cavities from a lack of oral hygiene over time. Below are some causes of canine cavities that owners should know about to prevent them.

What causes a dog to have a cavity?

Just like in people, as our dogs eat, the leftover food debris residue is consumed by bacteria that naturally live in their mouth and turn into plaque. 

You may recognize plaque as the white substance that sticks to your teeth over the day. Plaque is mildly acidic and quite sticky, slowly eating away at the protective outer layers of your dog's teeth 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, tooth decay, or dental caries. 

So, how do dogs get cavities? 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:

  • 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)
  • High-carbohydrate diet
  • Poor general health
  • Misaligned or crowded teeth in your dog's mouth

What are the symptoms if my dog has cavities?

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

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

How will my dog's cavity be treated?

Two broad categories of treatment 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 Care to Treat Cavities in Dogs

Treatment if your dog's tooth develops a 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. 

When a dog's cavity progresses any further than that, the diseased enamel, dentin or pulp will need to be removed and the tooth restored with a filling, root canal or 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 filling or tooth removal treatment is often quite quick, but you may have to provide specialized after-care to your dog to prevent them from harming their mouth or their new filling.

How Routine Care Can Help 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 routine of oral hygiene care at home, with specialized toothbrushes and toothpaste in textures and tastes custom-made for dog mouths.

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.

If your dog is showing signs of cavities or dental pain of any type, contact Stine Veterinary Hospital to book an examination today.

New Patients Welcome

Stine Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vet is passionate about improving the health of Bakersfield companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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(661) 398-7121