What to Do if Your Dog Gets a Cavity

Regular dental care is an important part of your dog's overall care in order to protect them against various oral health concerns such as tooth decay. Here, our La Mesa vets talk about the signs that your dog's tooth has a cavity as well as how we can treat and prevent cavities.

Can dogs get cavities?

One of the biggest questions that we are asked is 'Do dogs get cavities?'. The answer to this is a definite yes. Dog cavities are areas of damage on one of your dog's teeth caused by prolonged exposure to the bacteria found in food. When bacteria remain on your pup's teeth for a long time they cause acid to build up which in turn begins to eat away at the outer layers of the tooth causing decay and damage. 

Unless you bring them in for veterinary dental care this decay will continue to advance causing a cavity. If the cavity is left untreated, this can lead to eventual tooth and bone loss. 

Luckily dog cavities are not affected by added sugars like a human's cavities would be. But there are some breeds that are more likely to get cavities than others. pugs, Chihuahuas, dachshunds, bulldogs, poodles, and shih tzus are all predisposed to have higher instances of tooth decay. 

Signs That Your Dog Has a Cavity

The initial signs of cavities in dogs can be quite subtle. This makes it incredibly important for your dog to attend regular dental checkups at your vet's office.

There are a number of signs associated with cavities in dogs and if your dog shows any of them you should contact your vet right away to schedule a dental examination.

Some of the common signs that your dog may have a cavity include:

  • 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 

Treating Your Dog's Tooth For a Cavity

Once your vet has had the opportunity to examine and diagnose your dog's cavities, they will assign each cavity a stage. 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

The stage that the tooth is in will be the deciding factor for which treatment method your vet decides to recommend.

For Stage 1 or 2 tooth decay, the enamel surrounding the cavity will be removed and the crown will be restored with an amalgam filling. 

For a dog tooth cavity that has reached Stage 3, your vet will perform a root canal procedure, in which the root canal will be disinfected and scrubbed, and then filled. Once the root canal is complete, the vet will place a crown on the tooth to seal it and provide ongoing strength and protection.

Teeth that are diagnosed as stage 4 or 5 are likely to be extracted as they typically cannot be repaired.

Regardless of which stage your dog's cavity is in or the treatment method that is chosen, the vet may apply a sealant to the surrounding teeth at the end of the treatment to provide protection for the surrounding teeth.

Preventing Your Dog From Getting Cavities

Regular dental visits to your vet are key when it comes to maintaining your dog's oral hygiene and preventing cavities. Routine visits can allow your vet the opportunity to spot any potential concerns giving them the chance to recommend preventive care and treatment options to stop possible issues in their tracks.

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.

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.

Would you like to schedule a visit for your dog to have their teeth cleaned and examined? Contact our vets in La Mesa today.