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Cavities in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Dental health problems can be troublesome for dogs just like they are for humans. If you have ever experienced a cavity, you know how uncomfortable it can be. Similarly, dogs can also develop cavities. In this blog, our vets in Ketchum explain the causes, symptoms, and treatments of cavities in dogs.

Cavities in Dogs

Regular oral care for our furry friends is essential to prevent gum disease and tooth decay.

The Cause of Cavities in Dogs

As in humans, when dogs eat, bacteria present in their mouths consume the food debris residue and convert it into plaque. Plaque is a white, sticky substance that builds up on teeth over time.

Due to its acidic properties, plaque gradually erodes the protective outer layers of your dog's teeth, leading to tooth decay and bad breath in middle-aged or senior pups. 

If left uncleaned for long periods, the acidic plaque on your dog's teeth can cause cavities or dental caries. Besides the lack of routine cleaning, existing oral conditions can also increase the chances of your pup developing cavities.

  • A diet with lots of fermentable carbohydrates (often found in poor-quality dog food or high-carb table scraps)
  • Poor general health
  • Misaligned or crowded teeth in your dog's mouth
  • 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)

The Symptoms of Canine Cavities

Depending on how severe your dog's cavities are, they may experience different levels of pain or discomfort due to their affected tooth. Cavities are rated on a scale of five stages, which describe their severity from one (where only the enamel is damaged) to five (where most of the crown is lost and the roots are exposed).

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 your Ketchum 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 best course of action for treating your dog's cavity will depend on how advanced it is. If the cavity is still in its early stages, your vet may use a fluoride wash or bonding agent to protect the affected area from further damage and will keep a close eye on it in the future.

However, if the cavity has progressed to a more advanced stage, the affected enamel, dentin, or pulp may need to be removed and the tooth repaired with a filling, root canal treatment, or other restorative procedure. In cases where the cavity has progressed to stages 4 or 5, the tooth may not be salvageable and may need to be removed to prevent further damage to your dog's oral health.

Recovery from filling or tooth removal treatment is typically quick, but your dog may require special care afterward to prevent them from damaging their mouth or the newly repaired tooth.

Routine Care to Prevent Cavities

The most reliable way to preserve your dog's dental and overall health and fight cavities is to maintain a regular routine of oral hygiene care at home, using specialized toothbrushes and toothpaste with textures and tastes custom-made for dog mouths.

It's important to take care of your dog's oral health at home. However, it's also recommended to bring your pup to our veterinarians at least once a year for a professional dental exam and cleaning treatment. This will allow us to conduct a more thorough hygiene cleaning of your dog's teeth and detect cavities in their early stages when they can still be prevented.

Is your dog showing signs of cavities? Contact our vets in Ketchum  to set up a dental cleaning. 

New Patients Welcome

Sun Valley Animal Center is accepting new patients at our two convenient locations! Our vets are passionate about the health of our Valley's pets. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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