Cavites in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Dental health problems in dogs can be just as problematic as they are in humans. Dogs can also develop cavities. In this post, our Middlesex veterinarians explain the causes, symptoms, and treatments for cavities in dogs.

Cavities in Dogs

It's possible for our pups to develop a whole host of different oral health issues if their mouths aren't routinely cared for and cleaned, from gum disease to cavities (also known as tooth decay). 

The Cause of Cavities in Dogs

Similar to humans, when dogs eat, bacteria present in their mouth consume the leftover food debris and convert it into plaque. Plaque is the white substance that accumulates on teeth throughout the day. It is slightly acidic and adhesive, gradually eroding the protective outer layers of your dog's teeth over time.

Additionally, plaque is often associated with the bad breath commonly observed in middle-aged or senior dogs.

If your dog's mouth remains uncleaned for an extended period, the acidic plaque can lead to the formation of cavities, tooth decay, or dental caries, resulting in small or large holes in the enamel.

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:

  • 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

The level of pain or discomfort experienced by your dog due to their cavities depends on the severity of the condition. Cavities are classified into five stages to determine their seriousness, ranging from stage 1 (involving damage to the enamel only) to stage 5 (involving extensive loss of the tooth crown and exposure of the roots).

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 Middlesex 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 appropriate treatment for your dog's cavity will depend on its severity. If the cavity is detected at an early stage, your vet may apply a fluoride wash or bonding agent to protect the affected area and keep a close eye on it in the future.

However, if the cavity has progressed beyond its initial stages, involving the decay of enamel, dentin, or pulp, more extensive treatment such as fillings, root canals, or other restorative procedures may be necessary.

In advanced stages (stages 4 or 5), the cavity may not be treatable, and the tooth might need to be extracted to prevent further deterioration of your dog's oral health.

Recovery from filling or tooth removal procedures is typically swift, but you may need to provide specialized after-care to ensure your dog doesn't harm their mouth or the newly treated area.

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.

In addition to at-home oral health care, make sure you bring your pup into our Middlesex vets at least once each year for a professional dental exam and cleaning treatment.

This will give us an opportunity to conduct a more thorough hygiene cleaning of your dog's teeth as well as to detect cavities as they are just starting to develop and when they can be prevented.

If you have noticed any signs of cavities or oral discomfort in your pup, contact our Middlesex vets today to book a dental examination.