What are dog cavities?
Dog cavities tend to appear in a dog’s mouth as a result of a build-up of bacteria begins. Once bacteria has started to build up it produces a type of acid, which, if left untreated, is harmful to your dog’s mouth and teeth. The acid created eats away at a dog’s teeth and causes a loss of calcium found in the enamel of its tooth. Once this calcium is lost, the tooth begins to decay and you may start to see small holes or cavities appear.
The good news for pet owners is that cavities in dogs are rarer than cavities in human teeth. This is in part because of the way a dog’s teeth are shaped. As humans, we have teeth in our mouth that have a horizontal crown shape. This shape allows food deposits to naturally sit in the teeth, which can then encourage bacterial growth. Dogs do not have teeth shaped in this way; instead, most of their teeth are cone shaped. This cone shape makes it harder for food deposits to be retained on the teeth, which in turn makes it harder for bacteria to grow. The exception to this is the molar teeth at the back of the mouth. Dogs also have saliva of a more alkaline pH which can buffer acids and help reduce the incidence of dog cavities.
This being said bacteria and cavities can still form in your dog’s mouth, so it’s still important to keep a good dental health routine and regularly check for any issues.
What do dog cavities look like?
Dog cavities can be difficult to spot for a pet owner. When searching for a cavity you should keep an eye out for any small holes that may appear on your dog’s tooth. The holes themselves tend to look small on the outside and then can get larger inside the tooth.
Diagnosing cavities in dogs
When diagnosing cavities in dogs your vet will first need to identify the severity of the cavity and the damage it has caused. This usually requires the use of a probe and needs to be done under an anaesthetic. Once worked out your vet will diagnose your dog with a stage for the cavity in its mouth. This stage will be one of the five following:
- Stage 1 - Only enamel affected
- Stage 2 - Enamel and dentine affected
- Stage 3 - Enamel, dentin, and pulp chamber affected
- Stage 4 - Structural crown damage
- Stage 5 - Majority of crown lost, roots exposed
Recovering from dog cavity treatments
If your dog has had to undergo surgery due to their cavity, you will need to monitor their behaviour and their mouth closely. If you notice anything abnormal in either of these then you should inform your vet who will be able to give further advice. Special attention should be given when examining the area of the mouth your dog has had treatment on. It is likely after surgery your dog will be prescribed with pain relief or antibiotic medicine. Your vet may also recommend that you change your dog’s diet for a few days after the surgery.
It is also important to make sure your pet has a scheduled follow up appointment after the surgery to make sure that everything has healed okay.
Preventing cavities in dogs
The best way to reduce the risk of cavities appearing in your dog’s mouth is to make sure you have a good dental health routine set up for your pet. This includes regularly brushing your dog’s teeth and providing them with dental chews. Check out our caring for puppy, adult and senior dogs’ teeth article for further advice around this subject.