Even though dogs don't eat junk food as we do they still need regular dental care to help keep their teeth clean and healthy. Today, our Citrus Heights vets talk about how cavities in dogs develop and the importance of veterinary dentistry to their overall health.
Can dogs get cavities?
If you have a dog then you may be wondering if it is possible for your pup to develop cavities. The answer to this question is yes.
A dog cavity is an area 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.
Over time the enamel on your dog's tooth will be completely destroyed and the root of the tooth will be damaged. If this decay and damage is left untreated and continues to worsen it can result in the need for surgeries and extractions.
Canine cavities are relatively rare thanks in part to the low amounts of sugars and acids in most dogs' diets, 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.
What are the signs that my dog might have a cavity?
Noticing a cavity before it turns into dental decay can be difficult. Because of this, it is extremely important for your pup to attend regular veterinary dentistry appointments to allow the vet the opportunity to thoroughly examine your pet's mouth.
If you notice any of the following symptoms it could be an indication of a cavity or another oral health issue and you should make an appointment with your vet right away:
- Excessive drooling
- A dark spot anywhere on the tooth
- Discomfort or pain in the mouth area
- Tooth discoloration
- Dropping food
- Lack of appetite
How are cavities in dogs treated?
When your dog is diagnosed as having a cavity your vet will assess the level of damage the cavity has caused to your pup's tooth. The 5 stages of damage are:
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
Before beginning treatment your veterinarian will need to determine which stage of dental decay your dog is experiencing.
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. The procedure will finish with the restoration and sealing of the crown.
If your dog has been diagnosed with Stage 4 or 5 cavities the tooth will likely need to be extracted since it will be too damaged to restore. Your veterinarian may use a sealant on the surrounding teeth to help protect your dog's teeth against further tooth decay and cavities.
What can I do to protect my dog's teeth against cavities?
Regular dental visits to your dog's dentist are crucial for maintaining your dog's oral hygiene and preventing cavities. When you bring your dog in for regular cleanings your vet dentist can also catch any developing oral health issues and suggest treatment options before they turn into a more serious problem.
Providing your dog with dental chews and performing routine brushing and cleaning are both ways that you can help protect the oral health of your pup while at home.
Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth
The first tip and probably the most obvious way to keep your dog's teeth clean is by brushing their teeth at home. It’s an excellent way to prevent plaque buildup. You don’t need to brush your dog’s teeth daily, but it doesn't hurt to try to brush their teeth daily.
Most dogs do not like having their teeth brushed at first, but you can easily train your dog to have his teeth brushed the same way you would have his nails trimmed or potty-training, with rewards.
There are hundreds of different types of dog chews, but almost all of them have teeth-cleaning properties. The act of chewing benefits your dog’s oral health, regardless of what is being chewed on. The gnawing scrapes plaque off your dog’s teeth, and many all-natural chews made from meat contain enzymes that help promote dental health.
Chews like cow ears, bully sticks, and chicken strips are a great way to keep your dog happy and healthy. If you’re looking for something without any calories, there are much long-lasting rubber or nylon dog chew toys that do the job, as well.
Dog Dental Treats
Dogs love treats, and dental treats for dogs are a very good way to improve your pup’s dental health. These treats are made specifically to remove plaque buildup and often contain ingredients that freshen your breath and clean your dog’s mouth.
Dogs generally like these treats much more than they like a toothbrush or tooth wipes, and they do a great job of keeping our dog’s mouth clean. These treats come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors, and you are sure to find something your dog loves.
Dog Tooth Wipes
If you are unable to brush your dog's teeth or simply want to switch up their cleaning techniques, dog dental wipes are a great solution. Tooth wipes are made to be rubbed against your dog’s teeth to help remove plaque.
They work just like toothbrushes do, but are not able to get into the tiny nooks and crannies that a brush does. Still, they are a great way to clean your pet’s teeth and are often easier to manage than a toothbrush with toothpaste.
Maybe the best way to make sure your dog’s oral health is good is to have him undergo a professional cleaning by your All Bay Animal Hospital vets. Our vets know what’s best for your dog’s teeth and will be able to address any issues they find.
Although much more expensive than the other tips mentioned, professional dental cleaning is the best way to maintain your dog’s dental hygiene. Your veterinarian is experienced in preventing, locating, and treating any issues that might go unnoticed by even the most dedicated dog owner.
What will happen during my dog's dental cleaning appointment?
To help prevent your pooch from developing tooth decay and periodontal disease, our cat and dog dentists in Citrus Heights recommend bringing your dog in for veterinary dentistry at least once each year, or more frequently if your canine companion is suffering from more severe or recurring dental problems.
When you bring your dog to Family Friends Veterinary Hospital for a dental checkup our vet dentists will perform a full oral examination for your pooch and check for signs of dental issues, such as:
- Extra teeth or retained baby teeth
- Bleeding around the mouth
- Swelling or pain in or around the mouth
- Plaque or tartar buildup on teeth
- Discolored teeth
- Loose or
- Broken teeth
- Bad breath
If you detect symptoms of periodontal disease in your pet, such as reduced appetite (which can be an indication of tooth pain), abnormal chewing, drooling, dropping food from the mouth, bad breath or other symptoms be sure to contact your dog or cat dentists right away to schedule a dental appointment for your pet. Oral health issues can become severe if left untreated and cause your pet a great deal of pain and discomfort.
Once your pet is safely sedated, we will perform a full tooth-by-tooth examination, complete with charting, (just like your dentist does during your examinations).
While we have your pet safely and comfortably under anesthesia, we will thoroughly clean and polish your pup's teeth, both above and below the gum line. We probe and x-ray the teeth, then to help protect against future decay and damage we use a fluoride treatment before applying a dental sealant to prevent plaque buildup.
If your dog is experiencing dental pain, bring your pup to our pet dentists for veterinary dentistry. We can help create a comprehensive dental treatment plan for your pup.
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.