What Happens When My Pet Gets a Cavity?

If your pet is suffering from dental issues then they may be in a great deal of pain, whether they show it or not. Here, our San Angelo veterinary dentists explain the causes, symptoms and treatment of cavities in pets and how they can be prevented in the future. 

Veterinary Dentistry: Cavities in Pets

If you aren't keeping up with routine dental care for your pet, both through your vet and at home, then your cat or dog may be more likely to develop serious oral health concerns. Pet cavities are a dental issue that is relatively common and can lead to a number of serious complications for your pup.

What are the typical causes of cavities in pets?

These cavities happen when the residue and particles from your pet's food sit on the teeth. This is an environment in which bacteria thrive and they will continue to multiply until properly cleaned away.

You may recognize plaque as the while substance that sticks to your teeth over the course of the day. Plaque is mildly acidic and quite sticky, slowly eating away at the protective outer layers of your cat or dog's teeth over time (as well as causing the mild-to-severe bad breath we often think of as normal more middle-aged or senior pets).

If your pet's mouth is left uncleaned for long enough, the acidic plaque on your pet's teeth and cause large or small holes in their enamel, called cavities, tooth decay, or dental caries. 

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 pet food or high-carb table scraps)
  • Poor general health
  • Misaligned or crowded teeth in your pet's mouth
  • Gaps between teeth and gums caused by gum recession
  • A low pH level in your pet's saliva
  • Weaker-than-normal tooth enamel (caused by poor mineralization)

What are the symptoms commonly seen with pet cavities?

Depending on the severity of your pet's cavities, they may experience varying levels of pain or discomfort caused by their tooth. Cavities are rated on a scale of 5 stages to describe their severity, from 1 (where only your pup's enamel has been damaged) to 5 (where the majority of their crown has been lost and their roots are exposed).

The following are some of the most common symptoms that are caused by or accompany a dental cavity in a pet:

  • 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 pet to your San Angelo dog and cat dentists for a dental checkup and treatment as soon as possible.

What are the treatment options for pets with cavities?

There are two broad categories of treatment that can be applied to cavities in pets: 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 Pet Dental Care

The precise treatment for your pet's cavity will depend on its severity. If you have caught a cavity just as it was starting to form, the cat or dog dentist may use a fluoride wash or bonding agent to protect the site against further degradation and will monitor it in the future. 

If your four-legged friend's cavity has progressed any further than that, the diseased enamel, dentin or pulp will need to be removed and the tooth restored with a filling, root canal or other restorative treatment. If the cavity has progressed far enough (to stages 4 or 5), the tooth may not be truly treatable and may have to be removed from your pup's mouth to prevent further degradation of their oral health. 

Recovery from filling or tooth removal treatment is often quite quick, but you may have to provide specialized after-care to your pet in order to prevent them from harming their mouth or their new filling.

Cavity Prevention With Routine Care

Far and away the most reliable way to preserve your pet'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 pet mouths.

In addition to at-home oral health care, make sure you bring your pup to our San Angelo pet dentists 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 pets teeth as well as to detect cavities as they are just starting to develop and when they can be prevented.

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.

Is your pet in need of routine dental to help combat cavities and other dental concerns? Contact our vets in San Angelo to schedule a dental examination and cleaning.