Can Pets Get Cavities? – Pet Dental Health FAQs

Dr. Joe Alcorn, M.S., D.V.M.

Dr. Joe Alcorn is founder of Care Animal Hospital in Temecula, California. He has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and his advice has been featured in large publications like Bustle and Martha Steward.

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Gingivitis and gum disease is very common among pets. Inside your pet’s mouth, you’ll find a vast ecosystem of substances and processes that work to create a balance of the overall system. Much like humans, if a pet’s mouth is kept in great condition through eating healthy foods, getting regular exercise, and receiving daily dental care, there is a good chance that they will have great oral health.

If these factors are not in place, just like you, your mouth will suffer the consequences. If you’ve ever wondered ‘can pets get cavities,’ the answer is yes. Let’s have a look at what can be done about it.

Vet in Temecula

Dental Disease is Common – Cavities Are Rare

Just to be clear, it’s important to recognize the difference between dental disease and cavities. 80% of dogs older than three years of age have some form of dental disease (periodontitis). This is characterized by red, swollen gums, plaque build-up, bad breath, and even bone loss. Even so, only about 5% of dogs ever get an actual cavity. Cavities in cats are nearly non-existent.

This might seem paradoxical, but upon closer examination by the vet, it makes sense. Most pets don’t consume the high sugar, high acid foods that humans do. The constitution of most pet foods does not include these dental-damaging ingredients. This prevents the buildup of harmful bacteria that cause tooth decay.

Also, a dog’s teeth are shaped in such a way as to prevent food build-up – unlike the molars of a human. Because of this shape, the food doesn’t stick as easily to the surface, and so cannot create the acidic bacterial ecosystem that causes tooth decay. This does not save the gums from assault, however, so an oral health routine is still very important for long-term care.

Is My Dog At Risk Of A Cavity?

Although cavities are generally rare across the dog world, certain breeds are more prone to developing oral health issues. This has to do with the overcrowding of teeth in breeds that have a shorter face than others. The more crowded the teeth, or the more spaced out, the more chances of bacterial buildup. If your pup is one of the following breeds, establishing a daily oral health care routine is key:

  • Pug
  • Chihuahua
  • Pomeranian Poodle
  • Dachshund
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Brussels Griffon
  • English Bulldog
  • French Bulldog
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Shih Tzu

Once you determine that your pup is at higher risk of oral health problems you can begin taking action toward prevention. Once established, dental problems can become a costly concern. If you get ahead of oral health problems with a dental care routine such as brushing your dog’s teeth or feeding them oral health treats, you can save your pet unnecessary pain, and yourself from surprise dental expenses.

The Canine Cavity – Symptoms and Treatments

Most pets are experts at hiding signs of discomfort and pain. This can make detecting the early signs of painful dental problems very difficult for many pet parents – often staying unnoticed until it’s already too late. Because of this, you may have to rely on the late-stage symptoms to inform you of a developing problem. Here are a few signs to be aware of:

  • Tooth discoloration – look for yellow or brown stains and deposits developing at or near the gumline.
  • Whining while eating
  • Drooling more often
  • Dark spots on the tooth
  • Dropping food while eating

This is not an exact science. Dental pain is hard to isolate and is best prevented before anything arises. If you suspect your pet is experiencing dental pain, bring them into our office, and we will have a thorough look.

Insofar as treatment is concerned, the same kinds of fillings, drillings, pullings, and root canals a human would receive can be used. The appropriate measures will be taken depending on the condition of the tooth.

Final Thoughts

The answer to your question ‘can pets get cavities’ is hopefully much more clear for you now. The condition of your pet’s mouth is dependent upon a few factors, the most important of which is food choice and the presence of a regular daily care routine.

Yearly pet dental check-ups help to ensure everything is looking great and can find potential issues before they develop into full-blown problems. Call us at Care Animal Hospital today at 951-676-4690 if you’d like to schedule a wellness visit or dental exam. Our vets in Temecula, CA would be glad to help make sure your pet is in top shape!