Dog cavities are pretty rare. In fact, it was once believed that dogs didn't get cavities. When they do get cavities, it can be serious, just like it can with humans.
Your vet likely does a routine examination of your dog's teeth and mouth because their dental health is important, for the mouth itself and because symptoms in the mouth can appear for other diseases.
This post will discuss everything you need to know about dog cavities, should you see signs of one before your vet does or if you want to learn more about your pet's diagnosis. We'll also discuss how CBD oil can help.
How to Recognize Dog Cavities
Dog cavities, or caries, most often occur in the maxillary first molars, the second-to-last teeth at the back of your dog's mouth. There are sets of these in the top and bottom of the dog's mouth.
They are the most like human molars, with grooves and niches, providing more opportunity for bacteria to collect and form a cavity. Cavities can occur in any teeth, but the less smooth the tooth is, the more opportunity for cavities.
Teeth that are very close together are more likely to develop cavities as well because their closeness creates niches and grooves that can collect bacteria.
There are three kinds of dog cavities, pit-and-fissure, smooth-surface, and root caries, depending on which part of the tooth the cavities are in. Pit-and-fissure caries are the most common, appearing in those nooks and crannies. Smooth surface ones appear in the sides of teeth. Root caries form near the gumline.
Incipient cavities, usually visible on the smooth portions of the teeth, because it'd be too hard to see them in the cracks, just look like a change in the surface of the tooth. This may be a dull, white, weakened spot in the enamel.
The next step in the cycle of dog cavities is for it to turn a dark color and eventually start to look like a hole, impacting the second layer of tooth, the dentin.
What Causes Dog Cavities?
When dogs do get cavities, it is because of one or more of the reasons below. Cavities are rare in dogs because most of their teeth are pointy and smooth, as opposed to human teeth which provide a bounty of crevices for bacteria to collect in. Dog teeth also aren't usually exposed to a lot of sugary and acidic foods like ours are.
A poor diet, such as one based on low-quality dog food or one including a great deal of carbohydrates from human food scraps, can cause the delicate balance in the dog's mouth to allow cavities to develop.
Teeth that are abnormally close together or far apart can create a safe breeding ground for the bacteria that cause cavities. Either nothing can get in there to remove the bacteria or large bits of food can get stuck in the spaces between the teeth.
Other conditions that reduce the dog's overall health or inhibit their saliva production can throw off the natural, healthy balance in the mouth and lead to cavities.
Some dogs have tooth enamel that didn't develop correctly, leading to them being more prone to cavities.
There has been no evidence that breed or sex make a dog more likely to develop cavities. Age may be a factor if their health deteriorates or they have simply been exposed to oral bacteria longer.
Dog Cavity Symptoms
As with many diseases, the symptoms of dog cavities change as the condition progresses.
It will begin with a dull or white spot on the teeth.
When that has gone for a while unchecked, a dark spot and eventually a hole with appear in the teeth.
This hole can go deeper, wider, or both, leading to pain and tooth weakness.
Whether the pain or the weakness comes first depends on the location and shape of the cavity.
Pain may cause the dog to have behavior changes or to act like they are having difficulty eating. They may begin to eat less.
Tooth weakness can lead to breakage. You may notice bits of tooth missing and the ragged edges of tooth left behind can irritate or cut the skin.
It is also possible for the cavity to become infected like when a human has an abscessed tooth. This is as dangerous for them as it is for us.
The dog may also drool more when they have a cavity.
Unusually bad breath is a sign of cavities, like how bad breath can come from cavities and periodontal disease in humans.
Diagnosing Dog Cavities
The vet may notice a cavity while performing a routine checkup.
They will give a visual inspection first. Any spots that look like a cavity, they will poke at with a sharp dental instrument to see if it withstands the pressure from the tool. A healthy tooth will. Weakened tooth enamel or dentin from a cavity will be soft and come apart.
They may want to do x-rays to see how far the cavity goes into the tooth.
The cavity will then be graded:
- when the damage does not extend past the enamel
- when the damage effects the enamel and dentin, but not the pulp
- when the damage extends to the pulp
- when the cavity has caused extensive damage to the crown
- when the crown is deteriorating and the root is unprotected
Dog Cavity Treatment
Treatment depends on the stage of cavity that is present.
If the cavity has not impacted the dentin, the vet may apply a varnish over the enamel to protect it from further deterioration.
As long as the cavity just impacts the enamel and dentin, the vet may simply fill it, much like a dentist does to our teeth. They remove the damaged part of the tooth and put in a filling.
Once the tooth has impacted the pulp or root, a root canal or dog tooth extraction may be necessary.
If the tooth is infected, the dog may need an antibiotic.
Your vet may determine that your dog also has gum disease and treat that as well to prevent further tooth loss.
The vet will tell you to bring the dog back in a given period of time, often six months, to see how everything is going, and they will probably instruct you in an oral hygiene regimen to protect their teeth from further decay.
If your dog has to have surgery, be prepared that they may be lethargic and have a lack of appetite. Encourage them to eat nutritious soft foods; you can ask your vet which ones.
Preventing Dog Cavities
DietEnsure you are buying them high-quality dog foods. Avoid ones high in carbohydrates. You can ask your vet how a particular food may benefit or harm their dental health.
Limit their intake of food scraps, particularly ones high in sugars, acids, and carbohydrates.
Be mindful of their treats, both their ingredients and how many the dog is eating.
Chew toys are important parts of dental hygiene. That being said, some chew toys are safer and more effective than others. Vets approve some chew toys, so make sure at least half of your dog's chew toys are of these kind.
Dogs may need daily tooth brushing, particularly if they are developing cavities or have a condition that could make them more likely to get cavities.
You'll need to get them special dog toothpaste because human toothpaste often has things in it that are harmful to dogs. The toothbrush is not as important. You can buy a special dog toothbrush or use a toddler toothbrush.
It is easier to get a dog to accept tooth brushing if you have started them on it early in life. This means it could be a good idea to establish a toothbrushing routine early on rather than wait for a problem.
How CBD Oil Can Help with Dog Cavities
CBD oil, or cannabidiol, is praised for offering a staggering amount of health benefits. It has the possibility to help with a lot of different issues.
You can reread that sentence if you got hung up on the name cannabidiol. It does sound like cannabis, because it can be found in both marijuana and hemp. We're going to talk about the cannabidiol that is extracted from hemp, which contains no THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. Fido does not have to be "high".
Scientists have discovered that dogs and humans have an endocannabinoid system in their bodies that creates and uses cannabinoids to regulate many essential bodily functions. Like serotonin, your body needs a certain amount to be happy and healthy.
External cannabinoids, like cannabidiol, work with the body's own cannabinoids to help them perform better if they are not up to their usual standards or your dog needs a boost to help with an illness.
CBD oil may help with dog cavities by:
- managing pain
- decreasing inflammation
- possibly giving a subtle increase in energy (potentially helpful if lethargic from surgery, but ask the vet)
- improving appetite
Using CBD Oil
There are many CBD oil products to choose from to meet your dog's tastes and needs.
CBD oil comes in:
- oil tinctures
- extract concentrates
This is an easy way to get CBD oil into your dog, and they provide excellent control for getting just the right dose. You measure the drops or sprays to get exactly the amount they need, and this can be varied as needed. Tinctures are cannabidiol mixed with a carrier oil, and often a flavoring, that can be administered with a dropper or sprayer, depending on the manufacturer. You can give tinctures directly to the mouth or in their food.
Concentrates are called concentrates for a reason, they are just cannabidiol. This means there is no flavoring, so if your dog doesn't like the taste of hemp, you'll have to mask the taste in another food.
Otherwise, it can be given directly by mouth like a tincture. They are similar to tinctures in that they provide great control, you just measure the beads. They are also the most cost-effective way to take CBD oil.
Capsules are easy options for dogs who don't mind taking pills. Because they just swallow them, taste isn't an issue. Dosing is a bit more difficult because they come in one dose and if the dog needs more you can only double it up.
Treats are the most fun way for a dog to get CBD oil, but like capsules, dosing consists of just giving them a certain number of treats.
Dosing CBD Oil
CBD oil and CBD treats will come in packages for small, medium, and large dogs, and you just choose which one you need.
For more exact dosing, you'll have to research online to find out what scientists, vets, and pet owners recommend for the symptoms you are trying to address.
Always start with the lowest possible dose. Some ailments actually respond better to lower doses. It's also easier to work up to find the right dose for your dog than it is to work down.
Increase the dose slowly, like a few weeks slowly, if possible. CBD oil can start having some impact immediately, but the full effects may not be felt for a few weeks. If you keep changing the dose, you'll never know which one worked.
Very small, large, young, old, or sick dogs will need different doses than your average dog. You should probably speak to a vet to find the appropriate dose for these dogs.
Risks Associated with CBD Oil
The risks are minimal. That's why CBD oil is gaining popularity as a natural and safe alternative to traditional medications. But there are some risks, and it's wise to know them before giving CBD oil for dogs.
It doesn't seem to possible for a dog to overdose on CBD oil, but if they get too much, they can become sedated, lose their appetite, or suffer diarrhea.
CBD oil alters how the liver absorbs medications, only so much that doses don't work as expected.
If you're giving the dog CBD oil, tell your vet if they're already taking medication or before the vet performs any treatments or prescribes any medications so they can dose accordingly.
At this time, CBD oil has not been approved by the FDA. While scientists are finding some exciting things about CBD oil, it isn't enough yet for FDA approval, and no one has the extensive experience with it that the medical community has with traditional medications.
That means its effectiveness is not guaranteed. Many people do find amazing results, and it's a gentle, natural treatment option that gives people a sense of security or may be the only thing their dog can take.
Purchasing CBD Oil
It's wise to know certain things before purchasing your first CBD oil product.
Full-spectrum versus CBD isolate
CBD isolate is just the cannabidiol as opposed to full-spectrum which is cannabidiol with other cannabinoids, terpenes, and nutrients that come with the hemp plant.
Full-spectrum is actually the most popular option, as people look to it expecting to gain more health benefits. Science is just now catching up to cannabidiol period, so they haven't gotten around to exploring the difference yet.
Other people claim CBD isolate is more effective for them. So, it's kind of just what works for your dog. Pick which one you're more interested in and if it doesn't work, you can try the other before giving up on CBD oil.
Tragically, some CBD manufacturers sell misleading products. Their cannabidiol may be poor quality, there may be less in the product than they claimed, or there may be no cannabidiol in the product at all! This is why reputable CBD oil manufacturers provide results from thirty-party lab tests on all of their products. You can and should locate them on the manufacturer's website and read them.
The extraction method matters. Make sure you are buying a CBD oil product from a manufacturer who says they use the CO2 extraction method.
The CBD oil manufacturer should tell you where they acquired their hemp. They might grow it and extract it themselves or they might buy either the hemp or the oil from someone else. Either way, they should make you informed of where it was grown so you can be sure it was grown under safe regulations.
It's often recommended to buy products with fewer ingredients because it's less likely someone put something unnecessary, unsafe, or allergenic in it. It's also easier to discover what everything is so you can find out for yourself if it's safe. Most CBD oil manufacturers will offer all-natural products, but you can also get all-organic products.
You might look to Innovet as your first stop in the world of CBD oil products as we sell a variety of products and meet or exceed all of these standards.
Innovations from Innovet
Innovet understands hard-to-treat ailments are complicated by unique pet needs and little understood problems. If your dog is not helped by traditional treatments or current CBD oil products, let us know so we can try to design a product to meet their needs.
Sources:Clinical and mycological analysis of dog’s oral cavity
Cavities in Dogs
Dentistry for Dogs
Cannabidiol Eases Pain
Please do not ask for emergency or specific medical questions about your pets in the comments. Innovet Pet Products is unable to provide you with specific medical advice or counseling. A detailed physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinarian are required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet requires emergency attention or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic health conditions, please contact or visit your local/preferred veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.
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Sara Redding Ochoa, DVM was raised in north Louisiana. She graduated from LA Tech in 2011 with a degree in animal science. She then moved to Grenada West Indies for veterinary school. She completed her clinical year at Louisiana State University and graduated in 2015 from St. George’s University. Since veterinary school, she has been working at a small animal and exotic veterinary clinic in east Texas, where she has experience treating all species that walk in the hospital. In her free time, she likes to travel with her husband Greg, bake yummy desserts and spend time with her 4-legged fur kids, a dog Ruby, a cat Oliver James “OJ”, a rabbit BamBam and a tortoise MonkeyMan.
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The Innovet Team