Cavities in Dogs are Uncommon
While periodontal disease affects up to 75% of our pet dogs by the time they are three years old, and is the most common disease in our pets, cavities are relatively uncommon. Not impossible, just uncommon.
Symptoms of Cavities in Dogs
Maggie’s breath smelled bad. Really, really bad. She reeked of an open sewer drain. She ate all her meals, played, held her weight, blood work looked good, yet there was that overwhelming smell. She literally smelled like a burst sewer main.
Possible Symptoms of Dog Cavities
- Refusal to eat
- Dropped balls
- Refusal to chew on toys
- Crabby attitude (pain aggression)
- Withdrawal from family activities
- Foul mouth odor
- Nothing abnormal
Always Opt for X-Rays; Always Hire the Veterinarian Who Has Dental X-Rays
“Doc, we know Maggie needs dental surgery, But do we really need to do the x-rays? The cost is already so much” said the 5-year-old West Highland White Terrier’s dad.
Concerned clients ask Doc Truli this very question every day. How can I convey the importance of the x-rays? You go to the dentist and they do not touch your mouth before you have a full set of x-rays. Granted, you are probably not put under anesthesia for yours because you will sit still, not bite the equipment and hold your breath when you are asked. (Your dog will not. Your cat scoffs at the idea. Your ferret will be on the floor half-way out the door before the first click of the X-Ray machine. General anesthesia is a must for the little ones.)
Why Does My Dog Need Dental X-Rays?
“I cannot begin to explain to you the amazing, painful pathology we find in pet’s mouths when we add x-rays to the diagnostic tools. For instance, Maggie had more than the cavity,” says Doc Truli. “I estimate 90% of my patients have significant oral pathology that is only visible with x-rays.”
Your dog needs the x-rays to find and treat these problems. In Maggie’s case, as soon as she was under anesthesia, the rotten molar was immediately clear. The x-rays of the rotten molar showed the problem was deep into the heart of the tooth.
Compare Maggie’s normal left molar with her rotten right molar. You can see the black center on the cavity tooth compared to a pure white, strong tooth on the normal side.
There was a black crater in the heart of her three-root tooth on the upper right side of her jaw. The pieces of the tooth wiggled. Pus poured out from the edges of the tooth socket and the smell was gagging the veterinary technician and Doc Truli.
Maggie Loses a Tooth, Gains Health
Doc Truli removed the offending tooth. The cavity had actually eaten through the heart of the three-root tooth, and the molar came out in two pieces. The center of the pieces was black with necrosis and infection. This poor dog must have suffered with the infection and pain but never showed any outright discomfort to her family.
The Doggy Dental X-Rays Showed One More Surprise
An unpleasant surprise still awaited Maggie. Even though her teeth appeared healthy and clean after her professional dental cleaning, and none of her teeth seemed loose, and there were no periodontal pockets greater than three millimeters (which is normal for a dog), the dental x-rays told another story.
Maggie’s mouth hid two dead, fractured incisor teeth! When a root fractures (or snaps) in half, the tooth dies. The body treats a dead tooth like a thorn. It will eventually try to push out the foreign material – be it a thorn or a broken tooth – with inflammation, sometimes sterile pus, and certainly heat, redness, pain, and swelling. Maggie needed more help.
Doc Truli explained the situation to Maggie’s family who agreed to have the offending teeth removed. A little lidocaine and a few stitches later, and Maggie gained a healthy mouth.
At the check-up appointment, Maggie’s dad revealed a new Maggie,”After we thought about it, we realized that about once a week, she would drop her tennis ball for no reason and refuse to continue playing for the rest of the day. Now we know why!”
Your dog may be telling you something, and you just do not realize it! Let your veterinarian keep your dog’s mouth in top condition; good oral health adds two to four years to your dog’s expected lifespan.