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Dog Cavity

June 17, 2012

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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
  • Lethargy
  • 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.)

Westie under anesthesia with her head resting on rolls of towels and an X-Ray tube angled above her snout to take a radiograph.

Maggi sleeps through her dental X-Rays.

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.

X-Ray of the normal upper first molar in a dog.

Normal Upper First Dog Molar Tooth

X-Ray of the upper first molar in a Westie shows a black, dead center where there's a massive cavity.

The black center is the cavity in this dog’s tooth.

This picture shows the black center of the top of the molar with the cavity. It smelled like a sewer pipe, too!

Dog Cavity.

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.

X-Rays of the same dog's maxillary incisors shows fractures sraight across the upper roots of two of them, just below the gumlines. This dog acted like nothing was wrong!

2 fractured Incisors.

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!”

Beautiful, happy West Highland White Terrier.

Westie Perfection

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.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 28, 2012 9:33 pm

    Poor Maggie.. This sounds really painful. Hopefully she will get back to playing the games she loves

  2. June 20, 2012 6:09 pm

    I find it interesting that it is uncommon for dogs to get cavities. Is it the same for cats? I recently had my cat’s teeth cleaned, and one of them had to be removed because it was infected.

    • June 26, 2012 2:35 pm

      Yes, actual cavities are rare in dogs and cats. Resorptive lesions, in which osteoclasts absorb and eventually destroy teeth are prevalent in cats.

  3. June 20, 2012 2:29 pm

    I love your blog thanks for sharing great information. I’ve nominated you for The Blog On Fire Award, congratulations! If you care to check it out @ 🙂

  4. June 18, 2012 1:20 am

    Doc Truli,
    You have single-handedly changed my entire perception of veterinary dental health, and particularly the importance of dental x-rays. It has had a big impact on my attention to Barnum’s dental health.

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