Do dogs get cavities?

Just curious…I’ve never heard of a canine dentist. Do dogs get cavities at all, how frequently are they, and how are they diagnosed/treated? Presumably the vet would be the one to look after a dogs teeth, but how would they get a dog to sit still through the drilling and filling? Knockout gas?

They get cavities, broken teeth and abscesses like any mammal with teeth can.

Look up veterinary dentistry.

Hmm… Well, cavities just like humans, no they don’t. The only domestic animal I can think off the top of my head that gets caries (cavities) like humans are horses.

Dogs do get dental diseases, and in their case, they mainly get periodontal disease (gingivitis to us?). This is often most common in small breed animals.

There are vets who specialize in teeth, whether as a subset of their general practice or their sole specialty. I shadowed for a vet who was a general vet but was very interested in dentistry. Had all the most up to date equipment, trained techs, digital x-rays, etc.

Dogs and cats get knocked down with general anesthesia to have their teeth done. There are instruments to keep the mouth wide open, and careful positioning and tying of the tracheal tube minimizes the interference.

I have to say, I loved watching those dental surgeries. They, along with soft tissue surgeries, are part of private practice I miss/wish I have more practice in…

Dental diseases are diagnosed either during general check up or because the owner complains of something the dog (or cat) is doing. Unless the animal is really in pain or a real pain, it is not that hard nor difficult to get the muzzle, open it up, and take a quick look. Very stinky breath is often an indicator that something is wrong. Other signals can be bleeding gums, anorexia, wary of anyone touching mouth, excessive salivation, big honking masses visible to the owner, and probably others I cannot remember.

Dogs also get many different tumors in their mouth, ranging from simple benign tooth masses, to melanoma, fibrosarcoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and osteosarcoma. Same with cats, only that their most common neoplasms are arranged in a different order.

Horses, as I mentioned earlier, are the ones that get cavities in the same or similar pathogenesis as humans do. In their case, they’re usually not knocked down with general anesthesia, but deep sedatives (that keep them standing up) are used.

There are few things less dignified than a horse, doped to the gills, head in a sling, medieval-looking oral speculum in place, while the vet grinds away in there with some large-ish power tool.

Serious question: Why are horses, unlike dogs and cats, at significant risk of dental caries? Is it because the normal grinding action of the horse’s teeth exposes the softer material inside the tooth, in a way that doesn’t happen in carnivores?

According to everything I’ve ever seen about 5% of dogs a year and older have at least one cavity. They aren’t ubiquitous, but they do happen.

My best guess is that since the bacteria that produce the acid that causes tooth decay in humans feeds on starches and sugars in the mouth, a carnivore’s mouth probably doesn’t even harbor that sort of bacteria, or at least not in large quantities. Their spit and stomach acid are a higher pH.

I would venture that horses (and other ruminents) fed only grass and hay don’t get lots of cavities, but those supplemented with grains (starchy) and kibble-type feed (also starchy and often sweetened) do.

It’s documented that the teeth of all mammals can regenerate and protect themselves from decay. Plenty of animals (and people) can have teeth worn down (or ground down) to almost nothing with no tooth decay. This is just impossible with the diet most humans have now - constant starch and sugar in the mouth.

If you find feed dogs sugary people food then yes, they’ll rot out their teeth.

Small breed dogs build up a lot of tarter. That’s why so many yorkies and chihuahuas lose their teeth before they are 7 or 8. The vet recommend cleaning my chihuahuas teeth when he was three. I’m careful to only give him dog food, but he still had a lot of tarter that could cause gum disease. Getting his teeth cleaned should ensure he keeps his teeth,

My vet just told me that it’s time to do my dog’s teeth, under general anesthesia, for a cost of anywhere from $650 - $1400, depending on if any teeth need removing or not. Ouch! The dog is 8 years old, and I’m sure the vet was telling the truth, but that seems really expensive.

Does that estimate include any extractions? Our cat just had her teeth done, which included yanking 9 (!) teeth (we take good care of our pets - she was a stray who was not up to date on care before we adopted her). The total cost was around $1000.

At 8 years old, your dog is moving out of the “adult” age range and into the “senior” range. Some vets like to to additional tests before anesthetizing an older animal. Does the estimate include any pre-procedure tests? Those can increase the cost considerably.

$650 if no extractions, $1400 if many extractions, inclusive of all tests.

He’s not moving into the senior age range. I refuse to believe it.

Needscoffee if there is one in your area, consider taking your pet to a Banfield clinic. They have these things called Wellness Packages, which are ways of purchasing yearly pet care services and paying for it a month at a time instead of all at once. For adult pets, they have a couple different service packages, including one that has a yearly dental cleaning under anesthesia with the bloodwork before hand to make sure the pet is healthy. That package also includes all office visits, another set of bloodwork, vaccines, and a 15% discount on any other services or products that aren’t specifically included in the plan. In my area, there’s a $100 one-time sign up fee, and then about $30 a month. So, even if you only use the plan for the dental cleaning (which would be dumb), you’re looking at about $460 (you have to keep the plan for at least a year). If your pet needs extractions, that is extra, but you get your 15% discount taken out.

To defend your vet some, dental cleanings for pets are involved. If anyone here has ever put off a trip to the dentist for a number of years, you can testify just how long a process it is to get all that built up tartar knocked off. Add to that the bloodwork and anesthesia and monitoring before, during, and after. Even with simple cases, it ties up a highly trained doctor and nurse for the better part of 2 hours, all told. Then there’s the supplies. And, that’s doing it the cheap way. Really thorough care would involve dental x-rays and probing for any subtle indications of root loss. So, $650 isn’t that unreasonable a price. Banfield makes a point of discounting things as a way of getting owner compliance with preventative care.

But, look into the Banfield Wellness Packages and decide for yourself. Just don’t put it off. Dental pain sucks as much for animals as it does for us.

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Thanks, I’ll check it out. It sounds like a good plan, and there is one close by.

I don’t think my vet is trying to charge an unreasonable fee, although he does seem to be more expensive than some. It’s just a big chunk of change out of pocket.

I used to be a vet tec at a banfield. Even if you don’t do the wellness package, which is a good value if you are doing the teeth cleaning, I believe we only charged around $200 for a dental cleaning. That was 4 years ago, so YMMV, but it was nowhere near the prices you’re getting.

You know what’s great for getting tartar off teeth? Crunching up raw bones. Both my dog’s significant tartat deposits were completely gone by 6 months of a raw diet. You should have seen the look on my vet’s face when he checked their teeth…

Tooth loss in dogs is usually due to advanced periodontal disease (which my older dog had - she hasn’t lost any more teeth since I started her on raw). The gums erode and the teeth just die at the root and fall out, but they don’t crumble and rot the way human teeth do.

Oddly, my girl doesn’t like to chew on a raw bone. Maybe the one I got her was too big, but I got the smallest I could find. She licked out all the marrow, but didn’t chew on it at all.

Elaborate on your dog’s diet. What exactly does it consist of? And what type of bones?


Raw animals in various states of butcherment, mostly ordered frozen from I’ll buy some supermarket meat sometimes too - chicken backs and thighs, lamb.

I feed about half whole, bone-in cuts (mostly cheap ones like rabbit heads and turkey, duck and chicken necks, goat legs) and half ground carcass (they grind the whole animal bones and all except for the intestines, and package in 5 or 30-lb portions). I don’t give additonal organs very often, and I don’t supplement with anything. It’s been around 4 years now they’ve been on this diet. I have three dogs and two cats.

Oh, and I feed them smaller bones, and they crunch them up and swallow every bit. Weight-bearing bones from large animals such as beef marrow bones are what can break teeth, so I only give them to the dogs under supervision. They don’t gnaw on them all that much, they just scrape all the good stuff off and lick out the inside.

I haven’t had to spend a cent on detal care so far, and I credit this diet. Dogs are 13, 10 and nearly 2, and the cats are 3 and 5.

Huh. Quite an interesting website. I keep thinking about how gruesome it would seem to order a bag of rabbit heads.

I have a sister whose dog is on chicken wings, canned pumpkin, rice & some other odds and ends, but there’s not a whole lot of meat in wings.

Dogs can get salmonella infections from raw poultry just like people can.

If you go with a raw diet, I would caution you to do your research to make sure you aren’t missing any major vitamins and to have a system set up so you can deliver consistently nutritious meals at every setting in clean dishes because it is easy to get lazy. Also, please remember that anecdote is not the same thing as data.

Futher more, even if raw diets delay dental disease, I sincerely doubt they can do much to correct dental disease that has already happened. I would caution you to work closely with your veterinarian.