Cavities in Dogs – A Holistic Approach

Jun 9, 2024

When it comes to our furry friends, their dental health is just as important as ours. Many dog owners focus on cleaning their dog’s teeth, but true dental health starts from within. This article will dive deep into understanding dental cavities in dogs, why they happen, and the best ways to prevent them holistically, including improving oral health from the inside out.

What Are Dental Cavities In Dogs?

Dental cavities, also known as caries, are small holes in the teeth caused by decay. These cavities occur when the bacteria in the mouth produce acids that break down the enamel, which is the hard, protective outer layer of the tooth. This process leads to the breakdown of the tooth structure, and that results in cavity development.

What are the differences in cavities in dogs and humans?

While dental cavities are fairly common in humans, believe it or not, they’re not as common in dogs. This is generally because diets are different, but there’s also variation in the way a human’s teeth are shaped compared to a dog’s. Some highlight differences include:

  1. Diet:
    • Humans eat more sugar and carbohydrates, which are huge contributors to tooth decay. The bacteria in the human mouth thrive on these sugars and produce acids that lead to cavities.
    • Dogs typically eat a diet lower in sugars and higher in proteins and fats. However, if dogs consume sugary treats or human food, they can be at risk for cavities. That’s why it’s not a great idea to give your dog treats that are high in carbs or sugars. The risk of dental cavities increases.
  2. Saliva Composition:
  3. Tooth Shape and Structure:
    • Human teeth, with their flat chewing surfaces, are more susceptible to trapping food particles. This is how plaque builds up and leads to cavities.
    • Dogs have pointed teeth designed for tearing meat, which makes it harder for food to get stuck and form plaque. It also makes it harder for foods to sit and ‘rot’ enamel.
  4. Oral Hygiene Practices:
    • Humans brush and floss regularly, but not everyone maintains these habits consistently, and this leads to more cavity opportunities.
    • Dogs rely more on chewing, which naturally cleans their teeth, but they still need regular dental care to prevent oral health issues.

Signs Your Dog’s Teeth Might Have a Cavity

Think your dog may have cavities? Here are some signs that may tip you off:

  1. Behavioral Changes: If your dog is reluctant to eat, especially hard food or treats, it might be due to dental pain. Cavities are essentially holes in teeth, and they can make your dog’s teeth sensitive. Eating may hurt if they have cavities.
  2. Excessive Drooling: Drooling more than usual can be a sign of discomfort in the mouth. This can be from an infection in the gums or the teeth.
  3. Pawing at the Mouth: Dogs often paw at their mouths when they experience pain or irritation. If your dog’s oral health is in bad shape, they may be dealing with cavities that hurt them, and paw at their mouth to help remedy the situation.
  4. Bad Breath: Persistent bad breath can indicate dental issues, including cavities.
  5. Visible Holes or Dark Spots: Check your dog’s teeth for visible holes or dark spots, especially on the molars. This is where they’re prone to get them.
  6. Swollen or Bleeding Gums: Inflamed gums can accompany cavities and other dental problems. They can also be the precursor to dental caries in your dog to come.

The Cause of Cavities in DogsPhoto: A man shows the tooth decay on a mixed breed dog.

Understanding the root causes of cavities can help you prevent them. Here are the primary factors:

  1. Poor Oral Hygiene: Just like in humans, neglecting regular teeth brushing can lead to plaque buildup, which eventually turns into cavities.
  2. Diet and Nutrition: Diets high in sugar or poor-quality food can contribute to cavity formation. A balanced diet with the right nutrients is crucial.
  3. Genetics: Some dog breeds are more prone to dental issues, including cavities.

Dog Breeds Prone To Canine Dental Cavities

Certain dog breeds are more prone to developing dental cavities due to various factors like their genetics, tooth shape, and overall oral health tendencies.

Small and toy breeds tend to be more susceptible to dental problems, including cavities. Some of the most common breeds include:

  1. Chihuahuas: They’re known for their small mouths and crowded teeth, which can trap food particles and plaque.
  2. Yorkshire Terriers: Their tiny jaws often lead to misaligned and closely spaced teeth, making it harder to keep them clean.
  3. Pomeranians: These dogs have similar dental issues due to their small size and tooth crowding.
  4. Shih Tzus: Their unique facial structure can cause overcrowded teeth and an increased risk of dental problems.

Brachycephalic breeds are characterized by their short snouts and flat faces and often face dental challenges due to their unique anatomy. These include:

  1. Bulldogs: Their compressed jaws can lead to misaligned teeth and difficulty in maintaining oral hygiene, which can lead to cavities.
  2. Pugs: Pugs often have tightly packed teeth, which can increase the risk of cavities and other dental issues.
  3. Boston Terriers: Their short snouts can lead to crowded teeth and a higher likelihood of plaque buildup.

Certain breeds have unique dental structures that can make them more prone to cavities and other dental problems. They include:

  1. Dachshunds: They have elongated jaws and a LOT of teeth, which can make cleaning challenging and increase the risk of dental decay.
  2. Boxers: These dogs are known for their undershot jaws. Boxers can experience dental misalignments that contribute to cavities because it’s hard to keep their teeth brushed and clean.
  3. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels: Their small mouths and crowded teeth can lead to difficulty in maintaining dental hygiene.

Some breeds are genetically predisposed to periodontal disease, which can increase the risk of cavities because bacteria can eat away at their teeth. These include Greyhounds, Cocker Spaniels and Labrador Retrievers.

Preventive Measures for High-Risk Breeds

  • Regular Brushing: Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly is crucial, especially for breeds prone to dental issues.
  • Dental Chews and Toys: Providing dental chews and toys can help reduce plaque and keep teeth clean. It’s important that the chews are digestible and allow for the mechanical scraping of your dog’s teeth. Adding ingredients that help oral gut health as well is super beneficial.
  • Balanced Diet: A diet that supports dental health, including foods and treats designed to reduce plaque buildup, can be beneficial.

Holistic Ways to Manage Cavities in Dogs

Managing dental cavities in dogs holistically involves a combination of natural remedies, proper nutrition, and preventive care. There are several holistic approaches to help manage and prevent cavities in your furry friend.

Diet and Nutrition To Prevent Tooth Decay In Dogs

A balanced diet is so important for your dog’s dental health. Make sure your dog is eating a diet rich in nutrients that support their dental health. Foods high in protein and low in carbohydrates are ideal, as they reduce the risk of plaque buildup. Some pet parents opt for a raw food diet, which can help keep teeth cleaner. Raw meaty bones can act as natural dental cleaners. Additionally, including fiber-rich vegetables like carrots and celery in your dog’s diet can help clean teeth as your dog chews.

Natural Supplements For Canine Oral Health

Adding natural supplements to your dog’s diet can significantly impact their oral health. Probiotics promote a healthy balance of oral bacteria, reduce the risk of cavities, and support gut health, which is linked to oral health. Coenzyme Q10 is a popular supplemental ingredient that can improve gum health and reduce inflammation, while omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil can reduce inflammation and support overall dental health.

Herbal and Natural Supports

Incorporating herbal and natural remedies into your dog’s dental care routine can help manage cavities. Coconut oil has antibacterial properties, which makes it an excellent option for brushing your dog’s teeth or adding to their food. Herbal mouth rinses made from chamomile, calendula, or aloe vera can soothe inflamed gums and reduce bacteria. Neem oil, also known for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, can help reduce plaque and prevent cavities; you can add a drop to your dog’s toothbrush.

Homeopathic Supports

Homeopathic supports can also play a role in managing your dog’s dental health. Things like Silicea and Calcarea fluorica are believed to help strengthen teeth and gums. A homeopathic veterinarian can help you with the correct dosages. Additionally, arnica may be useful for reducing pain and inflammation if your dog already has dental issues or cavities.

Chewing Aids

Providing appropriate chewing aids can help keep your dog’s teeth clean. Raw bones (suitable for your dog’s size) can help scrape away plaque and tartar naturally. Natural chews, like antlers, bully sticks, or dental chews designed to reduce plaque, can be very helpful. Dental toys that promote chewing and help clean teeth are also effective; look for toys specifically designed to enhance dental health. Dental chews that help not just with mechanical scraping, but also include ingredients that help prevent dental disease from the inside out are excellent.

Regular Oral CarePhoto: A vet tech brushes a German Shepherd's teeth.

Regular oral care is obviously a big help in preventing cavities. Brush your dog’s teeth regularly with dog-specific toothpaste to remove plaque and prevent cavities.


Proper hydration is important for maintaining oral health. Make sure your dog always has access to fresh, clean water. Drinking water helps wash away food particles and bacteria.

Bernie’s Charming Chompers: Dental Chews For Dogs That Work From The Inside Out

Incorporating Bernie’s Charming Chompers can further support your dog’s dental and overall health. We created them for Bernie to have ingredients that helped his gut health, because we know that’s linked to better oral health. And, better oral health helps prevent cavities in dogs. We included fiber to help clean his teeth and support his digestive health, prebiotics and probiotics to help him have a healthy balance of gut bacteria, and natural antioxidants like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and blueberries to reduce inflammation and support his overall health.

We wanted to take a holistic approach to his oral health and the prevention of cavities, and that’s what we want for your dog too. The last thing any pet parent wants for their dog is to have to consider things like crowns or root canal therapy to save teeth. Giving our dogs something that’s good for the mechanical cleaning of their teeth as well as their oral (and gut) health overall goes a long way in helping them have the most charming chompers on the block!


Sign up now to receive the latest updates via email.