Why Do Dogs Lose Teeth? A Vet’s Dental Tips

Question: Is it normal for dogs teeth to fall out? Should I feed my dog ​​with missing teeth wet or dry food?

I have a 5 year old Havanese. She lost 2-3 teeth at 5 months, and the vet told me that was not unusual for a small dog. Now I think he is missing about 4 or 5 teeth. Is this normal? I gave him small kibble dry dog ​​food mixed with a bit of wet food, but I’m wondering if I should just give him wet food. I know the process of chewing dry food is good for dogs, but it would be terrible if he lost all his teeth! Please advise. Thank you so much.


To respond:

Dear Jacky,

Thank you so much for submitting your pet question! This is actually a very common question I get as a veterinarian because missing teeth in dogs are extremely common, especially in small dogs. Missing teeth can occur for various reasons. The most common reason for teeth falling out in adult dogs is secondary to dental disease. When tartar builds up on the teeth, it can cause disease around the root of the tooth which can eventually lead to tooth loss. Dogs can also lose teeth due to trauma or tooth root abscess. The most common reason for tooth loss in a young dog is the normal loss of baby teeth. Dogs under one year old will normally lose 28 of their teeth which will be replaced by their adult teeth.

I can understand how confusing it can be to figure out which food is best for your dog when he has missing teeth. If a dog is only missing part of its teeth, it’s usually best to continue feeding it normal dry kibble. As you pointed out, chewing kibble can help keep teeth cleaner. If a dog is missing all or most of its teeth, it may be time to switch to a mostly wet diet. I would like to give you some suggestions on diets and ways to prevent your dog from losing more teeth. I will also describe when you might consider switching to soft foods permanently.

Best food for dogs with a few missing teeth

First, let’s answer a frequently asked question: How many teeth do dogs have?

Adult dogs have 42 permanent teeth.. The most important teeth for chewing food are called carnassial teeth and are the large upper and lower teeth towards the back of the mouth. When dogs lose some of their teeth, it usually doesn’t interfere with eating dry kibble. Because dogs have so many teeth, there are other teeth that can compensate.

I recommend high quality dry kibble for dogs that have only part of their teeth. My favorite foods include:

When should a dog with missing teeth be replaced with wet food?

When a dog is missing all of its carnassial chewing teeth and most of its other premolars and molars, it’s probably time to switch to a diet of canned dog food only. If your dog has no teeth or only a few teeth, you should give him wet dog food. If you’re unsure, your vet can help you decide when it’s a good time to switch.

How can I prevent my dog ​​from losing teeth?

1. Regular veterinary dental cleanings

Your veterinarian may recommend a dental cleaning for your pet if they have excessive tartar buildup. A dental cleaning is done under anesthesia and removes all tartar from your pet’s teeth. Most small breed dogs need veterinary dental cleanings every 1-2 years, although some dogs need them more frequently.

2. Brush your teeth daily

As a proactive measure, it’s a good idea to brush your dog’s teeth daily if it’s safe to do so. I recommend using a soft bristle toothbrush and one specific dog toothpaste. If you’ve never brushed your dog’s teeth, you can learn how by watching this YouTube video made by Pyramid Vet Hospital.

3. Avoid giving bones, ice or nylabones

Hard objects like bones, ice, or Nylabones can break teeth. I have seen many cracked teeth from dogs that have chewed on these items. If the teeth become too damaged, they will need to be extracted.

4. Give daily dental treats

Many dog ​​treats are designed to help improve dental health. The key to these treats is to give them every day. If you only give them once a week, they may not help you. My favorite dental treats include Greens and Milk-Bone Dental Candy.

Some Final Thoughts

As long as your dog still has most of his teeth, you can continue to feed him dry kibble as you did before. It will be important for your pup to get regular dental care to reduce the risk of losing more teeth. Good luck with your sweet girl and thanks again for writing!


Addie Reinhard, DVM

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