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 to 3 teeth at 5 months of age, and the vet told me that this is not unusual for a small dog. Now, I think she’s missing about 4 or 5 teeth. Is this normal? I’ve been feeding her small-kibble dry dog food mixed with a little wet food, but I am wondering if I should feed her only wet food. I know that the chewing process of dry food is good for dogs, but it would be terrible if she lost all of her teeth! Please advise. Thanks so much.



Dear Jacki,

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 a variety of reasons. The most common reason that teeth fall out in adult dogs is secondary to dental disease. When the tartar builds up on the teeth, it can cause disease around the root of the tooth which can eventually result in tooth loss. Dogs can also lose teeth secondary to trauma or tooth root abscesses. The most common reason for tooth loss in a young dog is the normal loss of the baby teeth. Dogs under a year of age will normally lose 28 of their teeth which will be replaced by their adult teeth.

I can understand how it can be confusing to know what food is best for your dog when they have missing teeth. If a dog is only missing some of its teeth, then it is typically best to continue feeding the normal dry kibble. As you pointed out, the chewing of the kibble can help keep the teeth cleaner. If a dog is missing all or most of their teeth, it may be time to switch to a primarily wet food diet. I would like to give you some suggestions on diets and ways to keep your dog from losing any more teeth. I will also describe at what point you might consider switching to soft food permanently.

Best Dog Food for Dogs With a Few Missing Teeth

First, we’ll answer a commonly asked question: How many teeth do dogs have?

Adult dogs have 42 permanent teeth. The teeth most important for chewing food are called the carnassial teeth and are the large upper and lower teeth toward the back of the mouth. When dogs lose some of their teeth, this will not generally interfere with eating dry kibble. Because dogs have so many teeth, there are other teeth that can compensate.

I recommend high-quality dry dog kibble for dogs missing only some of their teeth. My favorite foods include:

When Should You Switch a Dog With Missing Teeth To Wet Food?

When a dog is missing all of its carnassial chewing teeth and most of its other premolars and molars, then it is probably time to switch over to a diet of solely canned dog food. If your dog has no teeth or only a few teeth, then you should feed wet dog food. If you are unsure, your veterinarian can help you decide when it is the right time to switch.

How Can I Keep My Dog From Losing Teeth?

1. Regular Veterinary Dental Cleanings

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

2. Brush the Teeth Daily

As a proactive measure, it is a good idea to brush your dog’s teeth every day if you can do so safely. I recommend using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a dog-specific toothpaste. If you have never brushed your dog’s teeth, you can learn how to do it 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 the teeth. I have seen many cracked teeth from dogs that have chewed on these objects. If 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 giving them every day. If you only give them once per week, then they may not help. My favorite dental treats include Greenies and Milk-Bone Dental Chews.

A Few Final Thoughts

As long as your dog still has most of her teeth, you can continue feeding the dry kibble like you have been doing. It will be important for your pup to keep up on 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

Disclaimer: Your use of the Ask The Vet feature is subject to the Ask The Vet Terms of Use. Content is for informational and educational use only and should not replace professional veterinary advice.

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