Is your dog missing a few teeth? Maybe more than a few? Learn how the needs of your toothless dog are not that much different than a chewing-abled dog.It’s normal for dogs to lose teeth during their puppy stages, but into adulthood, tooth loss is less common. Whether it’s caused by poor dental health, injury, or age, your toothless dog is going to need a little extra care to protect whatever he’s got left, even if it’s just gums.
Not every dog that we call "toothless" is missing all of their teeth. For many dogs, especially those whose teeth have been pulled due to periodontal disease or tooth rot, they may be missing just enough teeth to make eating a bit more challenging.
If your dog is missing molars and premolars, this can significantly impact their ability to chew their food. This means that you need to find a food that is safe for your toothless dog to eat.
Dental Care for Toothless Dogs
Whether your dog has no teeth or just a few, you still need to care for the remaining teeth and their gums. Regular tooth brushing is still necessary. In the case of a truly toothless dog, you should still be brushing their gums.
It may feel silly to brush your dog's toothless gums, but it can stimulate the gums to improve blood flow and remove bacteria and debris that can accumulate in the small crevices in their mouth.
What to Feed Your Toothless Dog
Softer diets are required for dogs that can’t chew their food. A typical kibble diet can be risky. It can be an obvious choking hazard, but large pieces of un-chewed food can also be hard to digest.
To help you find the right diet for your toothless wonder, we’ve broken down some of the best food formats for toothless dogs:
I know we said kibble can be risky, but there are ways to work around that. First, start by picking a kibble with smaller-sized pieces. Even for a larger breed dog, smaller pieces can reduce the choking risks.
You can also break up your dog’s larger kibble with a rolling pin and a freezer bag, instead of buying a whole new formula.
Next, you’ll need to add some water to it. The water will absorb into the kibble and soften it so that your dog can mush the pieces easily with his tongue and gums. You'll need to let the kibble soak for a few minutes before feeding though.
Pro Tip - For a little extra flavour, you can use bone broth or goat’s milk instead of water to soften the kibble pieces. This can help to boost calories and nutrition, especially if your dog is eating less than usual due to pain or recovery.
For small and toy breeds, you should take it a step further by running the kibble through the blender or food processor before rehydrating. The final texture will be very similar to a pate wet food formula, which will be much easier for your toothless dog to lap up.
Moistened kibble should be treated like canned food, and should not be left out for longer than 30 minutes. Store uneaten portions in the fridge until your dog's next meal.
One of the more obvious choices, wet foods like canned and pouch formulas, are more often the right texture for a dog without teeth. You can easily adjust the thickness by adding water or broth to make it easier to lap it up like a liquid.
Make sure you stick to wet foods that don’t have large chunks. These can easily be a choking hazard if the pieces are too firm or large for your dog to mash and safely swallow.
Freeze-Dried and Dehydrated Food
If your dog is accustomed to a raw or high protein diet, then feeding freeze-dried or dehydrated food might be the best choice.
Most freeze-dried and dehydrated foods are finely ground or flaked, so they quickly absorb moisture and leave a smooth pate texture. These minimally processed foods are easy to digest and are calorie and nutrient-dense so you can feed smaller more manageable portions.
If the diet you choose is raw, then your dog will benefit from the bacteria-fighting enzymes in raw meat. They help to control oral bacteria that can damage remaining teeth, inflame their gums, and cause nasty dog breath. This won’t replace toothbrushing, but it will help improve their oral health.
Other Tips for Caring for Your Toothless Dog
You might assume that your toothless dog will miss out on a lot of typical dog experiences, like chewing and toys. To put that myth to rest, let’s talk about all the ways that toothless dogs can still enjoy the finer things in dog life:
Teeth or no teeth, all dogs like to chew. Try offering your dog a soft rubber chew toy, like a puppy Kong. Even if they are just gumming it, they will still enjoy the experience. It helps to massage the gums and gives them a fun activity during downtime.
You can even spice up his chew by adding a small dab of dog-safe peanut butter or coconut oil on the toy. It will provide a good tongue and jaw workout for your toothless wonder.
Many natural chews are too hard for a dog with no teeth to enjoy safely, but that doesn’t mean that he’s totally out of luck. There are some chews that are soft enough for your dog to gum, like dehydrated sweet potato chips. One of our favourite brands is Hagen Heritage Sweet Potato Chips.
Pro Tip: These can be made at home. Check out this simple recipe to make some chewy, toothless-dog-approved, natural sweet potato chews.
It’s best to always monitor your dog with any chew, but especially a toothless dog. Make sure they are taking their time and softening the chew until they can break off small pieces that are safe to swallow.
Even if they just lick it to death, it will still be a fun and yummy distraction.
A lot of treats are crunchy, like biscuits and jerky, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of tasty options for treating a dog that’s lacking teeth. Freeze-dried treats are very flavourful and are easy to gum.
Here are a few of our top freeze-dried treats that are safe for toothless dogs of any size:
- Crumps’ Naturals Mini Trainers Freeze-Dried Beef Liver
- Orijen Freeze-Dried treats
- K9 Naturals Healthy Bites
- Sojo’s Simply Treats
Stick to treats and toys that are appropriately sized for your dog. A small breed dog will need extra small treats. Large breed dogs will need toys big enough that they can’t try to swallow them. Safety first, always.
So, what can you take away from this article?
Well, we learned that no matter how many teeth your dog has left, dental care is critical. Find a routine that works for your pet and be consistent.
Food doesn’t have to be a struggle. While the formats may change to accommodate their limited chewing abilities, the quality and nutrition of the diet doesn’t have to.
Lastly, we learned that teeth or no teeth, your dog still wants the same basic things as the next dog: something tasty, something fun, and of course, your undivided attention and unconditional love.
How do you care for your toothless dog? Share your tips, tricks, and struggles in the comment below.