What does it mean if you notice your dog losing teeth? Depending on how old your dog is, dog teeth falling out might be normal.
Like humans, puppies are born without teeth. At first, puppies survive on their mother’s milk. They don’t need any teeth until they start learning to eat solid food.
A puppy’s deciduous (baby) teeth begin to come in between 4 and 6 weeks of age. These needle-sharp teeth erupt from beneath the gum line. Between 3 and 6 months of age, a puppy’s baby teeth start falling out and the permanent teeth come in. During this time, you might find see a hole in the gums where a tooth was or find tiny teeth lying around the house or in your puppy’s food bowl. Puppies frequently swallow their baby teeth, too, so you might not notice your dog losing teeth. (Note: This is completely normal and poses no danger to your puppy.) You might also notice a small amount of bleeding from the mouth. This is normal as well.
So, what’s not normal about a dog losing teeth when he’s a puppy? Sometimes, your dog’s baby teeth do not fall out like they are supposed to. If you see tiny teeth next to or on top of the larger permanent teeth, let your veterinarian know. This phenomenon can cause damage to the permanent teeth coming in, so your vet might want to pull the retained teeth out during your dog’s spay or neuter surgery.
Sometimes, a dog losing teeth is NOT something normal. Teeth can fall out for a number of reasons. Trauma to the mouth can knock out one or more teeth (for instance, if your dog is struck in the face with an object, if he falls from a significant height or if he is hit by a car). Teeth can also fall out if your dog chews on something too hard and the tooth breaks (for instance, a deer antler or hard chew bone). Broken teeth that don’t fall out on their own either need to be pulled out (called an extraction) or repaired with a root canal. Both of these procedures are usually performed by a veterinary dental specialist.
Periodontal disease (gum disease) is also a culprit for a dog losing teeth. “Tooth loss is caused by bacteria that develops into plaque and tartar,” says Missy Tasky, DVM, owner of Gentle Touch Animal Hospital in Denver, Colorado. When tartar builds up near the gum line, it allows bacteria [to] enter beneath the gum line, damaging the support structures of the teeth. “This leads to loss of bone and mobility of the tooth,” Dr. Tasky explains.
Periodontal disease is highly likely to develop in dogs when you don’t regularly brush the teeth at home and receive annual or bi-annual professional dental cleanings. When this happens, infections may set in. Periodontal disease is a very common cause of tooth loss and can also affect your dog’s overall health.
If one or more of your dog’s teeth becomes infected and/or loose, your vet will probably recommend tooth extraction.
Surprisingly, most dogs have no problems adapting to tooth loss. “Most dogs and cats can eat fine, even with the loss of several teeth,” Dr. Tasky says. “Some animals have lost all of their teeth and are still able to eat dry food. The goal, however, is to retain as many teeth as possible because the teeth help contribute to the strength of the jaw.”
If you notice loose or missing teeth, bleeding gums or bad dog breath, have your dog examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Periodontal disease can be painful and make it difficult for your dog to eat normally. Your vet will likely want to do a thorough dental cleaning under anesthesia, take x-rays of the teeth to look for areas of damage and possibly pull one or more teeth. After the procedure, your dog will be prescribed pain medication and antibiotics to guard against infection. If you’re worried that having teeth pulled will be too hard on your dog, don’t stress. Most dogs appear to feel fantastic after having their teeth cleaned and their loose, infected teeth removed, probably because they felt so much worse before the procedure.
Tell us: Have you noticed your dog losing teeth? How old was she? What was the issue at hand?
Thumbnail: Photography ©contrastaddict | E+ / Getty Images.
This piece was originally published February 22, 2018.