Can dogs eat with missing teeth?

Losing teeth is a natural part of aging for dogs, just as it is for humans. However, tooth loss can make eating difficult for dogs. So can dogs still eat properly and get the nutrition they need with missing teeth? Here is what you need to know about dogs eating with missing teeth.

Quick Answers

Here are quick answers to common questions about dogs eating with missing teeth:

  • Yes, dogs can still eat with missing teeth, but it may be more difficult for them.
  • Chewing and biting down on food becomes harder without certain teeth.
  • Softer foods or changing food textures can make eating easier for dogs with missing teeth.
  • Missing teeth can sometimes lead to weight loss in dogs due to difficulty eating.
  • Dogs still need complete and balanced nutrition even with missing teeth.
  • Veterinarians can recommend specialized diets for dogs with tooth loss issues.
  • Dental cleaning and extraction of rotten teeth can improve a dog’s ability to eat.
  • Dog owners may have to assist dogs with tooth loss by hand feeding them or mashing up food.

How Do Dogs Chew and Eat Food?

To understand how missing teeth affects dogs when eating, it helps to first look at how dogs normally chew and eat food with a full set of teeth. Dogs use the various types of teeth in their mouths for different purposes when chewing and eating:

  • Incisors – The small, sharp teeth at the front of the mouth that are used for biting off and chewing pieces of food.
  • Canines – The tall, pointed teeth (fangs) that grip and tear food.
  • Premolars and Molars – The wider, flatter teeth toward the back of the mouth that grind and mash up food.

Dogs use their incisors and canines to bite off pieces of food and use their premolars and molars to chew it up. They need all of these types of teeth working together properly to be able to effectively and easily eat food.

How Does Tooth Loss Affect a Dog’s Ability to Eat?

When dogs lose one or more of their teeth, it can impact their chewing and eating abilities in various ways depending on which teeth are missing:

  • Missing incisors – Makes it harder for dogs to initially bite off pieces of food.
  • Missing canines – Reduces ability to tear and rip food.
  • Missing premolars or molars – Impairs chewing and grinding of food.
  • Multiple missing teeth – Combination of above issues making eating very difficult.

Tooth loss can not only make it harder for dogs to eat dry kibble and biscuits, but also other foods like fresh meats, fruits, vegetables, and treats. The location of the missing teeth and how many are gone impacts how well a dog can still chew and eat various foods.

Common Eating Issues for Dogs With Missing Teeth

Some common eating problems dogs can face when they have lost multiple teeth or certain important teeth include:

  • Difficulty chewing dry kibble and needing it softened
  • Struggling to eat biscuits and dental treats
  • Unable to properly bite off pieces of food
  • Reduced food intake due to discomfort eating
  • Loss of interest in food due to difficulty eating
  • Messier eating and drinking with food falling out of mouth
  • Preference only for soft foods they can lap up

Dogs with severe tooth loss that has gone untreated for a prolonged time are at risk for complications like malnutrition if their inability to chew makes it too hard to eat enough. But even dogs missing just a few teeth can have noticeable issues biting, chewing, or swallowing their normal food.

How to Help Dogs With Missing Teeth Eat

There are several things dog owners can do to make eating easier on a dog with missing teeth and help ensure they are still getting adequate nutrition:

Transition to Softer Foods

Switching to softer canned foods or adding water to kibble to soften it makes eating less painful and difficult for dogs with tooth loss issues. Canned food has more moisture and is easier to chew and swallow for dogs missing teeth. Dry kibble can be soaked in warm water for 10-15 minutes before feeding to soften it up without losing its nutritional value.

Try Different Food Textures

Dogs with few remaining teeth do best getting meat shredded into tiny pieces they can swallow rather than eating large chunks. Cutting food into smaller sizes suited to the dog’s dental condition lets them continue eating similar foods while compensating for tooth loss. Mash vegetables and fruits into a puree consistency to make them easier to eat.

Hand Feed or Assist with Eating

While not always practical long-term, hand feeding dogs with missing teeth can help. Letting them lick or lap food directly from your hand provides more control over the eating process. You can also hold dishes up to their mouth and actively assist them with getting food in. This can make mealtimes easier for a toothless dog.

Choose Dental Diets

There are specialized veterinary diets for dogs with dental disease and tooth loss that have softer, easily chewable kibbles. These foods are designed to still clean teeth but require less chewing ability. Consult your vet for dental diet recommendations tailored to your dog’s needs.

Avoid Hard Chew Treats

Hard biscuits, rawhides, antlers, and other tough chew treats pose too much of a challenge for dogs with missing teeth. Stick to softer treats like canned meats, creamy spreads, and dried meats designed for dogs with dental issues. You can also puree firmer treats with a food processor or blender to make them easier to eat.

Key Teeth for Dogs to Eat Properly

While dogs can manage surprisingly well eating with just a few remaining teeth, there are certain teeth that are critical for their chewing ability. Dogs with multiple missing teeth including these important ones will likely need assistance at mealtimes:

  • Incisors – The front biting teeth used for pulling meat off bones and breaking food into pieces. Loss of multiple incisors severely impairs ability to grasp and bite food.
  • Upper carnassial molars – These larger upper back teeth work together with the lower carnassial molars to slice and crush food. Missing these teeth impacts chewing.
  • Lower first molar – This is the lower carnassial tooth that aligns with the upper fourth premolar. Loss of this molar tooth can make chewing very hard.

As long as a dog is only missing a couple random teeth and still has these important incisors, carnassials, and molars mostly intact, they can typically still eat fairly well on their own. Removing painful broken or rotten teeth can actually improve eating ability.

Dog Missing Teeth Diet Recommendations

Missing Teeth Recommended Diets
Missing incisors Soft canned food, dry kibble soaked in water or broth, mashed fruits/veggies, shredded meats
Missing canines Soft dry kibble, ground meat, thinly sliced fruits/veggies
Missing premolars/molars Canned food, dry food soaked until soft, ground/shredded meats, mashed fruits/veggies
Missing upper carnassial molars Veterinary dental diet kibble, canned food, mashed/pureed foods, ground meat
Missing lower carnassial molars Softened kibble, canned food, pureed fruits/veggies, shredded meats

Tailor your toothless dog’s diet to the types of teeth they are missing to make eating as comfortable and nutritionally complete as possible for them.

Effects of Age on Dogs Eating Without Teeth

Puppies can actually adapt fairly well to losing teeth at a young age before they fully transition to adult teeth. However, tooth loss poses more challenges for middle aged and senior dogs. Effects of aging to be aware of when caring for an older dog with missing teeth include:

  • Weaker jaws and reduced chewing strength
  • Higher risk of periodontal disease
  • Loss of interest in food due to reduced sense of smell
  • Higher likelihood of illnesses affecting diet
  • Potential for picky eating habits
  • Possibility of gastrointestinal issues

An older dog’s weakened jaw muscles and dental health makes dealing with tooth loss especially hard. Their sense of taste and smell also dulls as they age, making them less interested in food. Accommodating an elderly dog’s dental issues and appetites preferences is key.

Tips for Senior Dogs With Tooth Loss

Some tips for caring for older dogs with missing teeth include:

  • Consult your vet about any medications that may reduce appetite
  • Spoil them with aromatic wet foods to stimulate appetite
  • Try different textures and flavors until you find favorites
  • Assist with eating and hand feed if needed
  • Warm meals to release more aroma
  • Give smaller, more frequent meals

Patience and creativity in finding foods your senior dog gets excited about can help keep their eating enjoyable, satisfy hunger, and maintain health.

When to See the Vet About Tooth Loss Issues

Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if your dog exhibits any of the following issues related to tooth loss:

  • Sudden loss of multiple teeth
  • Loose teeth with swelling and bleeding
  • Inability or extreme difficulty eating
  • Significant weight loss
  • Whining or whimpering when chewing
  • Loss of teeth before age 3-7 years
  • Discolored, damaged, or rotten teeth
  • Persistent bad breath or pawing at mouth
  • Biting or chewing problems

Professional veterinary assessment can determine if tooth loss is due to periodontal disease, injury, or other medical causes. Your vet will recommend any needed dental work, medications, or specialized diets to get your dog eating comfortably again.

Questions to Ask Your Vet About Dog Tooth Loss

Important questions to ask your vet about your dog’s tooth loss include:

  • What is causing my dog’s tooth loss?
  • Do any damaged teeth need to be extracted?
  • What types of food will be easiest for them to eat?
  • Is a dental diet recommended?
  • Are there any safety risks of my dog eating without certain teeth?
  • Could pain medication help my dog eat better?
  • How can I monitor for signs of malnutrition?
  • What follow-up care is needed?

Work closely with your veterinarian to maximize your toothless dog’s ability to eat well and maintain proper health and nutrition.

Caring for Dogs With No Teeth

Dogs who have lost all their teeth or undergone full mouth extraction due to advanced dental disease require some special care when it comes to eating. Here are some tips for caring for a toothless dog:

  • Choose wet food: Canned or freshly cooked soft foods are easiest for toothless dogs to consume and digest.
  • Add broth: Adding warm broth or water to meals moistens food and enhances aroma for picky eaters.
  • Mash it up: Use a food processor or blender to puree chunks in canned foods into a thick gruel.
  • Hand feed: Helping your dog eat supports nutrition and bonding at mealtime.
  • Elevate dishes: Raising food dishes makes lapping up meals less awkward.
  • Clean the face: Gently wipe your dog’s mouth after meals since they can’t lick away food.

While toothless dogs require more assistance eating, their ability to enjoy tasty foods and thrive with a little help is amazing. Staying on top of their dental health is the best way to avoid dogs losing all their teeth prematurely in the first place.

Preventing Tooth Loss in Dogs

Here are some tips for protecting your dog’s dental health to reduce likelihood of severe tooth loss:

  • Brush teeth daily: Regular brushing removes plaque and tartar that damages teeth.
  • Annual cleanings: Veterinary dental cleanings catch problems early.
  • Dental exams: Get your dog’s teeth assessed at yearly check-ups.
  • Hard chews: Gnawing on treats like bones cleans teeth.
  • Specialty dental diets: Some kibbles gently clean teeth.
  • Fresh foods: Raw vegetables and fruits scrub teeth.
  • Antiseptic rinses: Oral solutions reduce bacteria in the mouth.
  • Extraction: Removing severely damaged teeth preserves healthy ones.

Though some tooth loss from old age is inevitable, proper dental care from puppyhood through the senior years prevents rapid, widespread loss of teeth.


Tooth loss affects most dogs as they age, but they can still enjoy mealtimes with some adaptations. Switching to softer foods, trying different textures, hand feeding, or using specialized dental diets can help dogs with missing teeth continue to eat happily while getting complete nutrition. Close attention to your dog’s dental health and any eating issues will ensure missing teeth don’t become a major hindrance to their wellbeing.

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