Is It Normal For Senior Dogs to Lose Teeth?

It is normal for young dogs to lose baby teeth, and fairly common (but not normal) for senior dogs to lose them. When this happens in an old dog it is a sign of dental disease, and needs to be addressed right away.

**There are affiliate links in this post, which means if you buy something I may receive a commission. This has no effect on the price you pay**

At what age do old dogs lose their teeth?

There is an age range when a puppy will lose baby teeth, as that’s a natural part of their growth and development. Old dogs lose their teeth due to poor oral hygiene and dental disease, so it will happen whenever the situation gets bad enough, not when he reaches a certain age.

What to do if your dog’s tooth falls out

Make an appointment to see your vet sooner rather than later. A check is needed of your dog’s mouth to assess the reason and how bad things really are.

Can dogs die from bad teeth?

They can die from the health problems that result from severe dental disease.

There is a connection between dental disease and heart disease because they are often seen together

It can cause heart inflammation

According to Dr. Kris Bannon, a board-certified veterinary dentist at Veterinary Dentistry and Oral Surgery of New Mexico in Algodones – “Diabetic dogs tend to have higher levels of periodontal disease, Dr. Bannon says. In fact, the two conditions feed on each other in a vicious cycle. The more severe the periodontal disease is, the more serious the diabetes gets, which, in turn, worsens the periodontal disease.”

Bacteria in the mouth enters the bloodstream and affects the liver and kidneys

While pain won’t cause death, it is unfair to allow our dogs to live in that state. Do you remember the last time you had a toothache? You were able to take an aspirin and see your dentist to get it taken care of. How long has your dog lived in that constant state of discomfort?

How common is dental disease in dogs?

According to the Royal Veterinary College, University of London, periodontal disease affects over 87% of dogs over 3 years old. Since dental care is often overlooked, by the time a dog reaches “old dog” status, his teeth and gums can be in a terrible state. Which can cause some of the serious health issues mentioned above.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) – “By the time your pet is 3 years old, he or she will very likely have some early evidence of periodontal disease, which will worsen as your pet grows older if effective preventive measures aren’t taken.”

Why is dog dental health important?

So he doesn’t suffer pain, organ damage or infection like we mentioned above.

What are the signs of dental disease in dogs

Knowing the signs your dog is suffering from some degree of dental problem, will increase the likelihood you will catch a problem sooner. That will, at the very least, prevent your dog’s teeth from falling out.

Here’s what to look for:

  • Bad breath – contrary to popular belief, “doggie breath” is not a given
  • Pawing at his mouth
  • Doesn’t let you near his mouth
  • Blood on a chew toy
  • Lethargic – can be caused by bacteria in the body
  • Lost interest in eating
  • Seems to swallow without chewing
  • Favours one side when eating
  • Less interested in playing
  • Isn’t chewing his favourite toys
  • Drooling, bloody saliva
  • Gums that are swollen or bleeding
  • Takes the food in his mouth, then spits it out

Do these signs mean my dog is in pain?

Seeing one or many of these signs does not necessarily mean your dog is in pain. That would depend on how advanced dental issues are. It does mean you need advice from a professional as soon as possible.

What to do if your dog shows signs of dental disease

The first thing would be to schedule a visit to your vet to determine the current state of your dog’s teeth and mouth. Since he is obviously experiencing some level of discomfort, if not outright pain, the sooner you have a diagnosis, the quicker your dog will be feeling better.

Request the earliest appointment your vet has available. If it’s a week or two (or more) away, explain what you’ve been noticing, any changes in your dog’s behaviour and see if they can squeeze you in.

If not ask if they can put you on a waiting list when there’s a cancellation. Even if you’re on the list I would still tell them you’re going to call every morning to check if there’s anything available.   

What to expect at your dog’s dental appointment

Whether you’re there because your dog lost a tooth or is experiencing some of the signs of dental disease, your vet will start by asking questions.

He will want to know:  

  • What you’ve been noticing that has you concerned
  • When did it start
  • Any changes in behaviour
  • Is your dog eating
  • Have you seen any teeth fall out

After that he will have as good a look in your dog’s mouth as possible. Some dogs are agreeable while others, like mine, are so difficult the vet can only manage a quick glimpse or he risks losing that much needed hand!

Depending on the state of his teeth, that glimpse might be sufficient for a starting plan.

It could be a mild infection and antibiotics are all that’s required. On the other hand, it may be obvious more intervention in the form of surgery will need to be taken.

Is dental surgery dangerous for dogs?

In many cases, a better question to ask would be “is it dangerous to not go ahead with dental surgery?”

There is a widespread belief that anesthesia and senior dogs are a deadly combination, and therefore not worth the risk. It is an issue I have been confronted with on a few occasions so I understand the concern.

While it’s true anesthesia in an old dog is riskier than in a younger one, a blanket “it’s too risky” doesn’t seem to be in your dog’s best interest. A better approach would be to have a conversation with your trusted vet. Ask him to explain the procedure, express your concerns, and weigh the pros and cons.

My senior dog had dental surgery twice, and of course I was concerned. I would discuss it with my vet, talk about the risks involved in going ahead versus the possible health issues that could arise with the status quo. Most important was my concern my dog could have been in pain.

I went ahead with both surgeries because I knew it was the best thing for her. I also have a tremendous amount of trust and faith in my vet so if something were to happen, I knew it wouldn’t have been his fault.

If you aren’t wild about your vet, question his abilities or worse, his attitude towards senior dogs, please find someone you trust. Your dog’s life could depend on it, and sadly I say that from experience.

It’s worth reading this article from the Tufts Veterinary Medicine magazine –  “Pets and Anesthesia.” 

How much does it cost to have a dog’s teeth cleaned at the vet?

Before the day of surgery, and certainly before you sign the consent forms, get a quote from your vet. It doesn’t matter what you paid in the last city you lived in, or what your friend back home told you her dog’s surgery cost.

Your vet won’t be able to give you a final quote because he won’t know what needs to be done until he’s had a chance to properly examine your dog’s mouth when he’s sedated. What he can give you is a quote for the minimum it will cost – meaning whatever is “standard” practice for dental surgery. If your dog needs teeth pulled it will cost extra, and if he finds something else that requires investigation that too will be an extra charge.

I try and get my vet to give me an idea of a number on the higher end so I’m not shell shocked when I get the bill, which of course I usually am anyway!

My dog Jack had surgery a couple of years ago, and during the operation I got a call from the vet telling me he found a growth under his tongue. That is not something he could ever have found during a routine appointment, and he recommended taking a biopsy which I agreed to. That is a charge no one could have anticipated.

I’m in the UK and one of my dog’s surgeries cost £356.86. There were no extractions or pre-surgery blood tests done, and he came home the same day. That is about $443.00 US.  

Prices can vary significantly

I’ve seen prices range from $258.00 to outrageous quotes of $8,000-$10,000.

There are so many factors that go into a quote, even if you call around to compare prices, they can only give you a ballpark figure.

It depends on:

  • What city you’re in
  • The neighbourhood
  • What they charge for things like anesthesia, IV, X-rays…
  • What procedures your dog needs

Important note – I understand budget is an issue, it is for most of us, but leaving your dog in the hands of a vet you don’t know simply because his prices were cheaper can be deadly.

If you like and trust your vet, perhaps he’ll be willing to help by spreading out payments or skipping pre-op blood tests if they’ve been done recently. Don’t risk your dog’s life to save a few dollars, because what you can lose will be worse.

How do I care for my dog after dental surgery?

When you pick your dog up, your vet will have a chat with you. He will let you know how your dog handled the surgery, what he found, and if any teeth were pulled. He will also give you post-surgery notes and advice.

If for some reason the vet doesn’t meet with you, or doesn’t have much to say, here are some questions you’ll want answered.

  • Will your dog need pain medication at home?
  • What about antibiotics?
  • Can he drink? Eat?
  • How will your dog act that first night?
  • What signs should you be looking out for that indicates a problem
  • Will your dog cry or be confused?
  • Do you need another appointment to check progress?
  • Ask him what else you should know

Because my dog Red was blind, the first night home was tough. Coming out of anesthesia is confusing, but not being able to see made it frightening and she would cry out. Wrapping her in a blanket and holding her on my lap helped soothe her, and we would stay that way most of the night. My vet also recommended Arnica homeopathic pellets for a day to help with recovery.

Here is a sample of one clinic’s post op care instructions – 

Is periodontal disease reversible in dogs?

That will depend on how advanced the disease is, and you won’t know until your dog has been checked by a vet. Sometimes you won’t even know until x rays have been taken and he is under anesthetic.

According to  Jenna Winer, DVM and dentistry and oral surgery resident at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine – “If a dog’s gingivitis is diagnosed and treated before it advances to full-scale periodontal disease, it is reversible. If gingivitis continues to advance, however, it could mean serious health consequences for your dog.”

This quote was taken from an article on petmd website called “5 Signs of Gum Disease in Dogs.” 

How to prevent dental disease in dogs

The good news is, there are many things we can do to prevent dental disease in dogs.

Quick note – if your dog already has dental disease, the advice below will not be enough to fix the problem. Ask your vet how quickly after surgery you can get started.

Will this guarantee your dog will never require veterinary intervention again? Nope, but it will reduce the chances.

It would be helpful to do everything listed, but if your dog is not cooperating, do as many as you can. Something is better than nothing.

Regular brushing

Brush your dog’s teeth daily with a toothbrush and doggie toothpaste. Brushes come in long handled, rubber ones you fit over your finger or if he’s really difficult, wrap a piece of gauze or cotton pad around your finger.

Dental sprays and powders are options if brushing is impossible. 

What do you think? ⇒ Pura Naturals Pet organic toothgel and toothbrush

Dog dental chews

Chews can help remove plaque and stimulate the gums. Choose good quality, limited ingredients so they aren’t basically doggie junk food. If your dog has diet restrictions, check the list with your vet if you’re unsure. Never leave him unattended, small pieces are a choking hazard.

What do you think? ⇒ Ark Naturals Brushless Toothpaste Dental Chews?

Chew toys

Chew toys, textured chew bones, rubber bones and rope toys are a few examples of toys to help keep on top of your dog’s oral hygiene.

What do you think? ⇒ Benebone Real Flavor Dental Dog Chew Toy

Water additive

Simple to use just pour recommended amount into his water bowl. It may alter the taste of the drinking water, so if your dog isn’t liking the taste, try another flavour or brand. Ensuring he drinks is more important than using this product.

What do you think? ⇒ Oxyfresh Pet Water Additive

Raw food diet

Gnawing on raw meat acts as a natural toothbrush and can help remove tartar. There is a lot written about the benefits of a raw food diet in general, but also as it relates to oral health.

If you would like to learn more, this article in Dogs Naturally Magazine is worth reading – “The Raw Food Benefit To Your Dog’s Oral Health.”

NOTE – Speak to your vet first to determine if this is right for your dog.

Regular dental checks

Senior health checks should be carried out twice a year, so make sure a dental check is always included.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.