A common question I get asked by senior dog parents is what to feed an old dog with no teeth! The good news is, dogs adapt very well and you’d be surprised what they can gum!
Before we jump into what to feed them, I’d like to take a bit of time and talk about why some dogs end up toothless, or with so few teeth in their old age.
*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.*
Neglect by previous owner(s)
The sad truth is, many old dogs are abandoned in shelters and It’s quite common for them to have serious dental problems. Their previous owner(s) may have been apathetic to their needs, never bothering with basic veterinary care.
As we all know pet care can be very expensive. The older our dogs get, the more health challenges they may face and the bigger the bill. Not everyone can afford pet insurance or even know it exists, and they just don’t have the means to pay a big bill for dental surgery. It’s unfortunate but the reality for many. I’ve heard of some vets agreeing to let clients pay over a period of time, but that has never been my experience.
For advice on how to save money on vet bills read this ⇒ How to Save Money on Vet Bills: My 22 Tips
Unaware of the signs of dental disease
Although it’s always being said dogs are good at hiding pain, there are signs they will exhibit to let us know they’re experiencing mouth pain or discomfort.
- Bad breath is one easy to recognise indicator of a problem, and doggie breath isn’t natural
- Loss of interest in eating
- Not chewing on a favourite toy
- Pawing at the mouth
- Won’t let you near his mouth
- Swallows without chewing
- Favours one side when eating
- Less interested in playing
If your dog still has a few teeth…
Here are some suggestions on keeping the rest of your canine’s canines (get it!!) in good condition.
It would be great if you could brush your dog’s teeth every day, but if not then try and do it as often as possible. There are a few styles of toothbrushes for dogs, so you should find something he agrees to…unless he’s like mine!!
Like the name suggests, it has one head on the end and the style you’ll see in the link has silicone instead of bristles. It helps massage their gums and they may like the feeling more than bristles.
This style has a large head on one end, small on the other to suit various size dogs.
Cleans all sides of your dog’s teeth and gums at the same time
This is what I used for my old dog Red. It fits over your finger and is made of silicone or microfiber. She was so difficult but I found I had a tiny bit more control with a finger brush.
Yep, an electric toothbrush! Before going anywhere near your dog with it, turn it on to check the noise level because too loud could scare him.
this style is designed to brush teeth from every angle.
Cleaning pads/dental wipes
Super convenient pre-moistened pads makes brushing time so simple. No experimenting with styles of toothbrush, and the endless search for a toothpaste flavour your dog will like.
Dog toothbrush stick
The wide base makes it easy for your dog to hold onto, and by gnawing on the rubber bristles he will be brushing his teeth. You can even put some doggy toothpaste on it if you like!!
Please Buy doggie toothpaste or make your own, NEVER use the human kind.
Getting your dog used to a toothbrush
Some dogs will let you do anything, including coming at them with a foreign object and sticking it in their mouth!! However if your dog is like mine that’s never going to happen.
Here are some tips to help you get best results –
Do it when he’s tired after a long walk so he’s calmer
Choose a quiet spot
Depending on the size of your dog, and of course the position he’s most comfortable in, hold him in your lap or sit next to him
Rub your finger, a soft cloth or even a flat cotton pad over the outside of your dog’s teeth. You don’t want to stick your finger in his mouth right away in case he decides to show you how much he doesn’t like what you’re doing!! Start with just a few teeth and take it from there
Once he’s comfortable, put a tiny drop of toothpaste on your finger and let him lick it off. Don’t be discouraged if he hates it, there are a few flavours you can try. Now you’re ready to put some of the paste on the cloth, and gently rub it on the outside of his teeth and gums
Once he’s loving it, okay tolerating it, you can try using a toothbrush. If he resists all attempts and you’ve tried all the styles, carry on using the cloth. He will still benefit from it
It is important to do this “training” very slowly and gradually. If you rush he may not let your near him again, so take your time and don’t move on to the next step until he’s totally comfortable with what you’ve been doing
Be sure to give lots of praise, whether that’s a healthy treat or a favourite toy, whatever motivates him.
Textured chew bones, rubber bones, chew toys and rope toys are great additions to your dog’s oral hygiene routine. The benefit of a toy over an actual food product is the lack of calories, and no ingredients that might be forbidden in your dog’s diet. Keep things interesting by switching between toys and chews.
The act of “gnawing” helps scrape the teeth, remove plaque and stimulate the gums. If you are unable to brush your dog’s teeth, then I highly recommend dental chews. Even if you do brush they will still help, and relieve boredom.
When deciding which chews to buy, walk away from any with an ingredient list as long as the packaging that is impossible to identify. If your dog has diet restrictions, check the ingredients with your vet first.
Never leave your dog unattended when he has a bone or a chew.
Food additive such as Plaque Off
According to their website “ProDen PlaqueOff® Powder is an all natural food supplement that naturally helps oral health for dogs and cats with a specially selected algae harvested in the North Atlantic from specific areas. ProDen PlaqueOff® Powder is free from additives and artificial preservatives and contains no gluten or added sugar.”
I sprinkle it every day on my dog’s food and he doesn’t mind it, which is a good sign considering how picky he is.
A mouthwash added to your dog’s water bowl is another worthwhile product, but not to be relied on to be effective on its’ own. They may alter the taste of the water, but my dogs have never had a problem. If you notice your dog drinking less or not at all, stop using it right away. Keeping your dog well hydrated is crucial.
Raw food diet
Gnawing on raw meat acts as a teeth cleaner, a natural toothbrush, and chewing on raw bones can help remove tartar. It seems there is a lower incidence of dental disease in animals on a raw food diet, although that does not mean dental disease never happens.
Please don’t run out and buy raw meat or bones without consulting a holistic vet, or your regular vet to determine if it’s right for your dog.
It’s too late for all that
If your dog has no teeth, no worries this will help.
What to feed an old dog with no teeth
I’m going to be talking about the types of food, NOT the brand and the reasons are simple.
First of all, there’s a pretty good chance you can keep using the same food with a couple of minor adjustments as I will discuss in a second.
Secondly, if you are interested in switching brands, there are so many to choose from it requires research and a whole separate article. First you should think about the type (dry, wet, freeze dried, dehydrated, raw) then start researching brands and the quality of their ingredient list.
If your dog has been eating dry food missing teeth shouldn’t stop him, you may simply need to adjust the way you serve it.
- Grind in a food processor or coffee grinder
- Add warm water, chicken broth or bone broth to the chunks to soften
Some pet parents choose to switch their dogs from a dry food to wet, because they feel it would be easier to eat. Many canned varieties come in a pate which is very smooth so you shouldn’t have to do anything to it. If your dog is struggling, adding a bit of water will make it even smoother.
Others come with chunks of meat and/or vegetables, in which case you may try either cutting it into smaller pieces or blending it in a processor to make it easier to manage.
While there are many articles promoting the benefits of a homemade diet, there are plenty of others questioning whether or not it can satisfy the nutritional requirements of your old dog…or any dog for that matter.
Can boiling up a pot of chicken soup or stew really be nutritious enough?
If you have your heart set on homemade here are some options –
♦ How about ordering from a company that prepares fresh dog food, and delivers it straight to your door? One such company is Nom Nom Now. I have never used this company because their products are not available where I live, but…
A few group members use this service and are very happy with it.
Pet bloggers I know have reviewed their dog and cat food and they were very impressed, not to mention their animals love it.
♦ Check out this book by Dr Karen Becker called “Real Food For Healthy Dogs and Cats.” I’m a fan of her approach to pet healthcare, and I would use this as a guide if it’s a route I wanted to go down. (UK shoppers can use this link)
♦ Consult a canine nutritionist to help you formulate a diet specific to your dog’s needs.
♦ Boil chicken, veggies, maybe even some rice and/or quinoa and add a small amount to your dog’s existing diet. He will still get all the nutrients he needs, with some variety. If it’s not soft enough, you can always puree it if needed. Be sure to check with your vet to make sure all the foods you’re using are okay for your dog to eat.
Helpful tip – Cook in big batches and freeze. Last night I made a massive pot of chicken breasts, carrots, sweet potato, squash, peas and green beans, then when it was cool froze it in containers, and I did the same with the “soup.” I then mix it with his regular food.
Another option is raw. As with everything there are those who think it’s the only way for our dogs to eat, and others who don’t recommend it for every dog. It’s worth researching, but in terms of ease of eating it’s smooth so it could work.
Freeze dried patties
Another form of raw, patties can be broken up into tiny pieces and reconstituted with water.
Speak to your vet
If you’ve had to make adjustments to your dog’s diet, have a chat with your vet about any supplements he recommends you add. If your vet isn’t helpful when it comes to nutrition, a canine nutritionist may be. Weighing your dog periodically is also important to make sure she is maintaining a healthy weight.
Her favourite crunchy treats may no longer be an option, but your pup can still get rewards for being the great girl she is!!
♦ What about fat free cottage cheese or xylitol free peanut butter? Both can be added to a Kong to keep her busy.
♦ I find single ingredient freeze dried treats crumble very easily, so they would be worth a try. I like them because they don’t have fillers or a lengthy list of ingredients my dog doesn’t need.
♦ There are tons of super easy homemade dog treat recipes on Pinterest, you will find so many she can enjoy. Be sure to look up frozen treats as well!!
So there you have it! I hope you found this post about what to feed an old dog with no teeth helpful.
How has your dog adapted to tooth loss? Have you changed his/her diet? What do you feed your dog now? Sharing helps others so let us know in the comments..
I am excited to announce my “One on One Senior Dog Care Support Service.” Each session is tailor made so we talk about your concerns. I can help with behaviour – nutrition – day to day care – quality of life – pet loss – grief support – general support and a shoulder!
**I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. It is a wonderful community where you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.**
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