Your dog's teeth play an extremely important role in her health. Oral health problems can lead to systemic disease, reduce your dog's life expectancy and make it difficult and painful for her to eat. With the exception of baby teeth, it is not normal for dogs to lose teeth.
Importance of Teeth
Your dog's teeth are an important measure of her overall health. Severe gum disease can get into the bloodstream and cause infections in the organs. Some illnesses in the body, such as nutritional deficits, malformed jaws and cancer may also cause oral health problems. Healthy dogs have all their teeth, with little buildup on the teeth. Bleeding gums, tooth loss and severe bad breath are always cause for concern and warrant a trip to the veterinarian.
Losing Baby Teeth
Dogs develop 28 baby teeth in early puppyhood, usually between 3 and 6 weeks. Puppy teeth are very sharp and you'll probably feel your puppy nip you with these teeth because puppies tend to chew on everything before they get their adult teeth. Adult teeth develop between 5 and 8 months. During that time, you may see some baby teeth fall out. So long as the teeth are small, razor-sharp baby teeth and not larger adult teeth, there's no cause for concern.
Losing Adult Teeth
Adult teeth occasionally fall out due to trauma, such as a dog fight or blow to the head. These cases warrant immediate veterinary treatment because pieces of the tooth may still be lodged in your dog's gums and can lead to infection. More frequently, teeth are lost because of periodontal disease. If your dog loses a tooth chewing on a chew toy or engaging in some other normal dog activity, it's a good indication she may have gum problems. Take her to the vet to find out what's causing the tooth loss.
Oral Health Solutions
Regular dental care can help your dog keep her teeth well into adulthood. Schedule an oral cleaning with your veterinarian every six months, and ask your vet what you should do at home to care for your dog's teeth. Chewing can also help, because it mechanically removes debris. Give your dog rawhides and other chew toys. Hard food is preferable to soft food, so avoid giving your dog only wet food. Dietary changes can also make a difference. Fillers such as corn and wheat may cause health problems, particularly oral health problems, in some dogs, according to veterinarian Tom Lonsdale. Finally, consider giving your dog an occasional raw bone to chew on. Raw bones are safe for dogs; it's cooked bones that pose a risk, and chewing these bones can help prevent tooth decay.
Brenna Davis is a professional writer who covers parenting, pets, health and legal topics. Her articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as on websites. She is a court-appointed special advocate and is certified in crisis counseling and child and infant nutrition. She holds degrees in developmental psychology and philosophy from Georgia State University.