Like humans, dogs get two sets of teeth in their lifetime. The first set is their baby teeth that develop when they are very young, but they don’t retain these teeth for long before losing them as they are replaced by their larger, adult teeth in short order.
Finding teeth in your dog’s toys or food bowl is a common occurrence when it comes to puppies, as these are the ways in which pups are most likely to finally lose a baby tooth that has been working its way loose.
However, when it comes to your dog’s adult teeth, these are the teeth that they should keep for life – and lost adult teeth won’t be replaced, but do indicate that something is up with your dog’s dentition.
In this article, we will answer the question of “what does it mean if an adult dog loses teeth?” and cover some of the most common causes of this happening. Read on to learn more.
First of all, if you do find a tooth that your dog has lost, it is important to hang onto it to show to your vet, other than just as a curiosity – because some adult dogs may retain one or more of their baby teeth, which may be lost later on in life – or not at all!
If for any reason your dog’s adult teeth don’t push their baby teeth out – perhaps because there is no adult tooth present, or the teeth are crowded in the gums and cannot descend properly – your dog will probably retain the baby teeth in their place. However, these teeth are not as large nor strong as adult teeth, as well as having shorter, weaker roots, which means that if your dog does retain baby teeth, they will probably be lost at some point later in life.
An injury or impact can result in broken teeth that will later fall out, or knock one or more teeth out entirely. An impact has to be fairly acute for this to occur, however, such as being hit in the face by a hard toy, running into something, or being hit by a car.
A tooth that is damaged or loosened by injury may not fall out immediately – so you should always take your dog to the vet if they do suffer a bad knock, even if they appear to be fine.
Few dog owners are as vigilant as they should be about cleaning and caring for their dog’s teeth, which means that the vast majority of adult dogs will show signs of plaque, tartar and the start of tooth decay once they are a few years old.
Gingivitis, decay and cavities are the most common causes of tooth loss in adult dogs, and if your dog’s dentition is so poor that they are losing teeth, only a comprehensive sedated veterinary dental procedure, with extractions if required, will restore their mouths to good health.
Malnutrition has a wide range of deleterious effects on your dog’s general wellbeing as well as their weight, and not being fed enough or not being fed the right types of foods can all cause dental problems and lost teeth.
Dogs don’t have to be underweight in order to be malnourished either – feeding the dog the wrong types of food can lead to them being overweight, whilst at the same time, lacking in the essential nutrients that they need to thrive and maintain healthy teeth.
Certain diseases and health conditions can lead to poor dentition, weak, loose teeth and tooth loss in dogs too, particularly if they go undiagnosed and so, untreated for a long period of time.
Because different health conditions can have wide-reaching systemic effects on the body, your dog’s teeth may be affected too – particularly in the case of diseases that cause malnutrition, or that result in frequent vomiting, as the stomach acids in vomit weaken and break down the tooth enamel.
The usage of certain types of medications and veterinary treatments may also potentially serve to compromise and weaken your dog’s teeth too, which can in turn lead to lost teeth.
In humans, chemotherapy treatment for cancer can result in tooth (and hair) loss, but in dogs, chemotherapy is less likely to result in tooth loss, due to the dosage levels and treatment protocols in place.
However, in some dogs treated with chemotherapy, tooth loss may occur – which is the result of the way in which this form of treatment targets cancer and affects the body. Many types of cancer cells are fast growing, and chemotherapy specifically affects fast-growing cells, without destroying large numbers of slower growing cells too.
The lining of the stomach, the hair follicles and the teeth all have comparatively fast-growing cell structures, which is why stomach upsets, hair loss and dental problems are associated with chemotherapy – although as mentioned, the risk of lost teeth in dogs as a result of chemotherapy is much lower than it is for people.