Best Dog Food for Old Dogs With Bad Teeth

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Does your dog have bad teeth? Maybe even no teeth? Poor guy! So you’ve got an old dog and have realized that he just can’t chomp down on dry dog food like he used to. Here is a list of the best dog food for old dogs with bad teeth and bad breath.

Our Picks for Best Dog Food for Older Dogs with Bad Teeth (and Bad Breath)

He’s been good to you – now you need to be good to him in his old age.

Older dogs have very different dietary needs than dogs in their prime.

So if they have special dietary needs because they’re old and their teeth are an issue, what can you do?

Not just any dog food will do. I decided to do some research. What is the best dog food for old dogs with bad teeth?

There are so many options. Here’s what you should keep in mind, straight from the experts:

From the American Kennel Club:

“Protein is important for older dogs… older dogs tend to lose muscle mass, which… may impair the immune system and decrease the body’s ability to respond to physical trauma, infectious agents, or stress… Senior diets should have increased protein-to-calorie ratio… a minimum of 25 percent of calories from protein.”


And from PetMD:

“Wet foods are a good option as well for dogs with missing teeth, poorly aligned jaws, or smaller mouths…those with a predisposition to developing dental problems will need more attentive dental care.”

– PetMD

Why do Dogs Get Bad Teeth?

Dogs with bad teeth are more common than people with bad teeth. People learned a long time ago that keeping our teeth clean prevents a lot of problems.

The same is true for dogs.

Unfortunately, many dog owners do not get the importance of good oral hygiene for their dogs. You can avoid a lot of canine dental problems.  Simply brush your dog’s teeth and take them in for x-rays and a professional cleaning once a year.

Best dog food for older dogs with bad teeth

But some dogs just have bad teeth.

Blame it on genetics, but no matter what you do to take care of your dog’s oral hygiene you are fighting a losing battle.

Dog Breeds with Bad Teeth

These breeds are most likely to have issues with their teeth:

  • Collies
  • Pugs
  • Yorkies
  • Chihuahuas
  • Dachshunds
  • Boxers
  • Shih Tzus
  • Labradors

These dogs are more likely to have issues with their teeth because of bad genetics (Pugs and Yorkies) or because they are just most likely to injure themselves repeatedly by chewing on who-knows-what (Labradors).

You need to be especially vigilant and proactive with your dog’s dental care if you own a dog that is genetically prone to having bad teeth.

Your vet might recommend special treatments before you have any issues to prevent future problems. This might include extractions to promote jaw growth or to help with tooth overcrowding and poor alignment. 

Oral surgery might be needed to encourage their adult teeth to come up or to prevent abscesses and ulcers from forming in the jaw. 

With interventions such as these and regular dental hygiene, you can keep your dog’s mouth healthy for a long time – even if they are genetically prone to having tooth problems.

So Here You are Now, with an Older Dog with Bad Teeth.  

Surely you have done everything right to take care of your dog’s mouth. But the fact is, just like grandma eventually needed dentures, your older dog’s teeth are bad. You need to know what to do. Doggie dentures aren’t really an option for most folks.

Naturally, one of the best things you can do to ease your older dog’s sensitive mouth is to change their food. 

Senior Dog Food

When you start to look into what is the best dog food for old dogs with bad teeth, the key thing you need to consider is that your dog is old.

You need to prioritize looking for the best dog food for an older dog. This is almost more important than the fact that they are probably missing some teeth.

Remember, all dogs are individuals.

They have really specific nutritional needs depending on the breed, your lifestyle and their other health conditions. And your senior dog most likely has a pre-existing health condition or two that may or may not have anything to do with its teeth.

In general, it is recommended that you reduce your senior dog’s calorie intake because of its tendency to move less and gain weight.

But if your dog is very old, you might notice that he is actually eating less and getting thinner (these guys might require a high-fat dog food). 

So, What Makes a Good Dog Food for Senior Dogs?

Here are some general guidelines for what you should look for in dog food for older dogs:

  • High Protein: Look for an option that offers at least 25% of the calories derived from protein. 
  • Fiber: Your dog, if it suffers from constipation or is overweight, may do well with  a high-fiber feed.  
  • Reduced Salt: Good for dogs that also suffer from heart problems and/or high blood pressure.
  • Special Supplements: Glucosamine and Chondroitin are two very common supplements that help with joint health and flexibility.  

Old Dogs With Rotten Teeth

So, finding the best dog food for dogs with bad teeth is not quite as cut and dry as you’d imagined.

First, you have to figure out what your dog’s nutritional needs are aside from this rotten teeth problem. This means understanding all of their other health conditions.

Then you need to ask – just how rotten are your dog’s bad teeth?

There is a range of bad, and while you might think your old dog has bad teeth, they might not be as bad as you think. 

Or they might be worse.

Get a Professional Diagnosis

The best thing to do is to take your dog to the vet. Get a professional opinion about the condition of your old dog’s teeth. 

Make sure to get your dog put under for an in-depth exam that includes x-rays. Anything less is useless when it comes to understanding what you’re dealing with.

Your dog might have broken teeth or loose teeth that you may not have noticed. They also might have pockets of infection under the gumline that you would never be able to see with the naked eye. 

After talking to your vet you should have a full understanding of your senior dog’s bad teeth and general health. You can then have a conversation with them about their recommendations for any potential treatments.

And, of course, the best dog food for its specific dental issues.

What’s Better? Dry vs. Wet Dog Foods

Be sure to follow your vet’s recommendations when it comes to the best dog food for your old dog with bad teeth.

The vet will most likely recommend a specific diet that includes dry dog kibble, wet dog food or something in between.

Let’s take a look at dry vs. wet dog foods.

Dry Dog Food For Older Dogs

You might be surprised that your vet recommends keeping your dog on dry dog food.

Why would he do that? Especially if your old dog has bad teeth? 

Dry dog food is considered by many professionals to be the healthiest option for your older dog to keep its teeth in the best shape possible.

Many experts credit dry dog kibble for reducing plaque build up on a dog’s teeth.

Less plaque means fewer bacteria and fewer complications for your older dog’s gums and mouth.

Certain dry dog kibble is designed to “scrub” your dog’s teeth. Some brands even have additives that soften plaque and prevent its buildup.

Look for the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) Seal to be sure you are purchasing a product with certified dental benefits.

Dry dog food is widely available in special formulations designed for senior dogs.  Some even offer specific formulations for the different health problems that old dogs tend to have. 

Other benefits (that have nothing to do with your old dog’s rotten teeth) include:

  • Economical – Dry dog kibble, by weight, is oftentimes more economical per serving and is more energy-dense.
  • Long Storing – You can purchase in bulk and know that it won’t go bad or off.
  • Clean – If your dog is a messy eater, cleaning dry kibble is a lot easier than wiping up the remnants of wet dog food.

Wet Dog Food for Older Dogs

Wet dog food, on the other hand, might be the best food for your old dog with rotten teeth. If your dog only has a few teeth, it may be your only option. 

It is generally considered to be a last resort option best for those dogs with really rotten teeth that cannot tolerate dry kibble.

Canned dog food, because of how soft and sticky it is, can contribute to plaque build up on your dog’s teeth. This means that it could potentially cause more problems for the few teeth your dog has left. Be prepared for a more intensive cleaning routine!

Wet dog food does have some advantages over dry kibble, though:

  • Appetizing for dogs who might have a lessened sense of smell or taste.
  • Includes a higher percentage of moisture, helping to maintain your older dog hydrated.
  • Usually has a higher protein and/or fat content and fewer grains and fillers than dry kibble.

Fortunately, wet dog food is also available in specific formulations for senior dogs and their different health needs.

The biggest disadvantages include:

  • Cost – Wet dog food is more expensive per serving than dry kibble.  
  • Messy – This is especially true if your dog is a messy eater.
  • Expires Quickly – Sure, it’s got an indefinite shelf life while sealed in the can, but once it is opened, you have to use it quickly.

Mixing Wet and Dry Dog Food

You might find that your best option is to mix a portion of dry kibble with a bit of wet dog food.

Your veterinarian may recommend preparing your dog’s food with a certain amount of both wet and dry food.

This can help you to:

  • achieve optimum protein and fat levels
  • increase (or decrease) calorie counts
  • make the meal more appetizing for an older dog

Is a Raw Food Diet or Homemade Dog Food Good for Dogs with Bad Teeth?

This is a sticky question and one that is hard to answer. The science is back and forth about the raw food diet trend and home-cooked meals. They are pretty controversial amongst professionals.

Raw Food Diet for Senior Dogs

You may have heard that a raw diet is really good for your dog’s teeth, reducing plaque and generally eliminating the need for dental visits to the vet.

Some vets caution, however, that a raw food diet can be risky for an old dog with bad teeth. Their primary concern is the possibility of bacterial infection.

The thing is, raw foods carry a higher bacterial load.

This might not be a big deal for a young, healthy pup. But if you have a senior dog with rotten teeth his immune system is most likely not functioning at its prime.

What about Homemade Dog Food?

Homemade dog food is actually considered by some naturalist or “holistic” veterinarians to be the best option for your geriatric dog. Especially if they have bad teeth.

This opinion is not exactly shared by all experts. The biggest risk is making food that is not nutritionally balanced to meet your dog’s needs.

There are some pretty distinct benefits, though:

  • Knowing exactly what goes into your dog’s food.  This means no low-quality ingredients or nutritionless fillers. 
  • Cooking around any dietary needs he might have, like allergy considerations or fiber intake.
  • It can be less expensive than canned or other wet food options.
  • You can control texture and consistency.

The biggest challenges to keeping your old dog healthy on a homemade diet basically have to do with human error. Making consistently nutritious food requires time, energy, research and lots of effort.

If you get lazy, your dog’s health can suffer – which is one of the reasons so many experts recommend against it.

Are you are thinking about dedicating yourself to making homemade dog food for your old dog with bad teeth? Be sure to discuss in detail the nutritional needs of your dog with your vet.

The Best Dog Food for Your Old Dog

So as you can see, choosing the best dog food for your old dog with bad teeth is not as simple as you might think. 

Sure, we could recommend you some specific products to point you in the right direction. 

We could even give you some easy “how-to” recipes. 

But in the end, you and your vet have to analyze your dog’s overall health and dental situation to know what is the best option for your senior dog.

Wet or dry or a little of both? Homemade or Raw? Be sure to talk to your veterinarian before making any dramatic changes in your dog’s diet.

With proper diet and good dental care, you can improve and possibly extend the life of your dog by feeding him dog food that meets his nutritional needs.

Related Questions

Can I get my dog’s teeth cleaned if I’ve never done it before?

Yes! No dog is too old to get their first dental cleaning. Make sure you skip the cheaper “anesthesia free” option and get the real deal dental exam.

This requires putting your dog under for a bit to be able to take x-rays and make a proper diagnosis of everything that is going on inside its mouth and do a thorough treatment.

If your dog is really delicate health-wise, and might not be able to handle general anesthesia, be sure to talk to your vet about alternative treatments.

Is there a difference in dog food for small breeds?

Yes, there is. Small breed dog food is formulated to provide more calories for every pound of food.

Small breed dogs have a tendency to suffer from low blood sugar. This is because of their extremely high metabolism and general lack of fat reserves.  This means they need to eat more frequently.

They also have smaller mouths and some breeds (see the list above) are prone to having teeth issues.  Small breed dry dog food is usually shaped into smaller kibbles to make for easier eating.

If you have an older small breed dog with bad teeth, be sure to keep this in mind when deciding what is the best dog food for your pooch.

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