Watching your dog get older with every passing year is never easy. While no one likes to see a lovable canine companion get slower and less active, the last thing you want to do is ignore those signs of aging. Senior dogs can experience everything from low energy levels to severe joint pain.
As an owner, it's your job to make your older dog feel as comfortable as possible while staying healthy.
One of the more critical issues to work around is dental problems. Bad teeth are pretty common among senior dogs. About 85 percent of all dogs lose at least one tooth after the age of four. Despite the best efforts of veterinarians and vigilant owners, dental diseases run rampant in the dog world.
As you can imagine, eating standard kibble isn't easy for an older dog with bad teeth. Dental problems can severely impact a dog's diet. Many will avoid eating altogether if it means avoiding pain. Luckily, there are ways to work around bad teeth.
Soft dog foods can fulfill your dog's dietary needs without the painful crunch. Unlike hard kibble, they have a mushy texture that even toothless dogs can consume.
There's no shortage of soft dog foods out there to entice your dog and support their health. Here are some of our top picks!
7 of the Best Soft Dog Foods for Older Dogs With Bad or No Teeth
1. Pedigree Chopped Ground Dinner With Chicken, Beef & Liver Canned Dog Food
Here's a canned food product that will provide relief without breaking the bank! Pedigree uses ground ingredients to come up with a loose texture.
It's like a gelatinous mush that contains no big chunks. Everything is ground to a fine consistency, making it easy for dogs to consume without using their teeth at all.
In terms of flavor, most dogs will have no problem scarfing this food down! It's made with chicken, beef, and liver. It has a good amount of healthy fats, too. The fat not only improves flavor, but it nourishes the skin.
2. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Turkey & Chicken Grill Grain-Free Senior Canned Dog Food
You can't go wrong with Blue Buffalo. The brand's dry formula is one of the best on the market. This canned option takes all of the great qualities of the kibble and makes it available to dogs that can't chew.
It's a grain- and gluten-free recipe that uses wholesome ingredients throughout. Turkey, chicken, and chicken liver are the primary sources of protein. Those meats are ground up into a fine mash that any dog can eat.
Because this formula is for seniors, it also has ingredients to support joint health and mobility.
3. Purina ONE SmartBlend Tender Cuts in Gravy Lamb & Brown Rice Entree Adult Canned Dog Food
The SmartBlend formula food from Purina One is like gourmet food in a can! It contains no fillers whatsoever. Instead, it has morsels of soft meat that you can see.
This recipe doesn't have a ground-up texture. But, the pieces of natural lamb are swimming in flavorful chicken broth. As a result, each piece is super tender and easy to chew.
Overall, this food is a delicacy your pooch will enjoy. It meets all of your dog's dietary needs and is packed with flavor. What more could you want?
4. Hill's Science Diet Adult 7+ Savory Stew with Chicken & Vegetables Canned Dog Food
Hill's Science is another brand worth checking out. Like the dry food products, this canned formula promoted good health with balanced nutrition.
It has lean protein from chicken and pork liver to promote muscle mass.Meanwhile, a mix of healthy vegetables provides a slew of vitamins and minerals.
The food looks like a stew that you could have cooked on your stove! It's soft and tasty enough for even picky dogs to eat. Plus, it's good on the digestive system and promotes regularity with its fiber content.
5. Wellness Complete Health Senior Formula Canned Dog Food
From the Wellness brand is this soft senior pate. Specifically formulated for senior dogs, this food provides balanced nutrition that's made to help your companion age gracefully. While it contains a blend of premium proteins like chicken and whitefish, you would never know!
That's because the food is ground up into a fine paste. The consistency might not be the most appealing to human palates, but to a dog that's suffering dental issues, it's a dream! Your dog can lick up and get all the nutrition they need to stay healthy.
6. Purina Beneful Prepared Meals Roasted Turkey Medley with Wild Rice, Peas & Barley Wet Dog Food
This food is part of Purina's Prepared Meals line. It simulates the wholesomeness of a home-cooked meal. But, it's already prepared and ready to eat!
This particular formula uses wild rice, sweet potatoes, and turkey. It features chunks of real turkey meat swimming in a flavorful gravy.
The food is wholesome, tasty, and nutritionally balanced. While it's not ground up made into a paste, the individual morsels are soft and palatable. Thanks to the lengthy cooking process, the meat is tender enough for most dogs to eat.
7. The Honest Kitchen Whole Grain Chicken Recipe Dehydrated Dog Food
Here's a unique alternative to canned and dry food. The Honest Kitchen puts the food through a powerful dehydrator to create a moisture-free product. Just add some warm water and watch the meal come to life!
Prepared meals have a texture that's similar to mashed potatoes. It's lickable, delicious, and super easy on the teeth. Best of all, the formula is top-notch.
There's about 24.5 percent protein. Most of that comes from dehydrated chicken meat. You'll also find premium ingredients like barley, flaxseed, oats, and more.
Soft Dog Snacks and Treats
Moist & Meaty Burger with Cheddar Cheese Flavor Dry Dog Food
Purina's Moist and Meaty dog food offers a nice balance between wet and dry food. It's firm enough to hold its shape and prevent wet messes. But, the food easily crumbled under slight pressure. So, your dog can eat these flavor-packed morsels without the pain!
The tender food is formulated to provide complete and balanced nutrition. Each serving comes in portioned packets.
You can offer it alone, as a topper for existing food, or even as a treat. Either way, your dog will appreciate the snack!
Blue Buffalo Blue Bits Savory Salmon Recipe Soft-Moist Training Dog Treats
The Blue Buffalo Bits are made for young puppies. However, older dogs with bad teeth can enjoy them, too. Each heart-shaped piece is made out of real meat and wholesome ingredients.
It contains salmon, brown rice, flaxseed, and more. Like other Blue Buffalo products, there are no unnecessary fillers or additives.
The moisture content is about 27 percent. The treats are soft to the touch and easy enough for dogs with bad teeth to chew. The high-protein snack makes for an excellent training tool or reward.
Common Canine Dental Issues
Dental issues in dogs are quite complex. Your furry friend's teeth go through wringer throughout its lifetime. If you're not careful and proactive about your dog's teeth, they can suffer from a slew of painful maladies.
Periodontal disease is, by far, the most common dental condition that plagues domesticated dogs. It's estimated that over two-thirds of dogs over three years old have some form of Periodontal disease.
This condition starts innocent enough. Bacteria in the mouth create plaque, which sticks to the surface of the teeth. Eventually, the plaque hardens and turns to dental calculus. Also known as plaque, calculus is a tough material that can chip off with a dental pick.
The exact process happens with human teeth, too.
The longer plaque sits on the teeth, the worse it gets. Sooner or later, your dog will experience gum infections. The bacteria move below the gum line and wreaks havoc on the tooth structure.
Slowly but surely, bone loss occurs. The loss isn't immediately visible without the use of X-rays. But, the effects of the disease become more evident as it progresses.
Veterinarians classify Periodontal Disease cases into four stages. The first stage is relatively benign, and there are ways to treat the teeth to prevent further damage.
By stage four, your dog has bone loss of 50 percent or more.
They're likely in severe pain and are at risk of losing multiple teeth. The late stages of the disease make your dog susceptible to secondary infections, too.
Systemic infections can occur when bacteria get into the bloodstream. Not only are these infections life-threatening, but they can quickly spread to several organs.
Periodontal disease is no joke! It's essential to seek veterinary care if you suspect that your dog is in the early stages of the disease.
Your dog's teeth aren't indestructible. They can experience trauma and damage. Dogs often experience structural tooth damage after chewing on hard items with no give.
For example, it's pretty standard for dogs to get hurt chewing on non-bending toys, hard bones, or dry antlers. Many of the dried treats you see on the market today pose a rather serious risk.
Any dog can suffer from a broken tooth. However, it's most likely to affect those who already suffer from dental disease. Remember: Periodontal Disease causes slow bone loss. As a result, those chompers become a lot more prone to breaking.
Physical trauma can cause both immediate and long-term pain. The nerves inside your dog's tooth become exposed, which can generate tons of distress. Tiny shards can also cut your dog's gums or create a choking hazard.
Tooth Root Abscess
Abscesses are one of the more serious side effects of a broken tooth. Even with a minor crack, bacteria can enter the tooth and make their way to the root. There, it causes severe infection.
The bacteria infect the pulp tissue and cause an abscess to form. The spot is full of pus and can grow in many different locations. If not treated immediately, the infection will kill the tooth as the abscess contaminates the bone around the root.
It's a dangerous condition that can only be treated with root canal surgery.
What Causes Bad Teeth in Older Dogs?
There are many reasons why dogs can suffer from bad teeth. Some canines are predisposed to dental problems due to their breed and genetics. Others will lose their teeth because of accidents and traumas.
The most common cause of bad teeth, however, is a lack of dental hygiene. You've probably seen the posters on your vet's wall or heard them touting the benefits of brushing your dog's teeth. Unfortunately, most dog owners don't go that extra mile.
Dogs are unable to take care of their teeth on their own. So, you have to take matters into your own hands. Vets recommend brushing your pup's teeth at least three times per week.
Between those sessions, you can provide dental chews or toys to scrub those pearly whites clean.
It's never too late to start brushing. Even if your dog's teeth are in bad shape, you can take steps to improve them. Consult with your vet and see what options are available and whether or not brushing now is beneficial.
Signs That Your Dog is Suffering
The most obvious signs of dental pain are visible upon a close inspection. Periodontal Disease manifests itself in many ways. The gums might appear bright red and swollen.
For dogs in later stages of the disease, you might see decay around the gum line, loose teeth, and visible spots of hardened plaque.
Bleeding is expected as well. The saliva usually becomes stained with red and takes on a ropey consistency.
Get close enough, and you will also smell the disease! The bacteria that causes tooth decay produces a rancid smell every time your dog opens its mouth.
It's not like standard doggy breath. The scent is distinct and noticeably malodorous. Not only that, but it doesn't go away with breath-freshening treats.
Beyond the physical evidence, you'll likely notice some severe changes in behavior. Dogs suffer in silence when dealing with dental pain. They might flinch any time you try to touch their mouth or head.
Many dogs become defensive and lash out at pets or humans that get too close.
When it comes time to eat, dental pain can also ruin your pup's appetite. They'll show some hesitation eating crunchy food. Your dog might even start skipping meals to avoid the pain.
Things to Look for in Soft Dog Food Products
Soft foods might be the solution your dog needs. Now, soft food products aren't going to address the root cause of dental pain or improve bad teeth. You'll need to seek veterinary care for that. However, they can make mealtime a lot more manageable.
Finding soft foods isn't difficult. But how do you find a product that's suitable for your aging dog? Here are some things to keep in mind as you shop.
High-Quality Macronutrients and Micronutrients
When it comes to the core nutrient profile, nothing should change when switching to soft foods. Your dog still needs the essentials, so you must ensure that the product you choose meets their dietary requirements.
Look for wholesome proteins, healthy fats, and tons of vitamins and minerals. The detailed nutrient analysis is a little different for soft foods.
The established guidelines and minimum percentages refer to dry matter. Because soft foods have a higher moisture content, you can't follow the exact figures.
The key when judging soft foods is to scrutinize the quality of the ingredient list. Stick to identifiable meats, wholesome vegetables, and more straightforward formulas.
Of course, a soft texture is a significant factor when shopping for dogs with dental problems.
Steer clear of any oven-baked kibbles. Instead, go for canned foods or products with higher moisture content. You can also use dehydrated food that requires some light preparation before feeding.
Either way, the final product needs to be soft to the touch and easy enough for your dog to consume without putting any pressure on its teeth. The best formulas are gentle enough to slide down the throat without chewing at all.
You can't forget about taste! Your pooch is already wary of the food they eat because of the pain they've experienced with kibble. A flavorless meal isn't going to do much to entice them to eat!
Fortunately, most soft foods are packed with flavor. The cooking process preserves natural fats and moisture, so taste usually isn't an issue.
If it is, consider buying some gravy or a soft topper product. Toppers add that little kick of flavor to make meals irresistible.
If you're not already there, consider switching to a senior-specific formula. Older dogs are susceptible to a wide range of health issues beyond bad teeth. Your companion might be suffering from joint pain, aching bones, and more.
Senior formulas often contain ingredients to combat those signs of aging. Things like glucosamine and chondroitin, for example, will improve joint tissue to avoid pain.
Many products also have lower phosphorus levels to keep your dog's kidneys in good shape.
Don't let your dog suffer any longer with hard kibble. Soft dog foods can provide some much-needed relief and get your dog back on track to good health. If you're unsure about how to address your dog's bad teeth, consult with your vet.
These soft foods are the first step to addressing dental problems, but you can do so much more to improve their overall dental health.