Can Dogs Eat Without Molars?

Can dogs eat without molars? This is an important question for any dog owner, as molars play a crucial role in a dog’s ability to properly chew and digest food. In this article, we will examine the anatomy of a dog’s mouth, look at common causes of tooth loss, discuss the effects losing molars can have, and provide tips for caring for a dog with missing molars. Understanding how dogs eat and chew with or without molars can help owners make informed decisions about their pet’s diet and oral health.

Proper chewing and digestion is essential for a dog’s overall health and quality of life. Losing molars can impair this process and lead to nutritional deficiencies or gastrointestinal issues if not properly managed. By learning more about this topic, dog owners can be prepared to make adjustments and provide the best care if their pet loses these important teeth.

Anatomy of a Dog’s Mouth

Dogs have a variety of different teeth that serve important functions. The main types of teeth are incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. Incisors are located in the front of the mouth and are used for nibbling and grooming. Canines, or fangs, are located behind the incisors and are used for gripping and tearing food. Premolars and molars are located in the back of the mouth and are used for chewing and grinding food.

Molars specifically play a crucial role in chewing and breaking down food. They have broad, flat surfaces that allow dogs to grind down hard materials like bones and kibble. The mechanical breakdown of food by molars increases the surface area for chemical digestion. Dogs normally have 6 upper and 6 lower molars as adults. The molars farthest back are called carnassial molars and have a sharp edge that allows dogs to cleanly shear chunks of meat and sinew.

Without molars, dogs lose their primary teeth for chewing, grinding, and mechanically processing food. This can make it difficult for them to properly break down and digest their meals.


Causes of Tooth Loss in Dogs

There are several potential causes for dogs losing teeth, especially molars. The most common cause is periodontal disease. Periodontal disease occurs when plaque builds up on a dog’s teeth. According to Bluepet, the bacteria in the plaque release toxins that inflame the gums and weaken the supporting structures around the teeth. This can lead to tooth loss if left untreated.

Injuries or trauma to the mouth can also result in tooth loss. If a dog suffers an impact to the mouth, gets something stuck in their teeth, or chews on hard objects, the force can fracture teeth or dislodge them. According to Centennial Animal Hospital, molars are especially prone to injuries during chewing.

Additionally, some dogs may have congenital defects that lead to tooth loss. Issues like abnormal tooth development, misaligned bite, or lack of enamel can mean teeth are prone to falling out or needing extraction. This is especially common in certain brachycephalic breeds.

No matter the cause, any lost or damaged teeth can impact a dog’s ability to eat and should be evaluated by a veterinarian. With treatment and care, dogs can adapt well to missing molars.

Effects of Molar Loss

Losing molars can have several negative effects on a dog’s health and quality of life. According to Toe Grips, missing molars can lead to significant pain and discomfort when eating. The lack of molars makes it difficult for dogs to chew their food properly. They may exhibit signs like dropping food, reluctance to eat, or favoring one side of their mouth when chewing.

Dogs with missing molars are also at risk for malnutrition since they cannot break down their food adequately. Hard kibble and other foods may be too painful or difficult to eat. As a result, the dog may lose interest in eating. Severe weight loss and nutritional deficiencies can occur over time, weakening the dog’s immune system function.

The mouth irritation and infection caused by lost teeth can also change the dog’s behavior. A mouth that hurts will make a dog less likely to play with toys or be petted around the head. Increased anxiety, whining, and even aggression can develop if the dog is in chronic pain.

According to Bluepet, missing molars negatively impact a dog’s overall health. Bacteria accumulate in the open tooth sockets which can spread infection to the jaw, bloodstream, heart, kidneys, and other organs. Dogs with advanced dental disease are at increased risk for life-threatening conditions if left untreated.

Eating Without Molars

Dogs can adapt and eat without molars, though it may be more difficult. When dogs lose their molars or back teeth, they have fewer teeth to help chew and grind their food properly. However, there are some tips and diet modifications to help dogs eat without molars:

Wetting dry kibble with warm water, broth, or gravy can help soften it and make it easier to chew (source). The moisture helps release the aroma and makes the kibble softer without completely changing the texture.

Switching to wet, canned food is an excellent option, as it contains plenty of moisture and is easy to eat. Canned foods can be mashed with a fork to make it even softer.

Adding yogurt, cottage cheese, rice, or oatmeal to your dog’s meals can add calories while making the food easier to consume without molars (source).

Consider feeding smaller kibble or brands designed for small dogs, as the smaller size can be easier to chew and swallow.

Avoid large chunks of food like bones, rawhide, hard treats, chunks of meat or fruit. Stick to soft, mashable foods.

Monitor your dog’s eating closely and watch for signs of difficulty like dropping food, reluctance to eat, or losing weight, which indicates the need for softer food or veterinary care.

Diet Modifications

Dogs without molars will likely need to modify their diet in order to continue eating comfortably. One of the most common recommendations is to switch from dry kibble to wet canned food, which has a softer texture that is easier to chew and swallow without molars (Source). Canned food comes in small, bite-sized pieces in a gravy or sauce that dogs can lap up. Adding a little warm water to dry kibble can also help soften it up.

Owners should avoid offering hard treats or chews to dogs without molars, as these will be difficult and painful to chew. Soft, mashable treats are a better option. It’s also important to monitor your dog’s weight when transitioning to a soft food diet, as the increased calories from canned food or table scraps can lead to unhealthy weight gain (Source). Discuss an appropriate feeding regimen with your veterinarian.

Making some simple changes to your dog’s diet can go a long way in allowing them to eat comfortably even without molars. Focus on soft, mashable foods that don’t require much chewing but still provide balanced nutrition.

When to Seek Help

If your dog is experiencing tooth loss, especially multiple teeth, it’s important to have them examined by a veterinarian. Certain signs indicate a visit to the vet is recommended:

  • Difficulty eating or chewing food – Dogs need their molars for chewing and grinding food. If your dog is struggling to eat properly, it could be related to missing molars.
  • Weight loss or poor body condition – Inability to chew and digest food properly can lead to weight loss or poor body condition over time.
  • Signs of mouth pain – Your dog may cry or whine when eating, have reduced appetite, or excess drooling which can indicate dental issues.
  • Loose or infected teeth – Teeth that are loose, discolored or have swelling around them need to be addressed.
  • Bleeding from the mouth – Any unexplained bleeding from the mouth warrants an urgent vet visit.

Your vet can perform a full oral exam under anesthesia if needed. They can identify any problematic teeth, gum disease, or other underlying conditions causing your dog’s tooth loss. Proper treatment can help manage your dog’s condition and improve their quality of life.

Treatment Options

There are several treatment options veterinarians may recommend for dogs missing molars or experiencing tooth loss:

Tooth extractions – Extracting problematic teeth is often necessary, especially if they are loose, infected, or causing pain. Extractions remove sources of infection and inflammation.

Dental appliances – Custom dental appliances like bridges, crowns, or partial dentures can replace missing teeth and restore chewing function. These are attached to the remaining healthy teeth.

Medications – Antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, and pain relievers may be prescribed to treat infections, reduce inflammation, and manage discomfort associated with tooth loss.

Professional dental cleanings – Tartar and plaque removal above and below the gumline helps prevent periodontal disease from worsening. Regular cleanings are especially important when teeth are missing.

Special diets – Dental or soft foods are easier to chew and swallow for dogs with missing molars. Vets may recommend prescription dental care diets.

Ongoing at-home care – Brushing, rinses, and chews help maintain gum and dental health between professional cleanings. This is critical for dogs prone to dental issues.


Caring for Your Dog’s Teeth

Proper dental care is crucial for your dog’s overall health and wellbeing. Here are some tips for caring for your dog’s teeth:

Brush your dog’s teeth daily if possible. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and dog-safe toothpaste. Gently brush in circular motions on all sides of the teeth. This helps remove plaque and tartar buildup. According to the AKC, daily brushing is the single most effective thing you can do for your dog’s oral health.

Have your veterinarian perform regular dental cleanings and exams. Professional cleanings remove hardened plaque and tartar that brushing can’t reach. Your vet can check for signs of disease and assess any issues with your dog’s teeth or gums.

Feed dental chews and treats. Chews specially formulated to clean teeth help scrub away plaque. Look for the VOHC seal from the Veterinary Oral Health Council when choosing dental chews.

Add dental care additives to your dog’s water. Some products create a mouthwash effect when added to drinking water. This helps prevent bacteria growth.

Schedule any needed dental work right away. If your dog is diagnosed with advanced dental disease, infected teeth may need extraction. Timely treatment prevents the infection from spreading.

Following proper dental care habits helps ensure your dog maintains good oral health even with missing molars. Protect your dog’s teeth now to avoid future complications.


In summary, dogs can adapt to eating without molars but may require some dietary modifications. While many dogs adjust well to missing molars, it’s important to provide them with dental care throughout their lives to prevent tooth loss. Regular teeth brushing, dental treats, and professional cleanings can protect their teeth and overall health.

If your dog loses molars, you may need to transition them to softer, wet food mixed with water into a gruel-like consistency. Avoid hard kibble and treats. Adding broth, gravy, or low-sodium canned food can make the food more appealing. Hand feeding for a period of time can ease the transition as well.

Monitor your dog closely when molars are extracted. Signs like dropping food, reluctance to eat, or weight loss indicate further modifications may be needed. With some dietary tweaks and extra care, dogs can live happily and eat well without molars.

Scroll to Top