If you have found yourself the proud new owner of a Shih Tzu puppy or you have had your pup for a while but are wanting to be sure you are caring for it properly you have come to the right place.
Dental hygiene is a very important aspect of care for your fluffy, loyal Shih Tzu! Keeping their teeth healthy and clean as well as going through the puppy teething stage can be challenging at times, but don’t worry, this article will give you all the tips and tricks that you need to care for your Shih Tzu’s teeth!
Do Shih Tzu Have Bad Teeth?
Shih Tzus generally have more dental problems than other breeds. Shih Tzu’s jaws are so small that their teeth can get overcrowded and are hard to keep clean. A build-up of tartar and plaque can cause swollen gums (gingivitis). If left untreated this will start to cause tooth decay and infection.
It is important to employ proper dental care for your Shih Tzu starting at a young age.
Surprising Fact: On average 80% of dogs have some form of dental disease by the time they are 2 years old.
If your dog’s tooth disease progresses far enough it can cause serious damage to your Shih Tzu’s organs. Untreated dental problems can even shorten your Shih Tzu’s lifespan by up to 3 years.
What are some common Shih Tzu Teeth Problems?
Dental disease is the biggest concern for your Shih Tzu’s teeth. If your dog has severe enough dental disease it can cause tooth decay, the gums to recede and the teeth to start falling out.
If you notice that your Shih Tzu’s teeth are turning yellow or have brown spots on them or browning near the gum line then this indicates that, yes your Shih Tzu does have dental disease.
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You need to take steps right away to fix the problem and get their teeth in healthy working order.
Not only is this painful for your Shih Tzu, but it can also have an impact on his heart and other organs.
Interestingly dogs don’t get cavities, but they still can have quite a bit of plague build up on their teeth.
We talk more about how to clean your Shih Tzu’s teeth below.
Shih Tzu Teeth Falling Out
If your Shih Tzu puppy is losing its teeth there is no need to worry, but if your Shih Tzu is older than 1 year and losing teeth this can be cause for major concern!
Your older Shih Tzu’s teeth falling out is due to periodontal disease. This has happened because the plaque and gingivitis have gotten so severe that your dog’s teeth have started to rot and the gums will release their hold on the rotten teeth.
If you have a Shih Tzu rescue that has been poorly taken care of chances are it may have a few missing teeth. The best way forward is to get your dog’s teeth cleaned by a vet, then make sure to keep up with routine dental care going forward.
Shih Tzu Baby Teeth NOT Falling Out (Retained Baby Teeth)
Because Shih Tzu’s mouths are so small it is common for new adult teeth to grow in and some baby teeth not to fall out. This can be concerning as it will cause more overcrowding in your dog’s mouth making it harder to keep the teeth clean and free of plaque.
For most dog breeds their baby teeth are all out by 4-5 months old, but for Shih Tzu It’s not uncommon for them to still have baby teeth even after 5 months old.
If your Shih Tzu has passed the time when all his baby teeth should have fallen out and he still has some that won’t let go, then it will be a good idea if you plan to have those teeth removed.
Many owners choose to remove their Shih Tzu’s extra baby teeth at the same time their dog is getting spayed or neutered. That way you only have to put them under general anesthesia once.
Shih Tzu’s Teeth Chattering
Your Shih Tzu’s teeth may be chattering due to nervousness, fear, or anticipation. Another common cause f chattering teeth is periodontal disease. This is a painful condition where the gums become inflamed and bacteria eventually deteriorates the teeth, bones, and tissue.
Some dogs may shake, or chatter their teeth when they are feeling anxiety or stress. This might be a coping mechanism for your dog when it is in a new situation or around new people.
If your Shih Tzu is really high energy (most are) and gets over-excited whenever he knows there is a treat coming or they see you get out their favorite toy this could induce the teeth chattering or grinding.
If your Shih Tzu is not normally anxious and this is the first time you have noticed chattering teeth then it may be time for a visit with your vet.
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Our dogs tend to do their best at hiding any kind of pain they are in until it gets pretty bad, but oral pain can be a big trigger in your dog’s chattering behavior. This could be due to injury or a more serious dental problem.
Although dental disease may be the most common reason for your Shih Tzu’s teeth to be chattering it’s not the only possibility. You will want to be very observant of when your dog is doing it. The context could give you some better clues as to why.
Shih Tzu Broken Tooth
Broken teeth can be a common occurrence and can be very uncomfortable for your Shih Tzu.
If your Shih Tzu has had any kind of impact to their mouth, either from being hit by something or from running into something it could cause a broken or chipped tooth.
They could also break a tooth by chewing on something too hard. This is why I always tell my student to be careful about what they allow their dogs to chew on. It is recommended that your dog doesn’t chew on hard things like antlers, bones, or other hard and non-bendable items.
Signs your Shih Tzu has a chipped or cracked tooth.
- Eating on one side of his mouth.
- Not eating hard food.
- Not chewing on his favorite chew toys.
- Swelling in his face or gums.
- Excessive drooling.
- Pawing or itching as his face or mouth.
- Not wanting or letting you touch his face.
Broken or chipped teeth can cause your Shih Tzu serious pain and problems with an infection later on. It’s important that it is treated as soon as possible to prevent more complications. The severity of the broken or chipped tooth will dictate the course of treatment. Your vet will do an assessment and suggest a course of action.
If it is a surface chip the tooth should be able to be repaired fairly easily. If the root is exposed then your Shih Tzu will likely need a root canal. Your vet will need to sedate your dog in order to do this safely.
Do Shih Tzus Have Underbites?
Not all Shih Tzus have an underbite, but it is very common for this breed. Teeth abnormalities are often genetic and Shih Tzus are genetically predisposed to have an underbite. An overbite or underbite is called a malocclusion or a bad bite it means their teeth don’t align properly.
An underbite is when the lower jaw is more prominent and causes the lower teeth to stick out farther than the upper teeth.
Generally, an underbite in your Shih Tzu is nothing to worry about. As long as your dog can still chew comfortably and is eating well it shouldn’t affect its health. You will need to take extra care in keeping their teeth healthy and clean.
How to Keep Your Shih Tzu’s Teeth Clean
- Start by getting your Shih Tzu puppy used to having its gums touched and looked over at a young age. When you bring a new puppy home use coconut oil on your finger to rub on your Shih Tzu’s teeth and gums each day.
It’s best to do this when they are tired or sleepy. Be sure to watch out for nipping and biting that your Yorkshire Terrier will surely want to do.
Reward your dog with praise and a small treat when it lets you do this process with ease.
- Provide your Shih Tzu with lots of chew toys, (affiliate link) not only will this help you keep them from chewing on undesired things in your house, but it will also help them keep their teeth clean by the scraping motion that they do as they chew.
Specifically, dental chew toys can also be very helpful to remove plaque from your Shih Tzu’s teeth.
- You should start brushing your Shih Tzu’s teeth around 12 weeks old. It’s important to start a habit of daily brushing (if not daily then at least 2-3 times a week). Using a pet toothbrush like this as well as a good dog toothpaste is important.
- Use a dental powder cleanser like this one on Amazon (affiliate link). This is one of the easiest ways to help your Shih Tzu’s teeth stay clean. You just add it to their water and you are done!
- Make a consistent effort. Taking care of oral hygiene once and a while will not be good enough for your lovable Shih Tzu companion. You need to make it a daily/weekly habit so that their teeth will not go bad over time.
If the plaque and tartar have built up to a degree that you are not able to remove it yourself by brushing, you may need to take your dog to the vet for a professional cleaning.
If professional cleaning is necessary, your vet will need to give your Shih Tzu general anesthesia for the procedure so that they can gain easy access to their mouth without the worry of being bitten or having your pup resist.
He or she will then use dental tools relatively similar to the tools that are used on us at the dentist to scale and scrape the plaque from your dog’s teeth. This will also allow them to see if there are any teeth that are loose or rotting and may need to be removed.
This cleaning will help to reduce gingivitis (the swelling on your dog’s gums) as well as the nasty bacteria that cause bad breath.
You will want to be sure to keep a good oral hygiene routine at home afterward to prevent the plaque from returning.
If your Shih Tzu needs a dental cleaning, this article from the Spruce Pets can help you prepare for and understand what that process entails. Getting a Professional Teeth Cleaning for Your Dog (thesprucepets.com)
Fun Tip: Did you know that there is a certain type of fruit that can help to whiten your Shih Tzu teeth? Read this article to find out what it is. Complete List of Fruit Shih Tzu Can & Can’t Eat!
How to Brush Your Shih Tzu’s Teeth
Do Shih Tzu Have Good Teeth?
Shih Tzu can have good and healthy teeth if they are well taken care of. Brushing them daily is important. If your dog’s teeth are white, their gums are pink, and they don’t have smelly breath then your Shih Tzu’s teeth are likely healthy.
Shih Tzu puppies start out with strong healthy teeth but it’s up to us as owners to keep them clean and healthy. This dental kit (affiliate link) has been a lifesaver for me in keeping my little fur ball’s teeth clean! I especially love that I know it doesn’t have any harsh chemicals or bad ingredients in it.
Taking a look at your Shih Tzu’s teeth every few weeks will help you to keep on top of the dental hygiene and spot signs of problems early on.
Warning: If your Shih Tzu is prone to biting or is easily startled seek guidance from your vet or a professional dog trainer before following these steps.
When your dog is calm or sleeping, gently lift the flap of skin on the side of your dog’s mouth in order to inspect their gums.
Never put your hand inside your dog’s mouth, even if your dog is normally calm and doesn’t tend to bite.
You will be looking to make sure that their teeth are white and if there is any brown, grey, or black buildup on their teeth how bad it is and where it is.
When you look at their gums you are wanting to see light pink. If you see any darker pink coloring or red tint it can be an indication of gum disease and you will want to schedule a visit with your vet.
How Many Teeth Do Shih Tzu Have?
Shih Tzu puppies are born with no teeth but gain 28 baby teeth (deciduous teeth) by 6-8 weeks of age. Adult Shih Tzu will have a total of 42 teeth including 12 incisors (for grasping), 4 canines (for tearing), 16 premolars, and 8 molars (for grinding).
Shih Tzu Teething Timeline
Being a parent of a new Shih Tzu puppy can produce all sorts of questions from why is my dog constantly licking, to why is my puppy crying all the time. Knowing more about their expected development can help ease some worries and concerns we might have.
If it’s been a while since you have had a puppy or if this is your first experience raising a puppy you may be surprised to know that your puppy’s teeth will fall out. Just like their human counterparts around pre-school age, we start losing our baby teeth, our puppies are going to lose their teeth and grow adult ones as well.
So to help you with this here is a detailed timeline of what you can expect while your puppy is teething.
Please remember that every dog is different so even though this is a good estimate your dog may not follow it exactly.
Newborn: Your puppy will be born with what looks like no teeth at all, but when he reaches 2 to 4 weeks old at the same time his eyes start to open his little baby teeth will start popping through.
Around 6-8 weeks your puppy should have all his baby teeth and will start weening from his mother’s milk while learning to eat soft moist puppy food.
Around 12-16 weeks old as you have recently brought your puppy home and are getting to know them better he will start to lose his baby teeth. It usually starts with the incisors and you will probably notice little rice-sized doggy teeth falling out everywhere.
By 5 months old your puppy will have lost most of their baby teeth and by 6 months old they will have lost all their baby teeth and grown in all their adult teeth.
At 6 months you should have your vet examine your Shih Tzu’s teeth to check that all the baby teeth are gone and that the adult teeth have grown in properly. If your dog still has baby teeth at this age your vet will most likely recommend removal.
As your puppy grows you should get your Shih Tzu used to you gently placing your hand around his mouth and gums. This is the start of socializing your dog and will be helpful to prepare them for getting their teeth brushed and clean.
How to help my Teething Shih Tzu Puppy
Luckily the teething puppy stage doesn’t last too long. I know it does feel like it’s going on forever when you are in the thick of it, but it usually gets much better around the time your puppy is 6 months old.
Even though it may be short it can be hard to make it through the puppy teething stage. Having a puppy is a lot of work and it’s best to be as proactive as possible when teaching your puppy and helping them adjust to a new life with your family.
Helping them focus their teething troubles on chewing and biting appropriate things (rather than your furniture or fingers) is part of their puppy training.
You can tell your puppy might be having teething pain or discomfort if you notice them whining a lot (see this article 7 Reasons Why Your Shih Tzu Whines (And What to Do) to rule out other reasons for their whining), biting and chewing on everything, lots of drooling, and of course, the obvious losing teeth and swollen or tender gums.
The best thing you can do is to offer your puppy a variety of puppy teething toys. Toys that offer different textures, different pressures, or different tastes will help your puppy have variety. This can keep your puppy from getting bored and wanting to chew on things that they shouldn’t (like your brand new shoes)
Offering your pup something cold or frozen can help to numb and dull the teething pain they feel. An easy way to do this is to get a clean cloth a little wet and freeze it. A rope toy could also work well for this.
Safety Tip: Puppy teeth are super sharp! Be sure to monitor your puppy when chewing and take away any toys or items that start to become shredded or break apart. It would be dangerous for your puppy to swallow any small pieces.
Our Favorite Toys for a Teething Shih Tzu Puppy
There is a reason that Kong toys are so popular! Not only are they are super versatile as far as the things that you can put inside the middle, but they are the perfect blend of hard/soft and chewy for a teething puppy.
Try putting a mixture of peanut butter and soft puppy food in the middle and freezing it. Your puppy will love it!
This toy is great for teething. Puppies love the texture of the little rubber nubs against their gums. (affiliate links)
My dog’s absolute favorite thing to chew on is bully sticks! He really loves these! They saved me when he was a puppy wanting to chew on everything, and he still loves them even now when he’s 2 years old.
You want to make sure that they do it safely, so be sure to have something to hold the end so that when it gets small they don’t accidentally swallow it and choke on it.
While we strive to give the most accurate and helpful information about your pet’s health that we can, this article is meant to be informational only and not medical advice. Never disregard, avoid or delay in obtaining medical advice from your veterinarian or other qualified veterinary health care provider regardless of what you have read on this site or elsewhere.