Great Foods for Older Small Dogs (with Few or No Teeth)

A small breed dog (yorkshire terrier) that is senior and missing teeth

Having an older dog that is missing teeth can be a hassle trying to figure out what is best to feed them. Smaller breeds are more prone to have dental problems than larger breeds, and missing teeth can lead to limited options in terms of what you feed your furry loved one.  

While switching to a softer food may be the answer, as it would make it much easier for your dog to eat, you will want to keep the nutritional value of the food you switch to in mind as well. As dogs get older, they become more demanding in their dietary needs to stay healthy. You wouldn’t want to change to a food that provides poor nutritional value for the sake of allowing them to chew their food better. There are better options that will enable you to give them the nutrition they require while allowing eating to become an easier task.  

One thing to keep an eye out for when switching your dog’s food is any potential food allergies they may run into. If you have always fed your dog food that the primary source of meat was chicken, switching to one with lamb or salmon, for example, may reveal a food allergy you never knew your dog had. Try out the new foods, but be observant of how your dog does on them. If there is a reaction, switch to a different type (chicken to beef or salmon, etc.) and see how they do while on it. If it is a severe reaction, call your veterinarian.

Notes on Feeding Your Dog a Grain-Free Diet

One thing to note is that recent studies have shown that feeding your dog a grain-free diet may be worse for them than feeding them a diet with grains in it. I personally don’t put a lot of stock in these studies because when reading them, they are mainly hypothesis formulated upon studies that were not controlled very well, and done so with only a tiny number of cases. The only proven medical reason for DCM is that I have been able to find is from having taurine deficiencies. That deficiency can easily be made up by adding some goats, milk, cheese, eggs, or fish in your dog’s food every now and then.  

Whether or not you choose to do a grain-free diet with your dog is up to you, you should do what works best for your dog. If your dog has specific food allergies, going grain-free may be an excellent option for you.  

Recommended Food for Older Dogs with Little or No Teeth

#1 Adding Water to your Dogs Food

While not a suggestion of a new type of food to get, if your dog is doing well on his current kibble, and it is healthy for him, you may want to keep feeding it to him. Adding some water to your dog’s food has several bonuses. It makes it softer and more comfortable for him to eat, but it will also slow down the rate at which he consumes the food and be easier on his stomach if he swallows it without chewing. If your dog is stubborn about drinking water, it is also an excellent way to get extra water in his diet. 

While there is an old-wives-tale that adding water to your dog’s food increases the chance of them suffering from bloat, there is no authenticity to it that I could find. In reading a dozen different articles from veterinarians, it appears that it actually decreases the chance of it, as dogs seem more likely to suffer from bloat if they eat dry kibble.

How much water you add depends upon how soft you want the food and the climate in which you reside. You want to add enough to soften up the food (you’ll want to let it sit for several minutes). I would recommend starting with an amount equal to 1/4 of the food you put in their bowl. So if you feed your dog half a cup of dry food, start off with 1/8th of a cup of water in it and see if it gets enough of the food moist enough for your dog. If you live in particularly dry climates, you may have to add a little more; likewise, if you live in a densely moist environment, you may need to reduce it.  

As you try it out, please pay attention to how your dog eats it. If your older pup is still having trouble, consider adding more water to it. If he refuses to eat the soft food, take some water away. Remember, the goal is to find the right ratio that your dog will still eat their food, but not struggle to do so. Some dogs will be fine with the consistency of gruel, and others may not be as willing to eat it.  

#2 Adding Kefir to Your Dogs Kibble

lifeway brand kefir.  healthy alternative to use to soften a dogs food to make it easier for them to eat

If you find your dog does not particularly care for water added to their food, but you still want to feed them the kibble they are doing well on, fear not! You can use kefir in your dog’s kibble to give them a healthy burst of vitamins and soften their food. Kefir is a fermented milk drink made from yeast and bacteria cultures, much like yogurt. Unlike yogurt, kefir is typically not bland or sweet-tasting, but sour. 

You should start with just a little bit (and add enough water to it to make sure the food gets soft) and see how they do on it. If they like the extra taste and are doing well on it, you can slowly add a little more kefir and decrease the amount of water until you find the preferred combination. Ultimately, 2-4 tablespoons should do the trick, then use water as the remaining liquid you need to soften the kibble up.  

If your dog is lactose intolerant, you should look for kefir made with coconut milk, almond milk, or water. I would recommend starting with the plain flavored kefir, and once you see how your dog reacts to it, you can try using flavored kefir, such as strawberry or blueberry.  

You can order kefir in several different ways. Doing a quick search online, they have growth kits, pills, powders, etc. I wouldn’t recommend any of those. I’ll put a link to Amazon with the type I am referring to, but honestly, just look for it (or a similar brand) from your grocery store and use it. While you can buy the one I linked to, it would probably be cheaper and make sure it arrives unspoiled if you pick it up from your local grocer. One thing to keep in mind when you get kefir is that it is normal to have a sour or bitter taste. That doesn’t mean it’s spoiled necessarily; it’s supposed to smell that way. For me, it tastes and smells like buttermilk – which I loathe. So I can’t drink kefir without forcing myself to. My dog Mishka, on the other hand, has always loved it!

Kefir is rich with beneficial bacterias and yeast strains for helping with the intestinal tract, as well as some skin problems or ear infections a dog may suffer from. Other positives would be that kefir is rich in vitamins such as A, D, K, and B complex, as well as calcium, phosphorus, biotin, and magnesium! Be careful with giving too much, especially until you see how your beloved dog does with it, as it may cause diarrhea. However, if your dog has started having trouble going to the bathroom as he has gotten older, a small bit in his food may help alleviate some of those problems.  

#3 Honest Kitchen Dehydrated Dog Food

If you are going to switch food for your dog, then this would be the one I recommend trying! The Honest Kitchen company is impressive with the quality and care they put into the food they make for our pets. They brag about using “Human-Grade” food, which means they adhere to the same standards as kitchens that make food for human consumption, rather than the lower standards that are required for companies producing feed for cattle, like most dog food companies. They also took it a step farther and applied for (and received) FDA approval, and produce their dog food in a facility that produces human food.  

Size: A 10 lb box will make around 40 lbs of food. To put this into perspective, if you have a toy dog that weighs around 5-10 pounds, it will feed your dog for around 100-120 days. If you have a dog around the size of a Corgi (~25 lbs) as I do, one box will last him around a month and a half to 2 months.

Softness:  The food isn’t typical kibble that would be difficult for your canine to chew. All of the ingredients are dehydrated, and to prepare it for your dog; you just need to add water and let it sit for about 3 minutes. It will have a gruel-like consistency that you can make more or less thick by adjusting the amount of water or the amount of time you let it sit before giving it to your dog. It is an extremely healthy choice for your older dog, making it easy for them to eat if they are missing teeth.  

Ingredients:  Honest Kitchen foods are Made in the USA. They do not use any by-products or preservatives in the food, and there is no added corn, wheat, soy, or GMO ingredients. Another big plus is that many of their pet food varieties use organic ingredients. Meaning they follow even more stringent government standards, which drastically reduces the chance of there being any pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics contaminating them.  

Flavors:  They have a decent variety to choose from, depending on your dog’s taste and dietary needs.  

  • Grain-free – Chicken
  • Grain-free – Turkey
  • Grain-free – Beef
  • Grain-free – Fish
  • Whole Grain – Chicken
  • Whole Grain – Turkey
  • Whole Grain – Beef
  • Limited ingredient – Chicken
  • Limited ingredient – Fish
  • Limited ingredient – Turkey
  • Limited ingredient – Beef
  • Limited ingredient – Duck

As far as which recipe to choose for your dog, that depends on which type of meat protein your dog prefers the taste of. The dietary needs your dog has will impact the choice as well. If your dog has a lot of allergies or has poorly reacted to switching foods in the past, then start with the limited ingredient foods. They are typically only six ingredients and give a great balance of protein, vitamins, and minerals to your dog’s diet. If your dog does well on it, you could move to either the grain-free or whole-grain recipes if you are not concerned about potential food-allergies or grains your vet has told you to watch out for.  

Cons: The only downside to this food that I could find would be the price. But with any food, you very much get what you pay for. The ingredients and care put into making this food are phenomenal, and the better food you feed to your dog, the more benefits your dog gets from their diet.  

#4 Nutro Ultra Grain-Free Paté Adult & Senior Wet Dog Food 

Nutro ultra grain-free pate. soft food for adult and senior dogs.

This food is a reasonably healthy option as far as food goes. I would feed it to my dog if I had not previously heard of the Honest Kitchen foods that I mentioned above. For a larger dog, the price could get up there a bit, but the portions are great for smaller to medium-sized senior dogs! 

Size:  This food comes in pre-portioned 3.5 oz trays, as a pack of 12 or 24. If you want a variety pack to try a couple of the flavors at once to see which your dog likes better, you will need to get a 12-pack (6x each.)  

Softness:  This food is wet food, that is nice and soft, and your dog should have no trouble eating them regardless of how many teeth they may be missing.  

Ingredients: High-quality proteins are the first ingredients in these foods, from chicken, beef, lamb, or turkey, depending on which flavor you choose. All of these meals are made with non-GMO ingredients and are grain-free. They do not contain any chicken by-product meal, corn, soy, or wheat but also no artificial flavors or colors.  

Flavors:  The type I recommend for your older pup is the Chicken, Lamb, and Salmon – Senior. Other flavors they have, which are not explicitly made with senior dogs in mind, are:

  • Turkey
  • Chicken, Lamb, & Salmon
  • Chick & Salmon with Carrots
  • Chicken & Salmon with Spinach 

Cons:  This brand used to come in larger cans, making it much easier to stock up enough if you were feeding larger dogs. I have not been able to find that they still sell the cans at all, so if you have a dog that is 50+ pounds, you may want to order more at a time.  

While researching, I saw a few complaints stating that some people received a “bad batch” of the food. After reading these, my firm belief is that 99%+ of the time it is due to lousy shipping or how it was stored at the place you order it from – not the manufacturer itself. If it looks a bit dry or has a funky smell, contact where you ordered it from to get it replaced or refunded.  

#5 Canned Dog Food

canned dog food in a bowl

If you need softer food for your senior dog that is missing teeth, another option to consider is canned dog food. I think canned food works well for small dogs, but stocking and keeping enough canned food alone for a larger dog could require extra planning. No matter which brand you choose to go with, remember to do your research. With dog food, you very much get what you pay for.  

As always, when switching your dog’s food, be sure to watch and see how your dog manages while on it. Not just if they will eat it or not, but also if they have any adverse reactions to it afterward. For canned food, I would recommend looking at ones from Purina first. As far as major dog food companies go, they tend to put way more research and testing into their products than any others I have seen.  

Purina ONE SmartBlend True Instinct is one option they have that fits the bill of being soft, and a healthy choice for your dog. If you want to make it stretch farther, you can put about 1/4 – 1/3 of the normal amount of kibble in your dog’s bowl, then add water and let it sit to soften the kibble up (making sure to add enough to soften the food, not float it!). Then you can add the canned food for the remaining 2/3 – 3/4 of the portion. Make sure you are not overfeeding your dog by doing this, you want it to be about the same amount of food ultimately. If the canned food is higher in fat and calories than the kibble your dog has been on, you may want to cut the amount of food back. Being overweight is not good for any dog, but it’s even more important for older dogs not to be.  

Final Thoughts

Your dog getting older is something that cannot be avoided, and smaller dogs are generally more prone to having dental problems than larger breeds. While you may not have much control over those teeth issues (other than regular dental care), you do have control over the quality of the food and nutrients they get from it. Hopefully, I have shown you some viable options for your senior dog that is missing teeth, to be able to live out their golden years as healthy and happy as possible!

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I think animals are amazing, I couldn't imagine life without them.