My 10 Year Old Yorkie Dog’s Tooth Is Hanging By a Thread!

“Is it normal for my 10 year old Yorkie to lose her teeth? I just noticed one of her teeth on the left side of her mouth is literally hanging by a thread. It is not bleeding but it seems like it is annoying her. Should I pull it out?”

-Diana D. 

Dear Diana,

Thanks for sending in your question. Your dog’s situation is all too common and the answers to your question are sort of complicated. 

Since I’m not able to examine your pup, I will give you some general answers and advice. You need to have a veterinarian take a look at her to assess the situation and tell you the best treatment. 

Is It Normal for a 10-Year-Old Yorkie to Lose Teeth?

It is not normal for an adult dog over six months of age to lose a permanent tooth. Dogs with healthy teeth are not expected to lose any teeth at all even when they’re 15+ years old. Even though it’s not normal, tooth loss is a common problem in certain dog breeds including Yorkies, Shih Tzus and Toy Poodles. 

Why Do Yorkies (and Other Small Dogs) Have Bad Teeth?

Miniature and toy breed dogs have been popular pets for many years. Their small size makes them easy companions for people living in smaller homes.

The American Kennel Club has an entire grouping of toy breed dogs that includes 23 different breeds. Some of the most popular toy breed dogs are the Chihuahua, Maltese, Toy Poodle, Pug, Shih Tzu and Yorkshire Terrier.  

10 year old Yorkie dogs tooth hanging by a thread

These little guys are notorious for having their first dental problem at a young age. Yorkie puppies may have misaligned teeth, unerupted permanent teeth and baby teeth that don’t fall out of their mouth even after adult teeth erupt. 

But why do toy breed dogs have more dental problems than larger dogs? The process of breeding for smaller and smaller animals has concentrated some undesirable traits in toy breed dogs like Yorkies. 

It’s possible that there is an association between genes for small body size and dental problems like crowding, retained baby teeth, etc. In fact, a 2020 study showed an association between small body-size genes and a particular dental abnormality (lance tooth) in Shetland Sheepdogs. (1)

Many adult Yorkies have tooth crowding above or below the gum line that increases the risk of gum disease (periodontal disease). The best thing you can do to keep your toy breed dog’s mouth healthy is to have dental abnormalities treated at a young age. 

Your regular vet might be able to perform a tooth extraction to prevent crowding. But it might require trips to a veterinary dental specialist for treatment of more complex problems.

Should I Pull My Dog’s Tooth That’s Hanging By a Thread?

It’s not a good idea to try to pull a dog’s loose tooth at home. You might be surprised by how much tissue is still attached to the tooth even if it appears to be “hanging by a thread.”

Even when dogs are under anesthesia, tooth extraction can be extremely difficult. And significant bleeding can occur when the tooth comes free. It could make a big mess and could even be dangerous to your dog’s health. You don’t want to deal with that at home!

toy poodle under a blanket
My face is super cute but inside my mouth is a different story!

What to Do If Your Dog Has a Loose Tooth

Whether your dog has a wobbly, loose tooth or you’ve noticed one of his adult teeth “hanging by a thread,” you should not attempt to push it back in, wiggle it or manipulate it in any way. You could cause more problems and it could be uncomfortable for your dog. 

Unless there is significant bleeding or your dog seems to be in distress, most loose teeth are not an emergency situation. Call your vet clinic as soon as possible to make an appointment for an exam. 

Be prepared for the recommendation for an anesthetized dental exam. Yes, your dog will need to be anesthetized in order for your vet to understand the extent of the problem. They’ll probably want to take x-rays to look for infection and bone loss below the gumline. 

If you’re worried about the safety of anesthesia, talk to your vet about your concerns. Veterinary anesthesia has come a long way in the last 20 years and the risk level is lower than ever. If your dog has pre-existing health problems that make her fragile, your vet may refer you to a dental specialist.

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How to Deal with Chronic Dog Dental Problems

The most important steps to helping your toy breed dog with dental problems:

  1. Treat dental abnormalities like retained baby teeth early
  2. Brush their teeth DAILY
  3. Have your veterinarian examine the teeth every 3-6 months 

I bet you already knew I was going to say this… Daily tooth brushing is the best way to prevent the progression of chronic dental problems in dogs. 

Daily tooth brushing should be considered part of necessary grooming. It’s not enough to brush once a week, once a month or a few times a year when they go to the groomer. 

I won’t deny that most dogs don’t love to have their teeth brushed at first, but hey, they probably didn’t love it when you insisted that they poop outside, either! They’ll learn to tolerate it as a requirement of living in a nice cushy home with humans who love them.

The harder obstacle to overcome is convincing humans that tooth brushing is extremely important for all dogs. For toy breed dogs, it becomes a life-saving measure. 

Place your pup’s tooth brushing equipment in a closed container in your bathroom so you see it each night when you brush your own teeth. Get into the habit of brushing your dog’s teeth before you go to bed each night.

I recommend using an electric toothbrush but it does take time to train your dog to accept it. You can find some great advice on how to do it in this video from “Watson the Warrior” YouTube channel…  

YouTube player

Summary

It is common but not normal for older dogs to lose teeth. Toy breed dogs are genetically prone to dental abnormalities that make them more likely to develop periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is the biggest cause of tooth loss in adult dogs. 

Don’t attempt to pull your dog’s tooth at home even if it looks like it would pop right out! You could cause more damage, pain and bleeding. Contact your vet and make an appointment for an examination to have the tooth removed safely and to address the underlying disease.

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References

  1. Abrams, S. R., Hawks, A. L., Evans, J. M., Famula, T. R., Mahaffey, M., Johnson, G. S., … & Clark, L. A. (2020). Variants in FtsJ RNA 2′-O-Methyltransferase 3 and Growth Hormone 1 are associated with small body size and a dental anomaly in dogs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(40), 24929-24935.

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