Taking Care of Your Shih Tzu’s Teeth and Gums

Years ago most veterinarians did not realize how important it was to care for your dog’s teeth and gums because they only concentrated on other medical conditions in a dog. But now most vets agree that maintaining healthy teeth and gums in your dog is very important to their overall health. If your dog were to have problems with their teeth or gums it may affect their ability to eat different types of food. If the problems are severe enough, it may make their gums swell or bleed. It may also cause their teeth to fall out.

Because it is now known to be an important part of your Shih Tzu’s overall health most vets will make a dental examination part of your dog’s annual check-up. Your veterinarian can advise you on ways to help your dog’s teeth or gums if they detect a problem. It is important that you take your Shih Tzu every year to the vet for a complete checkup because this will ensure that your dog is healthy and help you detect and stop any potential health problems.

Tooth and Gum Disease

There are two main diseases that you want to prevent your dog against and they are periodontitis and gingivitis. Periodontitis is caused by plaque and food being left on the teeth and causes a mixture of bacteria on the teeth. This produces a white film on the teeth and can permanently damage your Shih Tzu’s teeth. Gingivitis is caused by inflammation of the gums and can cause your dog’s gums to swell or bleed. If these diseases becomes severe enough, your dog may start to lose some of his teeth.

You should be especially concerned about your Shih Tzu’s teeth and gums if you bought your dog from the pound or another owner who may not have been concerned about your dog’s dental care. There are some signs you can look for in your dog’s mouth to see if a potential problem exists. You should look for bumps or sores that can be found on your dog’s gums. Also, if your dog’s gums bleed when you touch them or they seem to hurt when touched, there may be a problem. If your dog’s teeth have a yellow crust formed on them or if you dog is starting to have some teeth fall out, this could be a big problem. Another possible sign of problems with your dog’s teeth and gums is if they start having difficulty eating their regular food.

Get Your Dog Used to Brushing

If you do not currently brush your Shih Tzu’s teeth, it is never too late to begin but you will have to train your dog to get used to the idea of having your hands in their mouth. You do not want to go right out and buy a doggie toothbrush and start brushing because you dog may end up biting you. You should start by getting them used to having your fingers around their mouth. Every day you should set some time aside to try to work with your dog. You can start by rubbing your finger on the outside of your dog’s mouth in a brushing motion. Be patient with you dog and do not push him too much because you will not want him to be scared.

After your dog is comfortable with your hands on the outside, you can begin to move them to the inside and gently rub the dog’s teeth with your fingers. Be sure to work slowly and to take your time until they are comfortable with this process. It may take quite a few weeks until your dog is comfortable enough for you to brush his teeth.

Brushing Their Teeth

Once your Shih Tzu is comfortable you can start brushing their teeth. You will want to use toothpaste especially designed for dogs. Do not use toothpaste meant for humans because this type of toothpaste is meant to be used and then spat out but dogs do not have the capacity to spit the toothpaste out. You should first start by using a finger brush that can be purchased at any pet store. You simply put the finger brush over your finger and then put the toothpaste on the finger brush. You can then use this brush to work in a brushing motion and brush your dog’s teeth.

After a while, you can start using a doggie toothbrush to brush your dog’s teeth. With a doggie toothbrush, you can put the toothpaste right on the toothbrush and brush it in a similar fashion to how you would brush your own teeth. You will want to thoroughly brush his teeth and gums and be sure to brush both sides of the teeth. You should brush your dog’s teeth at least once a day and preferably sometime during the day after they have eaten.

Regular Check Ups

To keep a close eye on your dog’s dental care, you will want to have his teeth and gums examined once every year by a dentist who specializes in dental care for dogs. They should be able to perform a complete examination of both your dog’s teeth and gums. Your vet should be trained on how to detect gum disease early so that you have a better chance of fighting it. If your vet suspects gum disease they may prescribe special medication to help your dog fight the disease. Be sure to follow any prescriptions exactly as directed.

Depending on your vet’s experience in dental care for your dog, he may want to scrap the plaque and build up off of your dog’s teeth. This is a great precautionary measure because it will help prevent bacteria from growing on your dog’s teeth and gums. Your vet will also be up-to-date on any new methods or techniques that are being used to help protect your dog’s teeth and gums. The best way to fight gum disease is to prevent it from occurring in the first place and your bet would be your number one source in helping you prevent this.

Other Advice

To better protect your dog’s teeth most vets agree that hard bones, toys or cow hoofs should not be given to your Shih Tzu to chew on because their teeth are not strong enough to handle this. Softer foods and toys that will not damage your dog’s teeth are a better solution. This will help to protect the teeth from chipping or breaking.

You can also purchase other dental care products for your dog to help keep their teeth healthy. You can purchase mouthwash geared specifically toward dogs. This can be a good product to help fight against both types of gum disease. Although your vet will do an annual checkup on your Shih Tzu’s teeth, you will want to perform a regular examination of your dog’s mouth. At least once a month would be good. If you notice any of the danger signs listed above you should immediately make an appointment with your vet to have your dog given a complete dental examination. This will go a long way to help take care of your Shih Tzu’s teeth and gums.


  1. excellent, very useful

  2. Just so happens that I was searching for info on a problem I am having with my shih tzu's gum's, I clicked on this website and am so glad that I did! Very helpful!

  3. Thanks so much. I wish I read this years ago. This is NOT my first dog but I have NEVER brushed my dog's teeth. My Shi-Tzu has two bottom front teeth that are quite loose. 🙁

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