Why Is My Dog Having Trouble Chewing?
Does your dog just sniff his food and turn away without eating any of the hard, dry kibbles in his food bowl? Or does your pet seem to have trouble chewing his food? If your dog is off his feed or is exhibiting changes in his appetite and eating habits, you should try to find out what’s causing your pet’s behavior. Appetite loss can be a red flag signifying a variety of medical and non-health issues that may warrant prompt veterinary attention. Maybe your dog is just bored eating the same kibble for quite a long time, or he could be suffering from digestive problems, tooth and gum issues, or other illnesses. Whatever may be the reason, you should seek the help of your vet in identifying what’s causing your dog’s problem so it can be properly addressed at the soonest possible time.
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Tooth and Gum Problems
Dental disease is one of the top reasons why dogs have trouble chewing their food and eventually go off food. Tooth and gum problems are quite common, especially in senior dogs and small canine breeds. Inflamed gums, loose teeth, and other issues affecting the mouth and associated structures may cause affected dogs to eat slowly or not at all. The dog may frequently drop his food while eating or chew on only one side of his mouth. If your dog has unusually bad breath, plaque and tartar buildup on his teeth, and/or inflamed and bleeding gums, he may have periodontal disease that should be brought to the attention of your vet.
Oftentimes, it can be hard to tell that your dog is suffering from pain and/or discomfort because they try their best to conceal tell-tale signs that show their vulnerability. It’s a trait they have gotten from their ancestors. Also, dogs are unable to voice their discomfort as humans do.
Check Your Dog’s Mouth
If you notice your dog has trouble chewing, check his mouth for any signs indicating the presence of a problem, such as swelling and/or inflammation of structures in the mouth including the gums, fractured or missing teeth, bleeding gums, and other abnormalities.
Regardless of whether your pet has a mouth problem or not, regular checking of his mouth should be done. These are opportunities to spot signs of early dental problems that should be brought to your vet’s attention.
Symptoms of Tooth and Mouth Pain in Dogs
Tooth pain in dogs can develop for several reasons - inflamed or swollen gums, a broken and infected tooth, tooth decay, and plaque and tartar buildup are just some of the most common causes.
Tooth pain can be the culprit of your dog’s chewing troubles if you notice the following symptoms:
1. Unusual Drooling
Drooling normally happens when dogs chew on treats or toys. But when there is tooth pain, drooling becomes more frequent than usual. The pain or injury in the mouth causes the salivary glands to work overtime, thus the increased salivation.
In some cases, the saliva may be tinged with blood. When this happens, you should take your dog to the vet immediately because the underlying problem may be more serious and complicated.
2. Bad Breath
Bad breath (halitosis) is significantly different from the so-called ‘doggie breath’. Halitosis is stronger, more foul-smelling, and it won’t go away even when you brush your dog’s teeth. It can be a sign of tooth decay or an infection in the gums or other structures in the mouth, either of which can cause tooth pain.
3. Appetite Loss
A dog with tooth pain may not eat as much as he usually does because chewing hurts. You may notice your dog starting to eat and suddenly stopping. He may whine or food may fall out while eating.
Loss of appetite can be a symptom of various medical problems, so regardless of whether or not the cause of your dog’s appetite loss is tooth pain, a sudden change in your pet’s appetite and/or eating habits should warrant a visit to your vet immediately.
4. Chewing on One Side of the Mouth
A dog with tooth pain will try to chew on the side of the mouth that’s not painful. If food suddenly touches the painful side, he may suddenly drop the food.
5. Sudden Shyness
If your dog loves to be petted but suddenly shies away from you when you start to pat his head, tooth pain may be causing him to behave this way. He doesn’t want anyone to touch his head for fear that it will trigger or increase the pain that he’s feeling.
Senior Dogs Can Have Trouble Chewing
As dogs get older, they become more prone to age-related issues. One of these is dental conditions that cause them to have more sensitive teeth and gums. This can make chewing hard, dry pet food more difficult and even uncomfortable. Try switching your senior pet to a soft food diet (canned pet food) to ensure oral comfort when eating. Just be sure that you are giving pet food that is appropriate for your pet’s life stage.
Take note, however, that if your senior pet is suffering from gingivitis or other dental issues, switching to a soft diet won’t be the remedy to your pet’s problem. You should make an appointment with your vet so your pet can undergo a thorough exam and the appropriate measures can be taken to address any problems that may be affecting your dog’s appetite or his ability to chew.
Pet Food Quality
Your dog’s hesitance to eat and chew his food may also be caused by poor quality pet food. The quality of kibble starts to decline a few weeks after you open the bag of pet food. Buying kibble in smaller bags or transferring pet food to an airtight container can help preserve the quality.
Sometimes, your dog is just bored of his food or just doesn’t like it at all. Try introducing a new type of pet food or reverting back to the old one if you have recently switched to a new type or brand.
Masticatory Muscle Myositis
Masticatory muscle myositis (MMM) can also be a potential reason for chewing problems in dogs. It’s an immune disorder that is characterized by the failure of the dog’s immune system to recognize its own muscle tissue, thus attacking it.
The masticatory muscles are involved with chewing. Affected dogs suffer from excruciating pain when opening their mouths. They are unable to eat, chew, or use their mouth to play with their toys.
Some dog breeds are predisposed to autoimmune-mediated conditions, including MMM. Although the cause of MMM has not been established, experts believe it can be triggered by bacterial and/or viral infections, stress, vaccination reactions, allergies, adverse reaction to certain medications, and environmental toxin exposure.
While MMM can develop in dogs of any age, gender, or breed, several dog breeds have been identified to be more likely to develop MMM. These breeds include German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Weimaraners.
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