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Shih Tzu - Teeth and Dental Care


It is amazing how even just 20 years ago, even veterinarians did not understand the important need of dog dental care.

There was an old wives's tale that a dog kept their teeth clean by chewing on bones and this was sufficient; sadly and inevitably this led to countless dogs dying from decay that festered for years; the dogs eventually succumbing from infection that started in the mouth and traveled throughout the body; their owners never knowing.

Their pet would pass away and they were not aware it was because of improper grooming. As a dog grew older and began to eat less, an owner would assume that their dog ate less because they were entering their senior years.
healthy Shih Tzu
How unfortunate that many of those Shih Tzu were actually having difficulty eating because of tooth issues; and unable to give this message to their human family members.

Thankfully, today we now know that taking care of Shih Tzu dental needs is just as important as any other element of care. Your Shih Tzu needs you to brush his teeth just about as often as you brush your own. Understanding the importance of this can save your dog possible excruciating pain and eventual death from infections.

What Dental Care will Help Prevent

If a Shih Tzu does not receive proper dental care, many issues will occur.

Just as with human teeth, uncleaned or improperly cleaned teeth a series of events will happen:
  • The tooth will begin to get a growth of plaque and tarter.
  • Deep gum disease will form because of this.
  • The gums and bones will then be affected; teeth will become loose, roots will become exposed and extreme pain will set it.
  • The puppy or dog may have chronic bad breath issues.

Warning Signs

There will be many varying circumstances in which you may have a Shih Tzu that is in need of emergency professional dental care:
  • You may have adopted a Shih Tzu from a shelter that could not afford to properly take care of dog dental needs
  • You may be purchased your dog from less-than diligent owners who did not perform cleanings
  • You may have not realized the consequences and seriousness of dental cleaning for your Shih Tzu
If this is the case, you will want to immediately look for certain warning signs that your dog needs urgent care:
  • There are bumps or sores on the gums
  • The gums bleed when you touch them
  • You notice loose teeth
  • Your Shih Tzu seems to have a difficult time eating and appears to have pain
  • You can cleanly see yellow crust that has formed on the teeth of your dog

At Home Dental Care

If you have not yet begun regular dental care cleanings or if you have a Shih Tzu puppy, you usually need to begin will small steps to allow your dog to become used to having their teeth brushed and taken care of. There are several methods to provide the proper care; however they do all involve touching your Shih Tzu's teeth; this may take some adjustment time for your dog.

Is it Too Late to Start?

If you have not performed regular dental care grooming, it is never too late to begin. However, plaque and tarter can form very quickly. If you have had your Shih Tzu for a while and are now just going to begin dental care yourself, you must first have a veterinarian scrap your dog's teeth to remove the plaque and tarter. It is vital to have a professional do this, as these elements will build up under the gum line; no matter how much brushing you do, you will not be able to reach it or remove it from your Shih Tzu's mouth. Most vets will use gentle anesthesia to do the proper cleaning.


You can help you dog become acclimated to having their teeth touched by first simply touching their mouth. Sitting in front of your dog, choose a command word to say such as "Teeth" and then gently rub your fingers along their mouth and their teeth. If they remain still, give reward with happy praise. If may take several weeks to increase the amount of time that your Shih Tzu will sit still, allowing you to touch their teeth; however once you bring them to this point dental care will become so much easier.   
Working Your Way Up

Having the right supplies is important; you'll want to put a bit of time into choosing the best toothpaste and toothbrush for your Shih Tzu. Be sure to use canine toothpaste. Using human toothpaste can be less than effective at best and poisonous at worst. Once your dog is trained to sit still while you touch their teeth, you can then add some canine tooth paste onto your finger and rub it on their teeth. This will allow your Shih Tzu to become used to the taste and feel of the paste.

The next step will be to raise the level of cleaning by using a finger brush; this can be found at quality dog supply stores or online stores. Add some of the dog toothpaste onto the brush and run it over all of your Shih Tzu's teeth.

The final step will be to use a high quality dog tooth brush and give your Shih Tzu a complete and thorough cleaning. This should be done once per day. Generally any type of grooming works best if you set up a certain time of the day to perform it. This breed is very intelligent; they will be accustomed to this daily burst of flavor in their mouth! 

In addition to the daily brushing, there are dental rinses that can be added to your dog's water that will help as well. Keep in mind, your goal is not to address cavities; dogs rarely will have a cavity. It is the plaque and tarter that will do the damage.

Taking care of your Shih Tzu's teeth will allow your dog to live longer and enjoy their senior years, eliminating the possibility of painful and deadly infections. 

Professional Checkups

No matter which stage you are in regarding the dental care, you must schedule once-per-year dental checkups and cleanings with your trusted veterinarian. Good and proper care will be a combination of both the cleaning at the vet and the daily cleanings at home.
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