German Shepherd Teeth: Brushing, Care, & Cleaning Guide


German Shepherd looking at toothbrush

Most dog owners have no idea how important dental health is for dogs. That explains why, according to PetMD, over 80% of dogs have significant dental health problems. German shepherds, unfortunately, are even more prone to dental problems than other dogs! 

Diet plays an important role when it comes to your German Shepherd’s dental health. Feed your dog only dry, crunchy food, and supplement with size-specific dental snacks. Your dog’s teeth should also be brushed at least twice per week and should be professionally cleaned once a year. 

Many of you were probably taken aback by some of the this information since most of us do not know how important it is to keep your dog’s teeth healthy. But trust us – your dog’s dental health is very important!

In this article, we’ll inform you about the risks of poor canine dental health and provide you with tips on how to keep your German Shepherd’s teeth in ship shape. 

What Should My German Shepherd’s Mouth Look Like?

It is important to know what a healthy German Shepherd’s mouth looks like so it is easier to tell when something is not as it should be.

A German Shepherd’s gums should be bubblegum-pink in color. When pressed with a finger, they should turn pale pink before returning to the original color within about 2 or 3 seconds. 

If your German shepherd’s gums look a bit red, that is a sign of gingivitis. Gingivitis is inflammation of the gingiva, which is the gum at the base of the teeth.

BRIGHT RED GUMS SIGNIFY THAT YOUR DOG HAS BEEN EXPOSED TO TOXINS OR IS SUFFERING FROM HEATSTROKE.

YELLOW GUMS CAN EITHER BE CAUSED BY JAUNDICE, WHICH SUGGESTS THAT YOUR DOG MAY BE SUFFERING FROM LIVER DISEASE, OR LEPTOSPIROSIS, A BACTERIAL INFECTION THAT CAN BE PASSED TO HUMANS.

If your dog’s gums are any of these colors, it is a good idea to take her to the vet to have them checked out.

An adult German shepherd normally has 42 teeth. Like humans, if a German Shepherd’s teeth are clean and healthy, they should be white and free from a plaque or dark spots of tartar. S

o long as the teeth are white, you know you are doing a good job keeping them clean. It is that simple! 

Teeth that are purple, yellow, grey, or brown are extremely likely to be either infected or dead.

If your German Shepherd’s teeth are discolored, you should immediately take them to the vet since this can be a sign of serious underlying problems. 

How Susceptible Are German Shepherds to Dental Disease?

Unfortunately, German Shepherds are more likely than many other breeds to develop dental diseases like periodontal disease.

In fact, German Shepherds are more commonly affected by dental cavities than any other breed of dog! That makes it all the more important to keep on top of their dental care.

As we will discover in the next section, poor dental health can be very dangerous for your dog! 

What Are the Dangers of Poor Dental Health in Dogs? 

Poor dental health can be hazardous for dogs in several different ways. Just how dangerous it can be will likely come as a shock to many dog owners.

Poor dental health can cut 1 to 3 years off a German Shepherd’s life!

Related: How Long Do German Shepherds Live? A Detailed Guide

The prognosis can be even worse if your dog develops dental disease while he is still young.

Here are a few conditions and diseases related to poor dental health that can cause your dog to become sick: 

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is the most common infection in adult dogs. Around 87% of dogs over three years of age suffer from this gum infection.

Periodontal disease is a cyclical, inflammatory disease of the periodontium, which are the tissues that surround and support the teeth.

The rate of periodontal disease in dogs is about five times higher than in humans! One reason for this is that dogs’ mouths are less acidic than humans’ mouths, so they do not break down plaque as quickly. 

In both dogs and humans, eating food causes plaque to build up, containing plenty of bacteria. These bacteria can trigger the body’s immune response, which causes inflammation of the gums and support structures of the teeth.

Unfortunately, there are often no symptoms at all until the periodontal disease is very advanced. This is why it is vital to keep plaque at bay. Your dog could be in serious pain, and you would have no way to know.

Heart Disease

Yes, that’s right – the bacteria which build up in your dog’s mouth can end up having a serious effect on their heart health!

Studies have found that the risk of endocarditis (an infection of the lining of the heart) is up to 6 times higher in dogs with advanced periodontal disease than in dogs without it.

Endocarditis is potentially fatal, so this by itself is a great reason to keep your dog’s teeth healthy. 

While the cause-and-effect relationship between dental health and heart health in dogs is yet to be proved, the correlation is robust.

Plus, the bacteria found in dogs’ hearts with endocarditis was often identical to the bacteria found in the same dogs’ gums, suggesting that these bacteria may have migrated through the bloodstream to the heart.

This would explain the high correlation between heart infection and poor dental health. 

Diabetes

This is another surprising one. Inflammation and infection in your German Shepherd’s mouth can decrease the body’s sensitivity to insulin, regulating blood sugar.

Diabetic dogs are also more susceptible to dental disease since high blood sugar can negatively affect the immune system. Dental disease can also be more severe in diabetic dogs. 

It is often unclear which came first; diabetes or the infection. However, what is clear is that each one makes the other worse in a feedback loop. You cannot treat diabetes properly until the gum disease is sorted out and vice versa.

Another issue is that dental surgery kills the appetite, which is a much bigger problem for diabetic dogs. This in itself can lead to other health issues.

Related: Why is my German Shepherd Puppy so Skinny?

Jaw Fracture

This is a rare one, but it is still worth mentioning. Sometimes, poor dental health can cause a dog’s jaw to become severely weakened.

This can lead to the jaw fracturing from something as small as jumping down off the couch in rare cases. While this is not particularly common, a jaw fracture can be severe, so it is yet another reason to ensure that your dog’s teeth are in good condition. 

Fortunately, this problem is more common in smaller breeds, so it is less likely to affect your German Shepherd. That said, jaw fractures can occur in any dog with dental disease, so it is good to keep an eye out for it.

Symptoms of jaw fracture include:

  • swelling
  • drooling
  • pain in the jaw
  • whining

If your dog shows these symptoms, it is important to take her to the vet as soon as possible. 

How to Care for Your German Shepherd’s Teeth

German Shepherd teeth close-up

Ok, now that we know how important it is to take good care of your dog’s teeth, let’s get into the particulars of how best to do it.

Some of these measures may seem extreme to some German Shepherd owners, but given how dangerous poor dental health can be, it is hard to place too much emphasis on it!

Here are some ways to keep your Shepherd’s teeth healthy:

Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth Is Necessary

This is perhaps the most important measure you can take to maintain teeth and gum health in dogs and humans alike. Some people might think it is silly to brush a dog’s teeth, but it does make a huge difference to their general health and lifespan.

It is best to brush your German Shepherd’s teeth from a young age since many of these dogs do not appreciate their teeth being touched. This gives them an opportunity to become acclimated to your doing so.

A little bit of bleeding during brushing is ok, but if it is heavy or ongoing, you might be brushing too hard. However, if your German Shepherd already has serious gum disease, then you need to reassess the situation.

If bleeding is occurring even during gentle brushing, then it is important to take your dog to the vet and have her gums checked. It is always better to be safe than sorry! 

When it comes to how often your German Shepherd’s teeth should be brushed, it is a matter of the more, the better. Ideally, you would brush your German shepherd’s teeth every day.

Short of that, two or three times per week will also make a massive difference to your dog’s health. It’s worth noting that just because your dog’s teeth get brushed doesn’t mean that they don’t need professional dental care also.

Try to have your dog’s teeth looked at once a year by a vet. As we humans experience, even with regular brushing we can still sometimes be surprised by cavities and other dental issues that our dentists may uncover – your dog is no different.

Use Proper Dental Care Equipment On Your German Shepherd

It is best to use a toothbrush made specifically for dogs since they have softer bristles and are angled in such a way as to be ideal for getting at a dog’s teeth.

It is also important to ensure that you use special edible dog toothpaste. Your dog does not know he they shouldn’t swallow the toothpaste, and human toothpaste can be toxic to dogs and upset their stomachs. 

When it comes to choosing which toothbrush to buy, you do not need anything too fancy. The Vet’s Best Dog Toothbrush and Enzymatic Toothpaste Set, for example, is simple and cheap, but still very effective.

You can also get brushes that slip onto the end of your finger for better brush control. What option you choose will depend on how comfortable your dog is with the overall process of tooth brushing. We do, however, prefer brushes, as the bristles reach areas that a finger cover cannot.

There are also tons of options for dog toothpaste! This C.E.T. Enzymatic Toothpaste, available on Amazon, is vet-approved and a great choice.

Again, and this bears repeating, never use human toothpaste on your dog. This is because human toothpaste contains xylitol, a chemical that can be toxic to dogs!

If in doubt, ask your vet which toothpaste they consider to be the best. 

How to Brush a German Shepherd’s Teeth

A good way to get your German Shepherd used to the idea of having their teeth brushed is to ease them in slowly.

First, try gently lifting their lips to expose their teeth. Wait a day or two, then try lifting the lips and gently touching the teeth. Slowly build up how many contacts you have with the dog’s teeth until they are comfortable with having a toothbrush in their mouth.

Follow these steps to properly brush your German Shepherd’s teeth:

  1. Ensure your dog is feeling relaxed and comfortable before you begin, as this will make it easier to get inside their mouth without freaking them out. 
  2. Kneel down in front of your dog, making sure you are at their level. If you loom over the dog or try to hold them down, they can become agitated and resist brushing. 
  3. Allow your German Shepherd to lick some toothpaste off your finger. This will allow them to get used to the flavor and texture of the toothpaste. 
  4. You can now start using the toothbrush with the toothpaste. Start off brushing very gently. It is best to brush in a circular motion, but back and forth is also fine if your dog is uncomfortable with circular brushing.  
  5. Focus on areas with visible plaque or tartar. It is more important to brush the outside of the teeth since the coarse tongue keeps the inside somewhat clean. 
  6. Always end by giving them a treat. This positive reinforcement creates a connection in the dog’s mind between the brushing and the good experience of having a treat.

Read on to find out which treats are best to maintain your dog’s dental health!

The Best Food and Snacks for Dental Health

Besides regular brushing, what a German Shepherd eats will also have a huge impact on their dental health. As a general rule, dry food is better for your dog’s teeth since it wears away some of the plaque and tartar as the dog eats.

Before being domesticated, dogs used to eat a lot of their food off of hard bones, which would have helped keep their teeth clean. Dry food simulates this by having a hard surface to rub against the teeth.

What Food Is Best for Your German Shepherd’s Teeth?

When it comes to which dog food you should buy, it is a matter of quality. High-quality dog food is less likely to contain ingredients like grains and meals which stick to the dog’s teeth.

It is important that you do not skimp on paying for quality dog food for your German Shepherd. The old saying “you are what you eat” applies just the same to you as it does to your dog!

Royal Canin is a brand that we’ve used time and again, and we don’t hesitate one bit to recommend it to other German Shepherd owners.

As previously mentioned, dry food should be the primary source of food for your German Shepherd. Wet tinned food is ok as a treat now and then, but it should not be given every day as a major part of your dog’s diet. 

For more information about feeding your German Shepherd, be sure to check out our GSD feeding guide. It literally contains all you need to know on this topic, and is the best resource on the internet for this. See for yourself!

Which Treats Should I Give My Dog to Help Her Teeth? 

Rawhide is a great treat for cleaning your dog’s teeth. Rawhide is the inner layer of a cow or horse’s hide and is sometimes also flavored with beef or chicken.

However, rawhide can cause digestive irritation in some dogs who have a mild allergy. If your dog has diarrhea after chewing on rawhide, it may have an intolerance.

There is also a minimal risk of contamination with salmonella or E. coli bacteria, but this is extremely rare. 

There are plenty of options out there for treats that are specifically designed to improve dental health. Perhaps the best-known is Pedigree Dentastix, but there are hundreds of other brands that make great products.

So long as the treats are designed for dental health and are hard and chewy, then they should make a big difference to your dog’s teeth! 

However, if you are unsure, the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) publishes a list of accepted brands and products that are safe and positively affect the dental health of dogs.

The full list of treats that have been approved for dogs can be accessed right here.

What to Do If Your Dog Has Dental Problems

If your dog shows symptoms of any of the dental problems described in this article, it is a good idea to take them to the vet to have them checked professionally.

That is because dental disease can be extremely serious if left untreated. It is often tough to tell if your dog is suffering from chronic pain or a severe infection.

Your German Shepherd may well be fine, but when it comes to man’s best friend, it is always better to be safe than sorry! 

Final Thoughts

We hope that this article has shown you the importance of proper dental care for your German Shepherd.

Many dog owners are unaware of the dangers posed by dental problems like periodontal disease, which is why such a high proportion of dogs suffer from them! 

These problems are all avoidable, and many are reversible too! By brushing your German shepherd’s teeth at least twice a week and ensuring that their diet is tooth-friendly, you can prevent your dog from developing many different serious health problems. 

Good luck keeping your German shepherd healthy and happy! 

Hunter Reed

I've owned and trained German Shepherds for over 20 years now. While I've lived in many different places and traveled extensively - the places change, my dogs don't. German Shepherds have been my constant companions. I love every aspect of training them and simply just having them around. I also enjoy sharing my knowledge about German Shepherds with the world, and I encourage all future dog owners to consider one as a companion as well. Read my story here.

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