What Causes Stained Teeth in Pets?

I adopted a 6month old dog from the shelter & his teeth are brown, pitted, stained. My Vet says it is from over-use of antibiotics....but,...


I adopted a 6month old dog from the shelter & his teeth are brown, pitted, stained. My Vet says it is from over-use of antibiotics….but, this dog was found on the street at 5 months of age. What else could it be & what is the best procedure to care for these teeth?

Ojai, CA

An antibiotic called tetracycline is notorious for causing discolored teeth if it is administered during infancy or pregnancy. However, many things besides antibiotics can cause the sorts of issues you describe.

The teeth develop rapidly and they are sensitive to a variety of insults in unborn and newly born puppies. With your dog’s background, I would consider chronic malnutrition to be a likely cause of the problem. Malnutrition of the mother during pregnancy is a possible culprit. Certain viral infections in pregnant dogs can cause tooth irregularities in the puppies. Your dog’s irregular teeth also could be the result of a genetic anomaly.

Harsh or corrosive chemicals can lead to severe dental problems if introduced into the oral cavity. It also is possible that your dog traumatized his teeth while caged at the shelter–some dogs respond to confinement by chewing relentlessly on the metal cage.

You should ask your vet whether the damaged teeth are baby teeth or permanent ones. Dogs, like humans, have two sets of teeth. The permanent teeth typically erupt at 5 – 7 months of age. If you are seeing problems with the baby teeth it is not a foregone conclusion that the permanent teeth will be imperfect.

Either way, it sounds unlikely that the issues you describe will seriously compromise your dog’s well-being or quality of life. I recommend that you brush your dog’s teeth daily (I recommend that for all pets). Monitor the gums for signs of inflammation or pain. As long as the gums are healthy, most dogs with malformed teeth do just fine.

Photo: Coco‘s mom looks after her teeth.

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