Puppy Dental Problems
Is Your Puppy's Bite Worse than its Bark?
While it is rare for young puppies to have problems with their teeth, there are a few issues that you need to be aware of that can impact your puppies dental health.
Retained deciduous teeth
Puppies, like human babies, are born without teeth and at 3-4 weeks of age they grow their baby or deciduous teeth. Puppies have 28 deciduous teeth which usually fall out during 'teething' when they are 3 - 6 months of age. Some puppies, however, don't lose all their baby teeth when their adult teeth come through. This is most common in small breed pups particularly brachycephalic (short nosed) breeds.The incisors (the teeth at the front of the mouth) and the canines ("eye teeth") are the most likely ones to be retained.
Retained deciduous teeth cause problems because food gets trapped between them, the permanent teeth and the gums which leads to dental disease. They can also cause misaligned (crooked) teeth and discomfort.
Removing retained deciduous teeth is usually a simple procedure and this is routinely done when your dog is being desexed under the same anaesthetic.
Malocclusion means abnormal alignment of the teeth. This can occur due to the length of the jaw being abnormal - this is called skeletal (bone) malocclusion. If the upper and lower jaws are normal in length but there are one or more teeth not sitting in the correct position, this is called a dental malocclusion or malposition.
Brachycephalic (short nosed) breeds like Boxers, Shih-Tzus and British Bulldogs have a lower jaw which is longer than their upper jaw. This is commonly known as an underbite or undershot jaw and is considered "normal" for these breeds.
A less common malocclusion is an "overshot jaw" where the upper jaw is longer than the lower jaw.
If your puppy has a malocclusion, they will need regular check ups with your vet after they have lost their baby teeth to monitor the position of their emerging adult teeth.
Your puppy will start teething from about 12 weeks as their baby teeth fall out and are replaced by their adult teeth. It is rare to find a baby tooth as most of them are swallowed, however, you may be lucky enough to find one in your puppy's food bowl or around the house.
Signs of teething in your puppy may include:
- Bad breath
- Red and inflamed gums
- Bleeding gums or blood on toys
- Missing teeth
- Reduced appetite
- Increased chewing behaviour
While these signs can be normal during teething, if you are concerned at all by your puppies behaviour, please check with your veterinarian.
Your puppy will need lots of appropriate chew toys while they are teething to soothe their mouths and save your shoes and furniture. Avoid giving your puppy harder dental chews or bones until they have all their adult teeth as baby teeth are a little more delicate and may break if they chew hard objects.
Top teething toys for puppies
1. Veterinary Partner, Lundgren, B, 2020, Retained Baby Teeth in Dogs and Cats Need Surgical Extraction, https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&catId=102898&id=4952450, accessed 2/2/23