Bringing a puppy into your home is an exciting time! But like any other life milestone, it also comes with some concerns, and we’re sure your puppy’s health is at the top of your list of worries.
One important aspect of puppy health that often goes overlooked is a puppy’s oral hygiene. But you don’t need to worry because we have the answers to all your questions on keeping your little dog’s mouth clean and healthy. We’re here to guide you through the process, from first teeth and teething to chewing in their later years.
Read on and learn more about your furry little one’s needs and how you can ensure a long and happy life with strong chompers.
You’re probably very familiar with human pearly whites, but being familiar with how things are different for a young dog’s mouth will help you know how to prepare and identify when something may be wrong. Here’s what you need to know.
Another name for puppy teeth is “needles”. And if you’ve ever experienced the bite of a young dog, you know exactly why.
The shape of these young pearly whites is sharper and more pointed than the permanent ones they’ll eventually grow. The shape is relatively small and skinny, nothing like what yours probably look like. However, don’t despair! The shape changes as your dog get older, so this won’t be forever.
The reason for this sharpness may be that your little one’s muscles are still developing and strengthening. So when they’re young, their jaw muscles are pretty weak.
The sharpness compensates for this weakness and allows young dogs to eat and grow. Their sharp teeth can cut through food and will enable them to nourish their body without needing to grind away for hours with weak muscles.
While puppy teeth are quite sharp and can be annoying or even quite painful when they’re munching on your fingers, dulling them yourself is never recommended.
As mentioned, there’s a reason for this sharpness. These tough and pointy chompers are what allow your furry baby to nourish his body and grow into the full, adult dog he’ll become.
Rather than dull or remove puppy teeth, use a few methods for teaching your dog what you expect from them. The first lesson: hands aren’t chew toys! When the furry rascal goes for your hands, present them with what they should be chewing on. When they chew on the right items, praise them for their good sense.
Training them to recognize chew toys over hands will take time, so don’t be discouraged if they don’t pick up the habit after the first try. But with diligence, you can teach them.
Just like babies, newborn dogs nurse on their mothers for milk. For the poor mother’s sake, puppies are born toothless, just like human newborns.
However, whereas human babies often take a few months to grow one, puppies quickly grow all their baby teeth within a few weeks. By week 5 or 6 of life, your little dog will have all their baby teeth.
Because a puppy has a much smaller mouth than it will eventually grow, it also has much fewer teeth than an adult dog. So by week 5 or 6, when they’ve developed all their baby teeth, this will only be about 28 total.
This means they can also be weaned off of mother’s milk and start eating food specifically formulated and designed for young dogs’ mouths and bodies.
Yes, like human babies, puppies grow teeth that are designed to serve them in the early phase of their lives, but they are meant to lose them and grow permanent, adult teeth in place of the baby ones.
To lose them properly, puppies will teethe on objects. This prepares the gums for the eruption of adult teeth that are soon to come. We’ll cover teething in-depth in the next section.
Puppies’ baby teeth are also referred to as deciduous teeth. These are the opposite of permanent, adult teeth. So as you can imagine, the deciduous puppy teeth are all meant to fall out and be replaced by permanent ones that will carry them through life.
Losing all deciduous teeth does take time, and it won’t occur overnight. So if you notice that one or two teeth are missing, don’t be concerned that the rest are still in your dog’s gums.
The process typically begins at 12 weeks, just 6 weeks after they’ve grown them all. The entire process will take varying amounts of time, depending on the dog. This depends on the dog’s breed and size. But by 6 months old, your dog should have lost all their deciduous teeth and grown the permanent ones.
Canines are often the first to go once a pup begins to lose its deciduous chompers. Molars, the bigger ones near the rear of the mouth, are typically the last to go. They will lose these anywhere from 4-7 months old.
So if your dog is 6 months old and hasn’t lost its molars yet but has lost all its other puppy teeth, don’t worry. It may just take a little more time.
Deciduous canines and molars alike are pretty small. Some of them may even resemble tiny grains of rice rather than teeth. Of course, this will depend on the size and breed of your dog. But because they’ve only had them for a few months, they’re typically relatively white and, of course, sharp.
Once the deciduous puppy teeth have moved out, it’s time for the permanent, adult ones to erupt (grow in). The eruption, like the falling out process, takes time.
While there are only about 28 deciduous teeth, your dog will have 42 adult ones. All 42 should have erupted by 8 months of age.
Perhaps you have heard the expression about teeth to “only floss the ones you want to keep”. As humans, we know that proper dental care is essential to maintaining a healthy mouth and keeping all our pearly whites. So why would things be any different for our little furry pets?
Without making visits to a dog teeth cleaner, you can take steps to ensure your dog keeps all 42 of those teeth he worked hard to grow. Learn more about dog oral care here so that you can provide proper dental health for your fur baby. We also have a guide for how much dog teeth cleaning costs should you need some help.
With 28 deciduous teeth to get rid of and make way for permanent ones, your puppy has a lot of losing to do in just a few weeks. Because of this, you may see some puppy teeth lying around to dispose of. However, if you don’t find all 28, that’s ok.
Throughout the day of chewing and eating, your puppy may lose them mid-chew and cause them to swallow them. But don’t be concerned. Puppy teeth aren’t harmful to your little one. Swallowing them is entirely normal and should be expected.
Dogs are only meant to lose teeth one: when they lose the deciduous ones from their puppyhood and make way for permanent ones.
However, your dog may lose additional permanent ones as they get older, or your veterinarian may recommend having a few pulled. This isn’t normal and is a sign of severe oral disease. This is why dental care is so important — to ensure your dog only loses a set once.
Puppies lose their deciduous canines in the first six months of life. However, adults dogs aren’t meant to lose their permanent canines. They may only lose them if they have a severe oral disease or a veterinarian has recommended their removal for the safety of your dog’s oral health and comfort.
If your dog has lost a canine due to an incident such as physical force, see if you can find the broken tooth and place it in milk, as a veterinarian may be able to replace it in the socket.
Just like when a child loses a tooth, there may be some minor bleeding when puppies lose theirs. After all, something is falling out of their gums.
However, the blood is relatively minimal, and you likely won’t notice. If you see some blood on a chew toy, don’t worry, as this is probably the cause.
If a veterinarian recommends removing one or all teeth, it’s best to listen to their advice. They have your dog’s best interest at heart and are trying to make life as comfortable for them as possible in the face of what is likely a gum disease.
Even if all 42 need to be removed for their health, any dog will adapt. Provide them with soft food that doesn’t require chewing. Choose food recommended by your vet and show patience as they learn and adapt to this new way of life.
Like humans, a dog’s poor oral hygiene can lead to gum disease, including periodontitis. As the disease progresses, your dog may need to have teeth removed which is not at all pleasant or healthy for them.
To avoid this, brushing is an excellent tool to keep your dog’s mouth healthy and clean. For the best results, brushing your puppy’s teeth as often as twice a day is recommended. However, three times a week should be enough to support healthy oral hygiene for the average dog.
How to Brush Puppy Teeth
Of course, brushing puppy teeth is ideal for providing them with good oral hygiene. However, perhaps most important is teaching them the habit of accepting a brushing without fuss.
The more accustomed to brushing a puppy is, the less of a fight they’ll put up when they’re older. And of course, managing a teeth brushing of an 8-week-old puppy is much easier than wrangling an 80 pound, stubborn dog.
All you need is a doggy toothbrush and some toothpaste. Start slowly with some simple mouth handling to get them used to it. As they become accustomed, you can start brushing the teeth, just as you would your own.
Losing and growing teeth rapidly isn’t a pleasant experience. To combat the discomfort and promote healthy gum, puppies instincts tell them to teethe. But how do you survive this phase when you pup wants to teethe on everything from your toes to your couch legs?
Here’s what you need to know to get through this period with flying colors.
As deciduous teeth begin erupting through the gums, this can be an extremely painful process. Teething is what helps work the gums and allows the process to happen more quickly and smoothly.
Because of this, teething begins as early as 2 weeks old.
While puppies start the process to help the deciduous set erupt, it continues to help their second, set permanent set come to erupt as well. Because of this, the process takes months and doesn’t end until they’ve grown their complete, adult set. Don’t expect this phase to end until your dog is about 5-8 months old. The age when a dog stops teething is completely unique to him.
Because this act is a method used by dogs (and human babies) to work their gums and make it easier for teeth to erupt, it’s easy to understand why there may be some blood involved. However, similar to the amount of blood you should expect when they’re losing teeth, the blood should be minimal.
While teething only lasts about 8 months, this doesn’t mean you’ll never catch your dog chewing on something ever again. Chewing is a top pastime for any canine, and it should be an expected and accepted part of dog ownership.
But what to do when the chewing gets out of hand? Learn more about why dogs chew and what you can do to keep things manageable in your house.
Just as teething is used by pups for helping incoming teeth, chewing continues to have dental benefits. A dog’s instinct is to chew to keep their oral hygiene in order and as a form of entertainment to beat boredom.
Many also argue that dogs may chew as a way to relieve anxiety — much like children sucking thumbs, chewing may take a dog back to the teething habit as a form of self-soothing.
If your dog uses chewing for self-soothing purposes and the habit is getting out of hand, then your furry friend may be one of the 70% of dogs that suffers from anxiety. Another reason for excessive chewing may be that your dog is bored and seeking out entertainment that they’re not getting from other sources. Alternatively, they may have just formed a nasty habit of chewing as a pup that went unchecked, and now it’s in their nature.
But there are ways you can help.
A lot of chewing isn’t a problem. As it’s in their nature, it’s understandable that a dog chews. The problem arises when the dog is chewing something that is harmful to them or a nuisance for you.
The first step is to dog-proof your home. Set your pooch up for success by keeping things where they should be and out of paws’ reach.
Next, supply your dog with things that are theirs and that they should chew on. Praise them for chewing on their toys rather than your things, and they’ll learn.
If your dog still has a problem chewing, especially on items you can’t remove, such as door frames or couch legs, you may need to work on treating the root of the issue. If your dog has anxiety or suffers from a lack of early training, speak with an expert behavioral specialist to help train your dog with obedience or separation anxiety classes. If it’s a problem of boredom, make sure your dog is getting all the exercise they need.
Obviously, you don’t want your dog chewing up your shoes. But what should they chew on?
One of the best choices that your dog will enjoy that also improves their oral hygiene are dental chews. Other than that, choose products specifically designed for dogs’ chewing making them safe and satisfying for your pup.
Anything not designed for chewing by dogs may pose a risk. For example, dogs love a good stick, but this could cause splinters that get stuck in their gums. Even dog toys that are meant for play and not chewing such as squeaker toys pose a risk — for example, if your dog chews up a stuffed toy and swallows the squeaker, they could choke.
Everything that’s not created with dog chewing in mind should be out of reach as much as possible.
When caring for your new puppy, don’t overlook the importance of dental care. But with this guide, you’ll be able to care for your pup’s pearly whites with ease and handle their teething and chewing phases without a problem. And with the long, happy life will lead with a full set of adult teeth and clean gums, they’ll be thanking you for your hard work — or at least they would if they could.