You might be surprised when your bundle of cute starts to bite and chew just about everything in sight, but it can be a breeze if you’re prepared for this perfectly normal stage in a growing puppy’s development.
Puppies, like human babies, are born with a primary set of teeth. These 28 deciduous teeth are temporary. They will fall out and be replaced by permanent teeth. “
These teeth are pointed and sharp,” notes VCA Hospitals, “which is why they are sometimes referred to as needle teeth.”
Deciduous teeth start to show in the gums about a fortnight after birth and should be done developing by 10 weeks of age, Dr Kris Bannon, of Veterinary Dentistry and Oral Surgery of New Mexico, tells PetMD.
Most will probably be swallowed and shouldn’t cause your fluffball any harm.
When is it time to play tooth fairy for my pup?
Teething takes time.
As mentioned, it begins, when pup is around 2 weeks old, with the emergence of the first set and ends at approximately 8 months of age when the second set is fully showing.
The permanent teeth begin to show as soon as the milk teeth begin to go.
Dr Bannon advises that “the last of the baby teeth to fall out are usually the canines, and they are lost at about 6 months old.”
Dr Alexander Reiter, Head of the Dentistry and Oral Surgery Service at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, tells PetMD that permanent teeth start showing with the incisors (front teeth), then around 4 – 6 months the premolars arrive (teeth between canine and molar teeth), at 4-7 months the molars* (at the back) emerge, and at 5 – 6 months the canines cut through. By 7 or 8 months of age, all 42 permanent adult teeth should show in a dog.
“The big breeds do develop at a different rate from the smaller ones,” Fidosavvy.com points out, “and there can be a fair amount of variation between puppies in terms of exactly when teething begins, and ends.”
It adds that it’s not just breed that determines the pace of teething. Each pup will have its own timeline and no two are alike.
* Molars only come through in the permanent teeth, not the first set.
What are the signs?
When pups begin to ‘mouth’ everything in sight, teething is probably happening.
They may nibble, gnaw, chew and bite everyday objects, including parts of your body!
If you don’t see them doing it, you might see tooth marks or saliva on the thing they’re “getting to know” with their mouth. Remember they’re only babies and help them learn what (not) to chew with these tips…
What can I do to manage pup’s chewing and biting?
1. Put the untouchables out of reach
Take care to move precious items from puppy’s little gnashers.
Anything on the floor of value could be put on counters, in cupboards or on shelves.
If your pup is largish, she’ll likely be able to reach items on couches, beds, baskets, washing machines, and some tables, so remember to scan these areas for valuables like electronics and other items you don’t want destroyed by her scissor sharp ‘toofies’.
2. Discourage ‘naughty’ chewing with dog talk
While developing her jaw muscles and working her gums, your pup also wants to please you, and you can show her how to.
One way is to deter her from inappropriate chewing. You may try substituting the ‘naughty’ item with an acceptable chew thing (see toys below) or distracting her with a game. In addition to the different theories about the best way to do this, your vet can give a personalised recommendation. You may not be able to hide all the things she wants to gnaw on, so it can help to try to speak to her in her own language, especially when her bite hurts a human.
“If your puppy is chewing on your hands or any other body part,” VCA Hospitals advises, “yelp a high-pitched shriek like a puppy makes, pull your hand away, and go play elsewhere.”
3. Provide safe toys as decoys (and development tools)
If you don’t want your cushions, shoes, and anything else at puppy height to be gnawed and torn, and perhaps stained, VCA Hospitals suggests you “watch your puppy when he begins chewing, and talk to your veterinarian about which chew toys are the safest.”
Your vet can advise on which toys are less likely to cause gastrointestinal punctures or blockages or tear or block the throat. Look for a soft, flexible toy that does not flake, or break or have loose, dangly bits that could fall off. It must not be too hard, though. If you cannot bend it in your own hand, your pup won’t really be able to do much with it.
Toys will help your pup learn what is okay to chew (and what’s not) and will also aid the development of healthy gums, jaws and teeth.
“It is important to supervise your puppy,” warns VCA Hospitals, “even when he is chewing on recommended toys as no toy is 100% safe.”
The plus side of appropriate toys is that they also provide mental stimulation, which can ward off boredom.
4. Keep an eye on the process
A little blood when the baby teeth first emerge through the gums or fall out is not an issue, but large volumes of blood, either in the mouth or the stool, during the teething months need to be investigated by a pet medical professional immediately.
A pup that is drinking, eating, playing and grooming as usual is fine.
“If they aren’t doing some of these things, Dr Reiter tells PetMD, “and the pain or discomfort is affecting his quality of life, then your puppy may need to see the vet.”
5. Help your pup adjust to tooth inspections
To help you keep an eye on the health of the teeth, train your pup to allow you to lift the lip and touch the gums. You can do this gently and minimally at first, slowly extending the duration as your pup allows it. This will make all future manual examinations a lot less stressful for you both! Especially when it comes to tooth brushing (see 8. below).
6. Do not tug those teeth!
The teeth will fall out by themselves and do not need to be ‘assisted’. If you do, you might break a tooth from its rather long root which can lead to a dangerous internal infection.
If a deciduous tooth remains and an adult tooth is pushing through in the same spot, however, it’s time for a visit to the vet. Left unassessed, it might cause the development of a poor bite, or periodontal disease. Don’t confuse this with a ‘double set of teeth’ stage. You might see two rows as deciduous and permanent teeth overlap temporarily. If you see shark rows for more than a month, give your vet a call for advice.
7. Give kibble to nibble
Doggie biscuits (kibble) are better for growing teeth and gums than soft canned food is. Raw food is not recommended for pups due to their nutritional needs at this stage. Here’s more about what works on a pup’s plate.
8. Practise good dental hygiene
You can support the health of your pup’s mouth with the tips above and, also with tools and products for oral hygiene. That may include tooth brushing, which we explore here and toothpaste, which you can make at home with this DIY doggie toothpaste recipe.
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