Puppy Teething: How to Care for Your Puppy's Teeth

French Bulldog puppy with toy

You may call your new puppy your fur baby, and in many ways, your new puppy is like a baby, especially when it comes to puppy teething.

Like a human baby, your puppy was probably born without any teeth, and he'll go through the process of temporary teeth erupting through his gums and then falling out to be replaced with permanent teeth. Unfortunately, like their human counterparts, puppies can experience some problems when they start teething. Knowing what to look for can help you understand what your puppy is going through and what you can do to help.

Temporary and Permanent Puppy Teeth

Typically, the puppy teething process commences when a puppy is around 3 or 4 weeks old. These temporary teeth that erupt during the beginning of puppy teething are known colloquially as "milk teeth," while your vet may call them deciduous teeth. Puppies have 28 of them.

When Do Puppies Lose Their Teeth?

These temporary teeth don't last long. They start to fall out when the puppy is between 14 and 30 weeks of age. When they fall out, they are replaced quickly with 42 adult teeth that are waiting in the wings, pushing the baby teeth out. These are the permanent teeth your dog will have for the rest of his life. By the time your puppy is 8 months old, he should have 12 incisors, 16 premolars, four canines and 10 molars.

Puppies have very sharp teeth. Remember that your dog, while sweet and docile as a domesticated pet, is a carnivore, and those sharp teeth would be very handy for tearing through even the toughest meat in the wild.

How Can You Help Your Teething Puppy?

While we don't have a definitive way to measure discomfort in dogs, teething can cause your dog to undergo a few behavioural changes. He may eat less than usual, and he will chew more as he tries to alleviate the discomfort he feels. You can provide support for your puppy by providing him with rawhide or hard rubber toys that are made especially for teething puppies. This will benefit you, too, since it will give your puppy something to chew on other than furniture feet or other household items. Toys with nubs massage his gums and make them feel better during teething, and they also pull double-duty by removing soft tartar that naturally builds up on his teeth.

His puppy teeth won't stay around long enough to cause any real problems, but now is a good time to begin getting your puppy accustomed to dental care by rubbing his teeth and gums with a doggy toothbrush or a soft, clean cloth. Use toothpaste made just for dogs; never use toothpaste created for human use as it can be toxic. Should your puppy's temporary teeth remain longer than 30 weeks, see your vet, since the teeth may need to be pulled.

Maintaining Oral Health

Once your puppy gets his permanent teeth, continue to practice good oral hygiene. One of the best methods of ensuring your puppy (and eventually, your adult dog) can clean his own teeth efficiently is the inclusion of dry and crunchy foods in his everyday diet.

Dry food scrapes against your dog's teeth as he chews, which reduces the buildup of tartar that ultimately leads to dental issues as your dog gets older. Purina makes dry foods in all sorts of formulas to suit your dog's overall nutritional requirements and taste preferences. In addition, when your dog is old enough, Purina's Dentalife Dog Chews are chewy treats that help keep his teeth and gums clean and his smile bright. Like its dry food lineup, Purina's treats and chews selection offers several suitable options for pet parents looking for additional dental support for their pets.

Dental Problems

Dental health and overall health are linked, so your dog needs dental care regularly from your vet, just as he needs regular wellness checks. He should also see his vet as soon as possible if you suspect a dental problem.

Dental issues in dogs tend to begin early in life. In fact, dogs often begin to exhibit symptoms of dental disease by age 3. This makes it doubly important to establish a regular cleaning regimen as early on as feasible, including feeding your dog some dry kibble daily. If your dog has trouble adapting from soft, wet food to dry, he may need a little time and encouragement.

Knowing the signs of a dental problem is the first step to nipping it in the bud before it becomes a full-on issue. Dental problems can lead to everything from foul breath to eating issues, and problems with your dog's teeth can lead to infections not just in his mouth but in other parts of his body as well.

Although these issues are rare with puppies, as your puppy grows older, be mindful of the signs that he may need to have a dental visit with his vet soon. These include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Blood in the saliva
  • Broken teeth
  • Drooling
  • Red, swollen or bleeding gums
  • Foul-smelling breath
  • Yellowish-brown tartar at the gum line

Perhaps the most common dental problem in dogs is the buildup of plaque. Without intervention, this buildup can harden on the teeth and lead to gums that are inflamed and teeth that might become infected or fall out of the dog's mouth.

Your vet can evaluate these symptoms to determine if dental care is needed. The vet can also rule out the potential for other problems such as systemic disease or the presence of foreign bodies that might cause similar symptoms to occur.

Puppy teething is just one of the issues that you'll face as a pet parent. Luckily, it lasts only a short while and causes minimal disruption in your puppy's daily life.

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