Teething in dogs: how to help your four-legged friend
Have you got a puppy at home and are wondering when teething might start? Or maybe you are considering getting one and want to be completely prepared for your new family member? Whatever your reason for wanting to find out more about what happens when a dog is teething, we will answer all your key questions
When do dogs change teeth?
Just like humans, dogs get a second set of teeth. When they first arrive in the world, they have no teeth. After a while, their milk teeth emerge through the gums. And later on, these are replaced by adult teeth. This is the normal developmental process.
Puppies generally get new teeth at an age of roughly twelve weeks. The precise time for the first tooth to fall out depends on various things, including the breed of dog. Larger dogs, such as German shepherds, usually lose their milk teeth earlier than smaller breeds such as chihuahuas.
A dog only gets new teeth once in its life. Once all the milk teeth have fallen out, the adult teeth will emerge. Just as in humans, these are permanent teeth and need to be retained as long as possible.
If your adult dog loses one or more teeth, you should consult your vet to find out why. There are a number of potential reasons:
- inadequate dental care
- unhealthy diet
In our “Dental care for dogs” guide, you will find instructions on how to clean a dog’s teeth, a recipe for dog toothpaste, and lots of other fantastic tips on this topic!
How to tell if a dog is teething
It is not always immediately obvious whether a puppy’s teeth are falling out. Sometimes there are no symptoms to suggest teething, and the first you know about it is when you find a tooth that has fallen out on the carpet.
Usually, however, there are clear signs that your puppy is teething. Various symptoms are associated with teething, and you may notice a mouth odour.
Behaviour that indicates your dog is teething:
- licking certain areas around the teeth
- increased chewing on objects (rarely associated with pain)
- teeth on the floor
- blood in and around the mouth
- gum inflammation
- diarrhoea (rare)
It is possible you won’t find most of your puppy’s lost milk teeth. Lots of animals just swallow these tiny teeth or lose them while they are out walking or playing. This makes it even more special if you actually manage to find one! It’s a nice memento — just like baby teeth.
How to identify your puppy’s milk teeth
A milk tooth has a sharp tip and a narrow root. It is also smaller than an adult tooth. To begin with, it fits perfectly in your pet’s mouth. But gradually the jaw will grow and the gaps between the milk teeth get steadily bigger. When you notice that the teeth seem too small for the dog's mouth, this is a sign that they will soon fall out — or this process may have already started.
As a puppy, your dog will have a total of twelve incisors, four canines and twelve molars. In adult animals, the number of molars increases to 26 (twelve at the top and 14 at the bottom). The number of incisors and canines remains the same.
In what order will a dog’s teeth fall out?
In most dogs, the new teeth emerge in a specific order. The following list shows which teeth are lost first:
- The two front incisors come loose.
- The third incisor and the canine fall out in puppies.
- The foremost molar is lost. There are no milk teeth above this that need to be pushed out of the way.
- The remaining three front molars come loose.
- The first two rear molars emerge.
- The final molar comes through.
This sequence is the same on both sides, and both the upper and lower jaw. Once your dog has all its new teeth, there will be a couple more than there were before. This is because there are only 28 milk teeth, whereas the adult set consists of 42 teeth in dogs. That’s ten more than in humans.
By the end of the sixth month of life, the teething process in a dog should be complete. The entire process for your dog takes roughly 3 to 4 months. If all the permanent teeth have emerged but your dog still has some milk teeth, you should visit your vet to find out why.
My puppy’s teeth are falling out
Your puppy’s milk teeth will begin to fall out once the permanent teeth underneath are sufficiently developed. As soon as this is the case, special cells start to break down the roots of the milk teeth. As a result, these gradually get looser, until they fall out completely. At the same time, the root of the permanent tooth becomes longer. This causes it to push steadily outwards. Exactly the same process applies in humans.
What should I know about teething in dogs?
The teething process in dogs can sometimes be painful. Milk teeth do not always fall out of their own accord. Side effects may also be apparent. You should always keep your eyes peeled during this period and pay careful attention to your puppy.
- Your puppy may have diarrhoea while teething.
- He may have a temperature, toothache or stomach ache.
- He could be listless and agitated, sometimes sleeping badly.
- He may have no appetite or even lose weight.
It is also possible that your puppy won’t eat while teething. If you are offering dry food, this can simply be because chewing is too painful. In this case, you can soften the dry food with some water. This makes it easier to chew. Or you could switch to wet food. If you do this, however, make sure you transition the food gradually.
Sustainable dry food for puppies
Pain is always unpleasant. But provided the milk teeth fall out as expected, there is no reason to worry. A sign that you should pay attention is if one of the following problems arises when your dog is teething:
- The adult tooth is already present, but your puppy’s milk tooth has not fallen out.
- Bleeding gums, brown deposits on the teeth or a wound in the mouth that isn’t healing.
- Permanent teeth that are wobbly.
- Teeth that are broken or cracked.
In these cases, you should take your dog to the vet to check its teeth. If teeth fail to fall out as intended, this can result in the dog's teeth becoming misaligned.
Particularly in small breeds, the teething process may not always be straightforward or completely successful. As a result, the dog may end up with unwanted, leftover milk teeth. These should be removed by a vet as soon as possible.
Even if there are no problems, get your puppy’s teeth checked at your veterinary surgery no later than once their adult teeth have been acquired. This gives you the assurance that everything has gone to plan.
How to make teething easier?
Do you want to do more than just stand by while your four-legged friend is teething, and actually offer some support? That’s entirely understandable. After all, it’s painful for you to see your beloved pet in discomfort.
With these tips, you can make teething easier for your puppy:
- Avoid tugging games
- Soften dry food with water
- Massage the gums
- Puppy-proof your home
- Dog chews for puppies when teething
When puppies are teething, they want to do lots of chewing. That’s why dog chews are incredibly important. Whether it’s cow ears, a Kong toy, or a chewing bone – there is plenty of choice for teething puppies. Dog chews like our Denties can also help with teething.
What can I do after my dog has got its new teeth?
To make sure your dog enjoys its adult teeth for a long time, you should keep looking after the teeth once they’ve been acquired. Remnants of food between teeth can cause unpleasant mouth odour, for one thing. This also increases the risk of gum inflammation and other issues.
So, remember to clean your dog’s teeth regularly (with special dog toothpaste, not a product intended for humans). And you can continue to give your dog bones to chew on even once the teething period is over. This helps reduce the build-up of plaque and makes it less likely that professional teeth cleaning will be required.
Another equally helpful strategy is a high-quality dry food for dogs. This promotes dental abrasion and encourages your dog to chew. It also strengthens the teeth.
In summary: teething in dogs — unpleasant but not normally a problem
Every puppy has to go through the teething process. Just like humans, the milk teeth fall out and are replaced by adult teeth. This process can be painful for the animal but does not generally cause any problems.
Nevertheless, you should keep a close eye on your dog while it is teething. Broken teeth, milk teeth that fail to fall out, and other complications can cause ongoing problems and result in misaligned teeth. You can support your pet when teething by offering toys to chew on, softening their food and encouraging gum massage.