Understanding Puppy Teeth Stages
The development of a puppy's teeth is an interesting process as some phases have an important function for the puppy's development.
If you are interested in the why's and how's of it, this article will provide you with something to "put your teeth into."
If you're the owner of a young puppy, you may want to learn more about the process, some causes for concern and how you can best take care of your puppy's teeth.
Why Are Puppy's Teeth So Sharp?
One obvious purpose is that, back in time, pups needed some teeth in order to chomp on their very first samples of meat.
Speculation has it that the sharpness had two more specific purposes: starting the weaning process and aiding the pups in learning the basics of bite inhibition.
When the pups are growing, their teeth start irritating the mother dog when she nurses. It's totally normal, therefore, for her to start resenting nursing (and who can blame her!) and start moving away. Deprived from the milk bar, the pups will become naturally drawn to other sources of food, jump starting the weaning process.
In a similar fashion, those sharp teeth also irritate the pup's litter mates. They'll likely squeal and withdraw from play to teach the biting puppy to be less rough with his mouth.
Through trial and error, the pup eventually learns the basics of bite inhibition, (when I bite hard, good things stop) which needs to be continued when the pup plays with his new owners. Fortunately, despite being sharp, those puppy jaws are weak!
It's very important to point out that a puppy's teeth are very different than an adult dog's teeth and that they require quite different care. Don't just go purchase your young puppy any type of toy or any type of bone or treats!
Instead, look for treats and bones specifically designed for puppies. Read the labels and read if they're appropriate for your pet's age.
The following paragraphs will go over the teething phases from birth until the puppy grows its adult, permanent teeth.
Word of the Day
Diphyodont: any animal that gets two successive sets of teeth, initially the "deciduous" set, and afterward, the "permanent" set
Milk teeth are deciduous teeth, meaning that they're only temporary and will eventually start falling off and be replaced by permanent adult teeth. Puppies, almost without exception, are born without teeth.
Don't be surprised: puppies are born rather helpless. Indeed, they are blind, deaf, and barely mobile. This is because canines are categorized as "altricial" species which means they are not precocious as other animal species like cows and horses that are capable of seeing, hearing, standing up, and walking right after they are born.
After all, teeth aren't really necessary at this stage since the puppies are still successfully capable of suckling the milk from their mom without them
Timeline: Eruption of Milk Teeth
The puppy's milk teeth start coming in once the puppy reaches two to three weeks of age.
The first teeth to appear are the incisors, basically the middle teeth that are found on the top and on the bottom of the mouth.
The pup should have six incisors on the top and six incisors on the bottom for a total of 12.
At about 4 weeks, they'll also get their four canines, the sharp long teeth right next to the incisors both on the top and bottom.
These first sharp teeth start making the nursing mom uncomfortable, which is a natural phase meant to start the weaning process. Basically, when the puppy nurses at this stage, its teeth start irritating the mother's nipples, which causes her to become more and more reluctant to nurse.
Since she is more reluctant to nurse, the puppies start becoming more and more interested in other food sources. In the wild, they would eat the food her mom regurgitates for them after eating.
In a domestic setting, at this time, the puppies are introduced to puppy "mush," a slurry mix the breeder prepares for them. This weaning process now begins, and soon the puppies learn to eat more and more solid foods.
Any time between 3 to 6 weeks of age, the puppy will get, premolars basically the remaining teeth that grow behind the canines up to almost the back of the dog's mouth.
You should see three on the top and three on the bottom of each side. Puppies do not get molars as baby teeth. This is simply because they don't need them as they don't need to grind food at this stage.
So by the age of 6 to 8 weeks, a puppy should have a complete set of sharp, milk teeth which are comprised of 28 teeth.
These include: 12 incisors, 4 canines and 12 pre-molars. This means 14 teeth in the upper jaw and 14 teeth in the lower jaw.
Puppy Teething Chart
1) Puppies are born without teeth
2) At 2 to 3 weeks the first teeth start erupting
3) The first 12 incisors appear at approximately 2 to 3 weeks
4) The first 4 canines appear at approximately 4 weeks
5) The premolars appear at approximately 3 to 6 weeks
6) Puppies don't have molars.
7) By 6 to 8 weeks of age the puppy should have a complete set of 28 teeth.
Getting Adult Teeth
As mentioned, those puppy milk teeth won't last forever. They will eventually start falling out. This is why they're also known as "deciduous teeth" a term used to depict things that fall out, such as trees who lose their leaves in the fall, which are known as "deciduous trees".
At around 8 weeks, the puppy's first adult teeth will start pushing the milk teeth out of the way. This is when they start falling out.
Consider yourself lucky if you're capable of finding an occasional baby tooth in your pup's water bowl or on the ground. In many cases, puppies will just swallow them.
This is a good time too see the vet, just to make sure the teeth are growing normally. Sometimes a baby tooth may fail to fall and the adult tooth may grow abnormally beside it. In this case, the vet will need to remove the baby tooth.
The vet will also check that the bite is normal and closes correctly as per the breed's standard. Malocclusions (bad bites) can be caused by retained baby teeth. In some breeds, however, this is the standard. The rate at which baby teeth fall out will vary from puppy to puppy, so this is a general guideline.
- The first baby teeth to fall out are the incisors which start falling out when the puppy is 3 to 4 months of age (12 to 16 weeks).
- The adult incisors should come in by the time the puppy is 5 months.
- The canine teeth will then fall out around the fourth month (16 weeks). Finally, the pre-molars will fall out at around 6 months.
At this stage, the puppy will have lost all its 28 teeth, but should have a complete set of 42 adult teeth by the age of 8 months.
At this point, the puppy should have 22 teeth in the lower jaw, and 20 teeth in the upper jaw.
The 42 teeth include:
- 12 incisors
- 4 canines
- 16 premolars
- 10 molars
Respectively, there should be 6 incisors, 2 canines, 8 pre-molars and 4 molars in the upper jaw, and 6 incisors, 2 canines, 8 pre-molars and 6 molars in the lower jaw.
So let's recap the whole puppy baby teeth falling out phases:
- Baby teeth remain for only 3 to 7 months.
- The incisors are the first baby teeth to fall out at approximately 3 to 4 months of age. These should be replaced by the adult incisors by the time the puppy is 5 months old.
- Next, are the canine teeth which fall out around 4 months.
- Finally, the pre-molars are the last to fall out at around 6 months.
- The canines, all the rest of the pre-molars and molars should erupt when the puppy is between 4 to 7 months.
- When puppies get their adult teeth they gain an extra four premolars and ten molars. This adds up correctly since the puppy baby teeth are 28. So 28 + 4 + 10 = 42.
- Puppies should have a complete set of 42 adult teeth by the age of 8 months.
Facts About Puppy Teeth
So What Are the Functions of Those Teeth?
In a domestic setting, Rover's long fangs and complete dentition may appear unnecessary and a tad bit intimidating; however, if you take a look back, you'll notice that these teeth had many important functions.
- The incisors were used to rip meat and scrape it off of bones. They also helped the dog remove burrs and other debris from their fur.
- The canine teeth were meant to inflict stabbing wounds to their prey.
- The molars were meant to grind and crush which is something a puppy doesn't need to do while on a mushy, soft diet. This explains why molars aren't included in a puppy's baby teeth. There's a reason why dogs have 4 molars on top and 6 on the bottom. These extra molars help Rover in crushing bone.
Teething Relief for Puppies
It's normal for your puppy to be chewing a lot during the teething phase. While there are toys for teething puppies, sometimes something as simple as a clean wet wash rag put into the freezer and offered to the pup can bring relief to those sore gums.
Tell-tale Signs of Age
Turns out, horses aren't the only animals that you can determine their age by looking at their mouths. For the most part, veterinarians can estimate a puppy's age by looking at the eruption of the baby and permanent teeth. They can also tell the age of adult dogs to a certain extent by looking at the wear and tear of the incisors.
How to Tell Age of Puppy by Looking at Permanent Teeth
- Eruption of Permanent Central Incisors : 2 - 5 months
- Eruption of Permanent Intermediate Incisors: 2 - 5 months
- Eruption of Permanent Corner Incisors: 4 - 5 months
- Eruption of Permanent Canines: 5 months
- Eruption of Permanent First Premolar: 4 - 5 months
- Eruption of Permanent Second Premolar: 6 months
- Eruption of Permanent Third Premolar: 6 months
- Eruption of Permanent Fourth Premolar: 4 - 5 months
- Eruption of Permanent First Molar: 5 - 6 months
- Eruption of Permanent Second Molar: 6 - 7 months
- Eruption of Permanent Third Molar 6 - 7 months
Information from Dr. Hardaker
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