Your puppy is growing much faster than you ever believed possible. His ears are standing up, mostly. His clumsy legs have begun carrying him around your yard like Sonic the Hedgehog on speed. And then one day, you see a small dribble of blood on his face, and you panic a little bit…With just a little investigation, you realize that your baby has lost a tooth. Your puppy is developing into a fully-armed carnivore, with a mouth-full of razor sharp dental appendages. Or at least, he will be. Soon. You’ve experienced the nasty little needles that are his baby teeth, on your fingers, your ankles, your clothing, and if he’s especially precocious, other handy targets on your person. They can inflict great pain, and even injury worthy of medical attention. Puppies with the right genetics are going to show great skill in chomping down, and satisfying the urge to bite things, so prepare yourself for this. Whatever you plan on doing with your dog as an adult, will decide how you deal with your junior grade werewolf, and his toothy antics.
At this age, about 6 to 10 weeks, the puppy will have 28 temporary teeth. Since puppies don’t yet have MOLARS, his teeth are comprised of CANINES (the pointy ones), INCISORS,(his grabbers), and the PRE-MOLARS(crushers). His first incisors will begin to abandon ship at about 3 months of age, with the rest of his needles finding their exit between 4 and 7 months. By 8 months, the adult teeth will be fully installed and ready for action. While puppies will love nothing more than tugging on toys, rags, or other equipment, it’s best to hold off on aggressive tug-work until ALL of his adult teeth are in. Many trainers do NO such training from 4 months to almost a year of age…Don’t worry, your puppy won’t forget how to bite and tug if that is your goal. Give him time to develop, and he’ll be back with a vengeance when it’s time.
The early weeks are a great time to acclimate your puppy to having you or your Vet put your fingers or dental tools in his maw. Done successfully, your Vet will thank you profusely in the future. Not only for the health benefits of good tooth brushing, but also for the Vet that likes all 4 of his fingers where they are supposed to be located. Thumbs are also valuable in their opposed position. Help preserve them.
Gently rubbing the puppies gums and emerging teeth will feel wonderful to him, but be gentle, and keep your fingers clean. Practicing this will help you keep track of anything abnormal in mouth, such as misguided teeth, or lumps and bumps in the mouth. When the process is finished, the puppy will have 42 strong, healthy, teeth and a proper attitude towards human assisted maintenance for the rest of his life. You’ve done everything right for his little teeth so far, so what’s next? Let’s first have a look at a schematic of a German shepherds teeth and jaws.
In these rather clinical views, the teeth don’t really impress us, do they? Lets try to show you the business end here:
Caring for the teeth is not complicated but it takes effort. You can save yourself a truck-load of cold, hard cash payable to your Vet by making the effort though, so unless your funds are inexhaustible, take note.
Periodontal Disease comes in two basic forms: Gingivitis and Periodontitis. Gingivitis can be simply described as masses of nasty crud allowed to form on and between the teeth. It then moves into the surrounding gum, under the tooth, and forms pockets inside. The gum becomes soft, bloody, and the teeth will eventually fall out. It hurts the dog. It smells completely awful. And having an infection that close to the dogs brain, is just inexcusable for the caring dog owner. DON’T LET IT DEVELOP. Brush his teeth at least weekly, and provide nylabones for chewing. Your Vet can also provide dental care, and this may be a wise treatment. But its expensive, and can be avoided by YOU.
Periodontitis is gingivitis extended beyond all common sense, veering sharply into NEGLECT. The teeth begin breakdown, become loose, bleed, and cause the dog pain. He may begin to refuse food, drool excessively, all accompanied by a nasty, nasal discharge. Whatever the treatment may be for these conditions, if you have allowed them to develop, you have been neglectful. Sorry to drop the bomb, but your Vet may be too professional to tell the truth. He or she can fix some of the damage, but none of it need ever have gotten this far. Cavities, Abscesses, and tooth loss are all caused by neglect.
So, what can I do to fulfill my dogs dental health?
Diet is very important. Having raw, uncooked, bones to consume is a big help. Chicken or turkey is best, but beef is also acceptable. A top quality kibble will also keep the teeth free of debris and solidify the gums. Yes, I know that kibbles have other problems, but that’s another discussion. Fresh water is always vital to your dogs teeth.
Learning to brush your dogs teeth is an easy skill to master. There are products that will aid the treatments,(caninetoothpaste, brushes, finger brushes etc.) Don’t use human toothpaste as the dog will swallow it. Greenies and nylabones are helpful as well, scraping debris off the teeth.
That’s a simple plan to help you keep your pet dogs teeth clean and healthy. But what about dogs that work with their teeth? Schutzhund(IPO), law enforcement, and other disciplines have additional concerns. Number 1 in my book is tennis balls. Everybody seems to use them at one time or another, myself included. But be warned, the material in a tennis ball is abrasive to the enamel on the dogs teeth, and prolonged chewing on them will damage the teeth. Canine teeth erode into plateau tops, flat instead of pointed. Other teeth suffer as well, but those impressive fangs will show it first. Substitute rubber balls that have nubs on them for texture. They last longer, and don’t abrade. And never leave play balls with an unattended dog for entertainment.
For more aggressive activities such as bite work, consider the material that tugs, sleeves, and suits are made with. Jute, a heavy burlap fabric, has been used for many years. Unfortunately, it too tends toward the abrasive. Modern linen materials, and contemporary synthetic materials are available, and are much better for the dog. Bite suits are predominantly made from these materials, and are therefore much safer. Covers for bite sleeves are becoming much more common, and are worth the investment.
The way helpers work your dog during bite work can also affect your dogs dentition. Encouraging and teaching good, full grips will lessen the torque on canines fangs, during a fight. Lifting dogs off the ground by their teeth should be done with care as well. Teeth can be broken, repaired or replaced certainly. But its not cheap, and shouldn’t become necessary. There are lots of stories on the internet about dogs with replacement teeth made of titanium, or kryptonite, or some other exotic metal. This happens because of severe injury. NO reputable Veterinarian would pull healthy, undamaged teeth to replace them with metal copies, so that a dog can look like some moronic, gold-toothed, gangsta rap-singer. A certain element of society may think this is cool. Well, it’s NOT. It’s also a fantasy born of wannabeism.
Your dogs teeth are important to him. His health can be measured by his dental condition. You, as his owner, master, and advocate can do everything that will keep him healthy. Just pay attention, and do it.