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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Shark-Mouthed Dog

Many small breed dogs are prone to retaining puppy teeth. These teeth normally start falling out around four months old, and take around two months for all of them be replaced by adult teeth. Many of my clients are surprised when I tell them that their puppy's baby teeth are coming out, but I try to warn them so they don't panic when little Fluffy's incisor suddenly goes *plop* onto the floor.

As I mentioned, it's not uncommon for some of these teeth to stay in the mouth. In these cases the baby tooth stays in place and the adult tooth comes in right next to it. Sometimes this can cause the adult tooth to emerge abnormally, causing it to press into the gums of the opposite jaw, or otherwise causing a misalignment. Most of the time, though, it doesn't appear to be a major issue at first. The long-term problem is that these teeth are far too close together, and tartar tends to accumulate much faster around the retained baby teeth. We recommend removing them if we detect them being retained when the puppy is spayed or neutered, but sometimes we do the surgery before we see whether or not the teeth will fall out.

Today we had a little poodle about a year and a half old who had retained many of these teeth. Normally, only one or two fail to fall out, and usually these are the canine teeth (the long teeth in front, also called "eye teeth"), but sometimes include incisors. This little dog had retained three of the four baby canines, as well as six incisors (out of a total of 12). Looking at the front of his mouth made me think of the multiple rows of teeth you see in a shark's mouth, and so we started calling him "the shark puppy". Luckily, he was very sweet and didn't live up to the attitude behind such a name. And thankfully the owner gave us permission to pull the retained teeth, which had also accumulated an extreme amount of tartar in such a young dog.

So little Bailey left the hospital today with a normal-looking mouth, having lost nine teeth that should have fallen out about a year ago. He has a good "smile", no longer the double-rowed grin he would show us before. Though I see retained puppy teeth almost every week, this was one of the worst, and one of only a couple that had such a prominent double row. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera at work, because this would have made a great visual to post here!