Teething puppies can be terrors without right care

Posted: Sunday, August 29, 2004

As anyone who has ever raised a puppy can tell you, nothing in your home is safe once they begin teething. Shoes, furniture, the remote, your hands and other dogs all may be taste-tested by a young pup looking to ease the pain of erupting teeth. But there are ways to relieve their pain and keep your home safe.

Dogs are born toothless but normally have 28 deciduous teeth that erupt during the first three months of life. These deciduous teeth are sometimes called primary teeth, baby teeth, milk teeth or puppy teeth.

During the next few months, these baby teeth will be replaced by adult teeth. Most breeds will have 42 adult teeth.

Just as with humans, the process of teething can be painful for puppies, which is why they seek out anything and everything they can to relieve their discomfort.

This is natural. Puppies not only want to chew, but they need to chew. It exercises their jaws and is a form of mental stimulation for them.

Chewing on items also is a form of massaging the gums. Not only does it reduce discomfort, it helps loosen baby teeth and helps break the skin on the gums so new teeth can come through.

Like human children, if baby teeth are not out on time, it can cause deformities and other problems with the adult teeth.

Retained teeth can cause crowding which makes adult teeth grow in out of line or at odd angles rather than straight and natural. Teeth may then contact the roof of the mouth, causing pain and injury.

Abnormal placement of teeth also can interfere with the normal growth and development of bones in the jaws. Retained teeth also may abscess or die, causing infections or other periodontal diseases.

There are many ways to assist puppies during this tender time.

Feeding a high-quality dry dog food is a good way to prevent problems. Through the mechanical action of chewing and crunching dry food, teeth may be loosened naturally. Dry food has the added advantage of scraping plaque and tartar off a puppy's teeth.

Providing plenty of items for a puppy to chew on also can ensure baby teeth fall out naturally rather than having to be pulled by a veterinarian at a later date.

Some veterinarians recommend offering raw or boiled meat bones to dogs on a regular basis, but only for brief periods of time. The chewing of tough cartilage and bone can loosen teeth. However, over time bones also may cause tooth wear and even fractures of adult teeth, so they should be used cautiously.

Nylabones, Gumabones, Greenies, Kongs and other chew toys can work as dental exercisers.

Several companies have started to make products specifically designed to aid a puppy's aching gums, such as the Nylabone Puppy Teething Keys and the Chilly Bone (or Chilly Ring) that contains a nontoxic, water-absorbing sponge that can be frozen.

If monitoring the puppy closely, another good treat is a wash cloth soaked in bouillon that is twisted up and then frozen.

Do not offer old shoes, socks or other items that are similar to items the puppy is not allowed to chew. Pups can't differentiate between new sneakers that are off limits and old sneakers that they are allowed to chew.

Also, keep anything that shouldn't be chewed off the floor so puppies aren't tempted.

If a puppy begins chewing furniture, walls or other items it shouldn't, attempt to dissuade the pup by providing it with an acceptable chewy item or bone.

If the puppy doesn't seem interested in the appropriate chewy toys, there always are ways to entice it, such as smearing a dab of peanut butter, Cheez-wiz or other tasty treat onto the items.

In the case of the Kongs, this idea can be taken a step further since the toy can be stuffed with food, often resulting in hours of activity for a puppy.

Joseph Robertia is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion. He has worked with wildlife and domestic animals for more than 10 years as a veterinary technician, a zoo keeper, and most recently as a zoologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society. He welcomes any pet-related questions or story ideas, but please none of a veterinary nature. Ideas and questions can be sent to his attention by e-mail at news@peninsulaclarion.com.



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