Puppy teething timeline
Did you know that puppies teethe just like humans? Indeed, they experience the same discomfort as we do when adult teeth come in. It is important to understand the teething process so that you can manage things correctly. You will need to provide them with chewable toys to ease their discomfort, and teach them not to gnaw on people, to tolerate having their mouths handled, and what they may and may not chew. It is crucial that you do so – if you do not do this now, you could have a major problem on your hands.
0 to 3 weeks
Pups are born without teeth, just like human babies, and will just have pink gums. They should remain with their mother until they’re at least 8 weeks old, and be allowed to nurse from her whenever they want to.
3 to 4 weeks
You should see the tiny tops of their ‘baby’ teeth peeking out through their gums from about 2.5 to 3 weeks. They will, however, still be nursing from their mother. At this stage, their eyes will also start to open. The first teeth to come out will be the canines (‘fangs’) and incisors (front teeth), followed by premolars; puppies do not get molars (these only arrive with the adult teeth).
5 to 6 weeks
By now, the pup should have all its baby teeth (28 of them), which are very sharp. This is usually when they start being weaned off their mother’s milk and onto soft, wet food. Puppies will usually be pretty rambunctious at this stage, and, if there are other puppies with them, will play with and bite each other. This is a good thing as they learn boundaries, how hard to bite, and when to back off. Without this play-fighting with other pups, you will need to teach the puppy everything. Ideally, puppies should stay with their mothers and siblings until they are at least 8 weeks old but 12 weeks is even better for this proper social development.
8 to 10 weeks
All the baby teeth should be present by 8 weeks and the puppy will usually be weaned onto solid food (although some will continue to nurse simply because they enjoy it).
Weeks 11 to 16:
Puppies start to lose their baby teeth and adult teeth begin to appear – you may even find their teeny baby teeth around the house, although they usually tend to swallow them (which is not dangerous). There may be a little blood sometimes but you probably won’t even see it.
This process is SORE and ITCHY for the puppy, so they will try to chew on everything they can get their paws on to ease this discomfort. Puppies also exploring the world using their mouths and teeth – this is a normal part of development and not because they are ‘naughty’. It is up to you to provide plenty of puppy-safe chew toys for them – or you may start finding puppy-sized tooth marks on your favourite shoes. If you leave things lying around and don’t provide safe chewing options, you really can’t blame the pup for nibbling on the wrong things.
Important! It is very important that you do not let your puppy use people as chew toys. Many people think that it is cute or funny when teeny pups bite people but, if you allow this to continue, it will become much harder to stop. It won’t be so cute or funny when your pup has become a 30-kg adult dog trying to chomp on your hand. If your pup decides to take a bite of you, give a high-pitched yelp (this is what their siblings would do) or say ‘OUCH!’, and remove your hand. You can then give them a safe chew toy instead. Don’t engage in a tug-of-war with them or punish them; if they don’t want to let go, offer them something they will find more interesting like a toy or treat. At this time, you should start teaching them bite inhibition.
TIP! We recommend that you start getting your puppy used to having its mouth touched and handled. This will make it much easier for you to give it medication, brush its teeth, or check for dental problems when it is older. Start by gently stroking or touching over the muzzle and work your way up to opening the jaws. If you are unsure how to do so, ask your vet to show you at your pup’s next vaccination appointment.
6 to 8 months
It can take 6 to 8 months for pups to finish the teething process completely and, by then, they should have all 42 adult teeth and no more baby teeth. First the incisors will arrive, then canines, premolars, and, last but not least, molars.
Excessive chewing tends to stop by about 18 months but many dogs will continue to chew for the rest of their lives, either because of a natural tendency to do so (and some breeds are more ‘mouthy’ than others) or because their chewing was never managed by the owner as a pup. This is why it is critical to teach them from a young age what they can and can’t chew on, and to provide them with plenty of options that are safe and permitted.
If, by the time they go for their spay or neuter (at around 5 to 6 months), there are still some puppy teeth left, the vet will need to remove them to avoid problems later on.
TIP! At around 6 months, you can start getting your pup used to having its teeth brushed. There are several toothbrushes and -pastes on the market designed specifically for dogs. Do not use toothpaste or mouthwash designed for humans (not even children’s toothpaste). Most contain fluoride, which is toxic for dogs, and many contain xylitol, which can kill dogs. They are also usually strongly minty tasting, which can sting their sensitive mouth lining, and the foaming action could choke them because they won’t know how to avoid inhaling it.
SIGNS OF TEETHING
- CHEWING on everything in sight!
- Bad breath
- Gums look red and inflamed
- Bleeding gums
- Gaps where teeth used to be (you may find the teeth on the floor)
- Slow eating or decreased appetite
- Irritability, whining, whimpering
- Slight fever (uncommon but does sometimes happen).
Note that there are other conditions and issues that can cause some of these symptoms so, if in doubt, always get in touch with your vet.
Notes on puppy chew toys
There is a host of options out there for dogs to chew, and not all are safe for puppies. Here are some tips to help you choose and get the most out of them.
- Look for toys specifically designed for puppies. These are often made of rubber and are tough enough to provide a good chew but soft enough not to cause dental fractures.
- Toys with little bumps or texture are often a good choice as they provide a kind of tooth-brush action and massage itchy gums.
- Do not give them very hard things to chew, like hooves, antlers, or nylon ‘bones’ as they may be too hard for developing jaws and teeth.
- Avoid rawhide as this can become lodged in their intestines if swallowed.
- Do not give corncobs to puppies or dogs – they may seem like the perfect chew toy but they can cause potentially fatal intestinal blockage.
- We suggest rotating toys instead of just giving them everything in one go. This keeps them interested in the chew toys – just like children can get bored in toys.
- It is best to supervise your pup while he or she is chewing anything. If in doubt, ask your vet for advice.
Notes on bones
Whether you choose to give your pup a bone is up to you. Some vets caution against it completely; others recommend them. There really is no clear consensus so the best thing is to assess your pup’s age and stage.
If you decide you would like your pup to have bones, wait until they have all their adult teeth and introduce bones slowly, bearing in mind that bone marrow is rich and could upset sensitive tummies. Always bear in mind that even ‘dog-friendly’ bones pose certain risks, so your pup should be supervised when chewing. Some dogs, particularly those with strong, heavy jaws, are pretty ‘aggressive’ chewers and could hurt themselves on hard bones so they may not be good candidates. Chat to your vet and, if you have concerns, go for other puppy chews instead.
Here is a general guideline:
- Size: A bone should be big enough that the pup can’t fit the whole thing in its mouth or swallow it whole. This means that, what is safe for a small breed dog may not be safe for a larger one.
- Type: Avoid big marrow bones, T-bones, chops, knuckles, or lengthwise cut bones as these can cause damage to teeth, and avoid very small marrow bones or oxtails as they can be swallowed. Shoulder, femur (this is what ‘marrow bones’ that you buy in a shop are usually from), pelvis, and knee bones. Beef or ostrich are usually best as these bones are dense and don’t break/splinter easily. Pork and lamb bones may be too soft and tend to break or splinter more easily. Chicken, duck, and fish bones are an absolute no.
- Raw: Never feed cooked bones because they are soft and prone to splintering, breaking, or crumbling – which means they can easily cause injuries to your pup’s mouth or, even worse, be swallowed and pierce through the stomach or intestinal lining.
- Hygiene: Give the bone a rinse before giving it to the puppy to remove bacteria. Some people freeze bones first to reduce bacteria but, if you do this, always thaw them out properly before giving them to your pup as frozen bones are extremely hard and can damage teeth.
We suggest asking your local butcher for beef marrow bones cut to the right size – usually an inch or two in thickness is suitable. These are the femur bones and are sometimes referred to as soup bones.