By Dr. Bridget Andersen
Did you know that puppies have 28 deciduous (baby) teeth by the time they are 3-6 weeks of age and that kittens have 26?
- At around 3-4 months of age puppies and kittens start to lose their baby teeth and their first adult teeth will start to erupt, starting with incisors, premolars and then molars. The canine teeth are the last to erupt, typically at 6 months of age.
- Many owners never find their pets baby teeth, as they are often swallowed while chewing.
It is important to offer your pet several safe chewing options during this time to keep your pet, and your home, safe.
- For puppies it is ideal to offer them pliable chew toys that will massage the gums as the teeth are erupting. The best choices are non-toxic rawhide, soft nylon, rubber chew toys, and specifically designed dental chews.
- When offering your puppy a non-digestible toy – monitor it closely to make sure that they are unable to chew it into piecesthat could become lodged in the gastrointestinal system. However be careful on your search for an indestructible chew toy because animal bones, antlers, and hard plastics and nylons can fracture your puppy’s tooth – creating pain and a potential for infection or even damage to the permanent tooth.
- Kittens love to chew during this stage as well and their needs can often be satisfied with crunchy food and treats. Avoid cloth, strings, and rope (anything with a linear shape) during this phase of your puppies or kittens life as these items can easily become obstructions in the gastrointestinal tract.
Your puppy will eventually erupt 42 permanent teeth and your cat will erupt 32.
These teeth will require daily oral care.
- It is best to start brushing their teeth at a young age to get them accustomed to you having your fingers in their mouths.
- You can use a bristle finger brush or a pet tooth brush, in conjunction with pet safe toothpaste to massage the outer surfaces of the teeth and gum line.
- If the brush and toothpaste combination is too cumbersome, a chlorhexidine dental wipe will work just as well to remove the plaque and bacteria that lead to periodontal disease. While daily oral care is best, oral care at home can be beneficial even if performed only a few times a week.
- For times when brushing is not possible, there are many products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council to help keep your pets mouth clean. Ask your vet about products with the VOHC seal to help you with your pet’s daily home oral care. The list of approved products can be found at www.vohc.org