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Puppy teeth & dental care

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Brush up on puppy dental care

Taking care of your puppy's teeth is a vital part of keeping it healthy.

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80 percent of dogs will begin to show signs of oral disease by 3 years of age. Without proper dental care, your puppy's teeth will begin to accumulate bacteria, plaque and tartar, which can lead to bad breath and periodontal disease (gum disease). This bacteria buildup can even affect your dog's overall health as the bacteria enters the bloodstream and taxes the heart, liver and kidneys.

Your puppy can't brush his own teeth (wouldn't that be nice?) or tell you if his mouth is hurting, so it's up to you to maintain your puppy's dental health.

Your new puppy should have arrived with 28 milk teeth. They're small, they're white, they're sharp, and just as cute as they can be, but don't expect to admire them for long. By about 8 months of age your puppy's pearlies will have fallen out and been replaced by 42 full-sized fangs. (Puppy teeth usually come in at 4 weeks and start falling out around 3 or 4 months of age, but this varies by breed and individual pup.)

While they last, though, these temporary, or deciduous teeth, will require some attention. Puppy teeth are easily broken, which frequently leads to infection, so you'll need to check for this. It's also important to get your puppy comfortable with having his mouth examined, in order to catch potential problems early and establish good dental habits from the start.

In addition to regular brushing, "examine your pet's mouth once a month for swelling, bleeding, loose teeth and cavities," says Jan Bellows, D.V.M., Dipl. AVDC, ABVP, of the All Pets Dental Clinic in Weston, Florida. "Caring for your puppy's teeth is the most important thing you can do to ensure that your pet lives a long and pain-free life." The best way to examine the inside of your puppy's mouth is to gently grasp the top of the muzzle with your fingers on one side and thumb on the other. With your other hand, pull down on the lower jaw. Healthy gums will be firm, and either pink, black or spotted.

Symptoms of dental problems may not always be obvious. Look for clues in your dog's general behavior, such as a change in head position, an off bite, dropping food, pawing at the mouth, difficulty chewing and an aversion to being patted on the head. If your puppy is usually comfortable with brushing and suddenly stops allowing it, your pup might be experiencing oral discomfort.

It's never too early to care for your puppy's teeth. By starting now with a sensible home-care routine, and scheduling regular dental checkups with a vet, you can prevent a lot of serious problems down the road, and help to ensure a healthy, pain-free future for your dog.

“Brush Up On Puppy Dental Care” is provided by with permission from I-5 Publishing, LLC, publishers of Dog Fancy and Cat Fancy publications. For the latest dog news, photos, entertainment and tips, check out

All statements and opinions in " Brush Up On Puppy Dental Care” are the sole opinions of the I-5 Publishing, publishers of Dog Fancy and Cat Fancy publications and not those of CareCredit. The content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual medical provider with respect to any professional advice presented. Your participation in the presentation constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.

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