Puppy teething: How to help a teething puppy
We all know the power of puppy eyes, but what about puppy teeth?
If your once-sweet bundle of fur has started terrorizing you with their mouth, chances are you have a teething puppy on your hands.
Not sure how to help a teething puppy? Don’t worry—our vets have you covered.
In this post we’ll tackle all types of teething questions, from when to start brushing puppy teeth to puppy teething symptoms, puppy teeth bleeding, and more.
When do puppy teeth fall out?
Teething (the process of teeth erupting) happens twice in a puppy’s lifetime: once around 3 weeks and next around 12 weeks. At 3 weeks your puppy will sprout their 28 deciduous (baby) teeth, whereas at 12 those deciduous teeth are replaced by 42 permanent (adult) teeth.
During this time, you may or may not find tiny teeth scattered on your floor. Sometimes puppies swallow their teeth and pass them without issue.
Unfortunately for you (and especially for your pup), teething is an uncomfortable process but we’re here to help you through it.
Puppy teething symptoms
One of the earliest and surest signs of puppy teething is a pup that’s suddenly chewing on everything in sight: furniture, shoes, clothes, and even people.
Why do teething puppies chew so much? Chewing reduces some of the discomfort associated with teething. Most puppy parents can expect their new family member to excessively chew for up to 18 months, but even afterwards it’s normal for your dog to continue to chew (though usually to a lesser extent).
Sometimes, chewing is accompanied by crying or grumbling and a generally sense of discomfort. This may present as fidgeting, eating slower than usual, and more drool than you’re used to.
Sure, all of this means extra work for mom and dad, but it’s important to keep in mind that teething is painful for your puppy, too. Their gums are inflamed and sensitive, and unfortunately there’s no way to communicate to your pet that the pain is temporary.
Three puppy teething symptoms top the list of questions we receive from parents to teething puppies:
- Puppy teething and diarrhea
Although diarrhea is sometimes an unlucky partner to puppy teething, the two are not directly related.
Remember: what goes in must come out. Because teething puppies are so prone to chewing, it’s inevitable some of what they chew will get ingested. Not to be confused with pica, eating unusual items can cause gastrointestinal (GI) upset, which may manifest as vomiting or diarrhea.
The best way to prevent teething-associated puppy diarrhea is to thoroughly puppy proof your home and to monitor what they’re chewing and consuming. Seemingly innocuous stuff like dirt and leaves can wreak havoc, so it’s better to err on the side of caution.
Because your pup wants, or even needs, to chew, try redirecting them to something more suitable like a toy or a vet-recommended dental stick.
2. Puppy teething and bleeding
Some bleeding and discomfort during teething is normal. As the teeth push through the gums, they can become inflamed and bleed. This isn’t cause for concern; however, if you notice bleeding unrelated to a tooth erupting, book a vet visit to make sure there isn’t a wound or something else amiss with your pup’s mouth.
3. Puppy teething and bad breath
Whatever happened to the sweet puppy breath? During teething, adult teeth are literally pushing out the baby teeth. Because everything is being smooshed together, food and other gunk can get stuck in the mix and begin to build up over time. Not surprisingly, the bacterial break down can cause some pretty awful smells.
The good news is once your puppy’s baby teeth are out, their breath should improve. Don’t forget to brush your puppy’s teeth daily to keep their breath as fresh as possible in the meantime!
Teething puppy FAQs
Knowing which puppy teething symptoms to watch for is a helpful first step, but we thought we’d take things a step further and answer some of the most frequently asked puppy teething questions we hear from concerned pet parents.
1. Do all puppies lose their teeth at the same time?
By 6 months of age, most puppies should have a full set of permanent or adult teeth. Sometimes—especially with small breeds and smoosh-faced breeds like Chihuahuas and Frenchies—a few stubborn baby teeth decide to stay put. These are called retained deciduous teeth. If this is something your puppy is experiencing, it’s likely your veterinarian will need to surgically remove those teeth to prevent them from causing future dental disease.
Other times, permanent teeth don’t erupt; this could be because they’re missing or they’re trapped below the gumline. The only way to know for sure is with an x-ray. Your vet may suggest this because unerupted teeth can lead to dentigerous cysts. These are fluid-filled cysts that form around the crown of an unerupted tooth, and they feel even worse than they sound. Ridding your puppy of these teeth will spare them from future problems and you from a hefty vet bill down the road.
2. What do puppy teeth look like when they fall out?
Basic tooth anatomy doesn’t really change from dog to dog, but the size of a deciduous tooth will. Most puppy teeth look like the crown or top of a tooth without the root. They are usually quite a bit smaller and pointier than adult teeth as well.
3. How long does puppy teething last?
This question is harder to answer than you might think!
Like we mentioned earlier, most puppy teething tapers off around a puppy’s 6-month birthday. Naturally, this isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it’s an especially helpful guideline if your puppy is long past that milestone and their tiny teeth are still chewing up a storm.
4. What can you give a teething puppy for pain?
Puppy parents often ask us how they can help a teething pain. After all, nobody wants to see their pup suffer.
The best thing you can give a teething puppy for pain is something appropriate to chew on. Toys designed for puppies are softer to massage sensitive puppy gums and prevent delicate puppy teeth from breaking. Some puppy chew toys are even designed to be frozen; the cool taste and texture provides extra relief for red, inflamed puppy gums.
Puppy teething is also a great teaching opportunity. With time and persistence, your puppy will learn what is and isn’t appropriate the chew. By redirecting your puppy to a parent-approved chew (ideally something your puppy loves, too), they’ll develop an association that will help prevent any damage to themselves and to your belongings.
If your pup is eating slowly or has bleeding gums, you can try softening their food or feeding them canned food to make their dining experience more pleasant. Soften your puppy’s kibble by adding boiling water until the kibble begins to float; once it’s floating, let it sit until it softens and cools.
If your puppy’s pain seems to stem from an upset diet, swap out their puppy diet for a DIY bland diet for a few days. Follow the rule of a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. For carbs, we recommend boiled white rice or potato. Stick to one protein source, whether that’s boneless and skinless chicken breast or a lean ground beef. Boil the meat to remove as much fat as possible, mix with your chosen carb, and store in the fridge or freezer between meals. Feed small, frequent meals by offering 1-2 tablespoons every 2-3 hours. If your puppy’s belly is still in a state, don’t feed anything for 12-24 hours.
If puppy teething pain has you in as much distress as your pup, talk to your veterinarian.
5. How often should I brush my puppy’s teeth?
The same rule for adult dogs applies to puppies: ideally, you should brush your puppy’s teeth at least once a day to every other day.
Now, until your puppy gets accustomed to toothbrush time, this may not be feasible. The best advice we can give is to start now and stick with it. Not only are there physical health benefits to brushing your puppy’s teeth, it’s also excellent mental exercise.
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If your pup’s reaction to a toothbrush is “absolutely not,” consider alternatives like oral sprays or gels, dental chews, and even food and water additives. Thankfully, the Veterinary Oral Health Council tests products for us so we know what actually works to keep tartar at bay. If you have a hard time brushing your puppy’s teeth, VOHC-approved products will support their oral care; however, daily brushing is and will always be your best bet with the biggest benefits. Just make sure to confirm with your vet which products are safe to use with puppies.
Homemade puppy teething toys
Who doesn’t love a DIY?
EXPERT TIP: Don’t add broth or food to a DIY chew toy like a sock. We don’t want your puppy to mistake it for food!
If your puppy has started teething and you need something to help your teething puppy ASAP, a frozen healthy treat like a slice of apple or a carrot can provide much-needed relief.
If you have a puppy who loves to chew but prefers something on the softer side, grab an old sock or a small towel you’re okay to part with. Tie a few knots in the fabric, wet it, and stick it in the freezer until it starts to stiffen. When offering this homemade puppy teething toy, always be sure to monitor as they chew.
There you have it, folks! Hopefully these tips, tricks, and FAQs will help you feel ready and able to handle the trials and terrors of a teething puppy.
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Dr. C. Beck
Registered Veterinarian, Founder & CEO