If you’ve spent much time around babies, you know that teething is a painful process for parent and child alike. But what about your fur babies—Do puppies teeth like humans? When do puppies start teething? What are common puppy teething symptoms? And what, if anything, can pet parents do to help them through it?
“Just like human babies, puppies go through teething. Some fly through it with no problem, while others fuss, drool and chew,” Debra M. Eldredge, DVM, in upstate New York says.
Puppy teething, or the process of developing healthy teeth, is crucial to your dog’s health—and being able to satisfy their natural chewing instinct can help keep them healthy throughout their lives. But though the experience of dog teething can vary by individual pet, there’s plenty you should know about your puppy’s teeth, from ways to help them self-soothe (without destroying your favorite shoes) to when to call a veterinarian.
When Do Puppies Start Teething?
“Puppies actually go through teething twice by the time they are a year old,” Dr. Eldredge says. Like human babies, she points out, “Newborn pups do not have teeth.”
Newborn puppies’ first teeth begin to appear around 2 to 3 weeks of age, she says. And you won’t have to work too hard to spot them: “The first teeth to appear are the incisors—the tiny teeth right in front,” she says.
In total, puppies will develop 28 baby teeth, also known as deciduous teeth.
“You may hear these baby teeth referred to as milk teeth, because your pup will still be nursing when these teeth appear,” she says.
Because many puppies are adopted after weaning from their mother, usually around 7 or 8 weeks old, many pet parents don’t witness newborn dog teething take place. But there’s another round of teething in store, Dr. Eldredge says.
When Do Puppies Lose Their Teeth?
“At about 8 weeks of age, your pup will start to lose his deciduous teeth. The roots resorb and the new adult teeth will push their way up through the gums,” Dr. Eldredge explains. “Most pups have their full set of teeth by 8 months of age or so.”
In total, she says, dogs develop 42 adult teeth.
How Long Do Puppies Teeth?
When it comes to dog teething, Jennifer Coates, DVM, in Fort Collins, Colorado, says, “everything, we say, is kind of an average.”
But while there’s no firm timeline for puppy teething, she says, “it can go, on average, up until the puppy is between 6 and 8 months of age.”
Some breeds are prone to issues that can prolong the typical teething process, Dr. Coates says. In some cases, the dog’s baby teeth are slow or resistant to falling out, sometimes even requiring intervention by a veterinarian.
“Technically, those dogs haven’t fully gone through the whole teething process,” Dr. Coates says. “That does tend to be somewhat breed dependent. We see it more in small breeds of dogs and brachycephalic breeds.”
Puppy Teething Symptoms
So how can you tell if your puppy is teething? If your pup is around 3 or 4 months old and you notice the below signs, Dr. Eldredge says, there’s a good chance you’ve noticed some puppy teething symptoms.
Blood on Toys
“Your first hint that your pup is teething is often finding a little blood on his favorite dog chew toys,” Dr. Eldredge says. “Don’t panic! The bleeding is minimal and will stop by itself.”
Though it’s more rare, Dr. Eldredge says, some pet parents find an even more obvious puppy teething symptom.
“If you are lucky, you will find a couple of baby teeth. They may be stuck in a dog toy or left on the floor,” she says. “Clean the teeth and then you can add them to your puppy’s ‘baby book.’ We have quite the collection, though I did not find baby teeth from all of my dogs.”
Chewing is a natural instinct for dogs, but for many puppies, teething can put that impulse into overdrive. That’s because chewing can be a self-soothing behavior for teething puppies—but it can also put your belongings at risk.
“Your pup may search for his own choices in chew items, and this can sometimes result in damage to unexpected items,” Dr Eldredge says.
Other puppy teething symptoms, Dr. Eldridge says, include:
- Increased drooling
- Hesitating to eat
- Eating slowly
- Running a low fever
- Red and/or swollen gums
How to Help Your Teething Puppy
Teething is an unavoidable rite of passage for puppies, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make things a little easier for your furry friend. Try these tips to keep your pup safe and happy through their dog teething transition.
Because teething puppies’ chewing instincts are often in overdrive, Dr. Eldredge says, “The best way to help your pup at this time is to provide some safe chew items. Soft rubber and plastic dental rings and chews can be excellent.”
“Puppy teething toys should be tough enough to withstand hard chewing, which means that plush toys aren’t a good option,” says Victoria Schade, CPDT-KA, author, dog trainer and owner of Frolic Pup in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. “But they shouldn’t be so hard that they could damage teeth. If a toy gives to the pressure from a fingernail, it’s probably a good teething option.
Schade recommends KONG toys for puppies going through teething. KONG Puppy Rubber is custom designed for a growing puppy’s baby teeth and is built to withstand teething punctures while reinforcing appropriate chewing behavior.
“You can’t go wrong with a KONG Puppy dog toy!” she says. “KONG rubber toys are usually my go-to suggestion for dogs of all ages, but particularly puppies because it’s a safe and fun busy toy. The shape makes it easy for dogs to hold as they work on getting the goodies out, and you can fill it with a variety of different-sized treats to keep pups amused for long stretches of time.”
KONG’s line of puppy products also includes a Puppy Teething Stick, another favorite of Schade’s.
“The design can help teach a puppy how to enjoy a busy toy,” she says. “The grooves on the teething stick make it easy for them to get a quick payoff.”
Pet parents can also help alleviate teething discomfort during playtime with the KONG Puppy Goodie Bone with Rope, which provides another soothing chewing option for emerging teeth. Schade also points out that this toy “is a great option for co-play between pet parent and puppy.”
No matter what toy you choose to give your teething puppy, Dr. Eldredge says, they “should only be used under your supervision, as sharp puppy teeth can rip off small chunks that your pup may then swallow.”
“Frozen dog treats are also a big hit at this time,” Dr. Eldredge says, because cold treats can ease the swelling and pain of tender teething gums.
“Freezing a teething toy can help to alleviate teething pain,” Schade says. “Once a puppy masters the process of unpacking a treat toy like a KONG, pet parents can fill it with peanut butter or canned treat paste and freeze it to prolong the chewing fun.”
KONG Puppy Easy Treat is gentle on sensitive stomachs. It also helps pet parents fill up their pup’s KONG mess-free, with a nozzle that pours chicken liver-flavored treat paste right into the toy.
Puppy-proof Your Home
Because teething can turn your sweet puppy into the world’s most adorable destruction machine, Dr. Eldridge says puppy-proofing is extra important during this time.
“Destructive puppy chewing can happen in a very short time by a determined pup,” she says. “Your pup may be well along in his housebreaking so you tend to leave him alone at times. Don’t try that when he is teething. You might be surprised to find just how big a hole your pup can put in a sofa cushion in less than five minutes!”
And puppy-proofing isn’t just about keeping tooth marks off of your furniture, she points out—it’s also about keeping your puppy safe.
“Make sure all cords are covered or taped up out of reach. Supervise outings near furniture. I have found bitter tasting sprays work well on things like table legs to discourage chewing,” she says.
“Baby gates and shut doors are puppy parents’ best friends!” Schade says. “Mistakes can happen in an instant, so cordoning off areas of the house with gates, like placing one at the bottom of a staircase or at the entry to the dining room, is a simple way to prevent accidents.”
The MidWest Steel Pet Gate, for example, can help keep teething pups in safe spaces, and comes in two colors to blend in with your home’s decor.
Practice Proper Dental Care
Now that your puppy has teeth, they’ll need to be brushed, right? Not so fast, says Dr. Eldridge.
“Do not introduce dog tooth brushing at this time … You don’t want your pup to associate tooth brushing with any discomfort,” she says.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t lay the groundwork for a lifetime of good oral hygiene.
“[Teething] is a great time to get dogs used to having their mouth handled,” Dr. Coates says.
Pet parents can start familiarizing their pups with elements of tooth brushing without actually scrubbing their new teeth, she suggests, by lightly touching the teeth with a toothbrush or putting dog toothpaste, such as TropiClean Fresh Breath Puppy Clean Teeth Gel, in their mouth.
“This time period is focused on socialization and handling, rather than aggressive dental care,” she says.
When to Call Your Vet
For most puppies, teething is a mildly uncomfortable but routine part of growing up, Dr. Coates says. But dog teething problems are still “pretty common. Removing retained deciduous teeth happens every week in a typical general practice.”
“Most toy breed dogs try to fit a full set of teeth into a very small mouth,” Dr. Eldredge says. “You may notice your pup has ‘double’ teeth, especially noticeable if the canine teeth are involved. This can occur in any size pup, but toy breeds do seem prone to this. The retained baby teeth can cause problems for the developing adult teeth. They may totally block the eruption of the adult tooth, leading to a very sore and swollen gum area. Retained baby teeth also may force the adult teeth to grow in crooked.”
Often, deciduous tooth removal happens at the same time as a dog’s spay or neuter procedure, Dr. Coates says, since they both require general anesthesia.
Another problem that can occur, especially in brachycephalic breeds, is “problems with a dog’s bite,” Dr. Coates says, such as overbites and underbites. “Sometimes we have to go in and maybe remove a few teeth because the teeth are crowded. That’s probably the most common. On the more extreme side, there’s doggy orthodontia where you’re trying to realign teeth that are very out of whack.”
According to Dr. Coates, signs of teething troubles in puppies include:
- Rubbing at the mouth
- Trouble eating
- Dropping food from the mouth while eating
- Reluctance to eat or chew
- Odor from the mouth
Teething is a necessary part of growing up for every puppy, and most dogs tolerate the process pretty well, Dr. Coates says. As a pet parent, you can help during this transition by providing appropriate dog toys, introducing dental health habits and watching out for signs of trouble. And if your couch or your favorite shoes become a casualty of puppy teething, well, they weren’t nearly as cute as your adorable pup anyway