Is there any sensation as intriguing or potentially dangerous as that of a baby puppy nibbling on your finger? Granted, this is a delight with a limited shelf life, and one which is fraught with peril, as a puppy’s teeth are quite sharp. As any dog owner or aficionado knows, puppies grow, develop, and mature at an accelerated rate in comparison to human children. This applies to dog dentition as much as it does to all the other firsts that offspring experience during early life. I’ve had dogs all my life, and I have to admit, I’ve never seen or noticed a single one of them lose his teeth.
I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering, then, do puppies even have baby teeth? Do puppies lose baby teeth in the same way that people do? The answer to these questions is a resounding, “Yes.” A puppy’s baby teeth begin erupting from their gums around week 3. By 8 weeks, they have a full set of 28. Around 12 weeks, these milk teeth begin falling out, ousted as their 42 adult dog teeth begin growing into place. Let’s make a more detailed survey of the developing canine mouth! Topics we’ll cover include:
- Do dogs have baby teeth?
- Do puppies lose their teeth?
- Do puppies teethe?
Do dogs have baby teeth?
Yes! Like their human owners, dogs have two sets of teeth in the course of their lives. The first set of teeth goes by a variety of names, including “baby teeth,” “milk teeth,” and “deciduous teeth.” Like deciduous trees, which lose their leaves, deciduous teeth are so named because they eventually fall out. There are a total of 28 baby teeth in puppies. In order of appearance, the full complement includes:
- 12 incisors. These are the teeth at the front of the upper jaw, or maxilla, and lower jaw, or mandible. There are six on top and six on bottom. The baby incisors typically erupt between three to six weeks after whelping.
- 4 canines. Better known as “fangs,” these are the long, pointed teeth on either side of the upper and lower jaws. Baby canines appear between weeks 3 to 5 of a puppy’s life.
- 12 premolars. The premolars are the hindmost teeth in a puppy’s mouth, and the last to erupt. There are six on the upper and six on the lower jaw. These teeth begin to emerge between weeks 5 to 6.
By week 8, all 28 of a puppy’s baby teeth should reach their full size. While these deciduous teeth are brittle, they are sharp. This is why mothers begin weaning their whelps between week 6 and 8.
Do puppies lose their teeth?
Yes! One reason dog owners are prompted to ask whether dogs even have baby teeth is because the process of losing the first set and replacing them with the full complement of adult teeth happens much more quickly and with less fanfare than the corresponding process in human children. There is very little, if any, bloodshed when a puppy loses her baby teeth.
Aside from the relatively bloodless transition, there’s little other evidence left behind to mark a baby tooth’s passage. Milk teeth are pushed out as their adult replacements grow in to take their place. The roots of a puppy’s first set of teeth dissolve and their organic material is resorbed back into the body. If a puppy’s baby teeth do not fall out as such, or get stuck in a piece of food for you to find, chances are the lost teeth were swallowed.
Another reason why dog owners fail to register that their puppies even have baby teeth is that the 28 deciduous teeth are only together as a set for about a month. Since puppies are, on average, weaned and ready for adoption during this exact period of time, by the time you bring a new puppy home, his adult teeth have already started to supplant their deciduous counterparts.
Do puppies teethe?
Yes! Teething is the name given to the uncomfortable period during which his baby teeth are replaced by a full set of adult teeth. The process of puppy teething begins as puppies enter their third month — weeks 12 to 16 — and lasts two to three months as their replacements sprout into place. An adult dog’s mouth contains 42 teeth in total, and all should be visible by 6 months of age. In the order that they erupt, the permanent set includes:
- 12 incisors. The first baby teeth to erupt are the first to be replaced. Between weeks 12 and 16, or three to four months of age, the deciduous incisors start being forced out by their permanent versions. All permanent incisors should appear by 5 months of age. Incisors are precision cutting instruments. In the wild, they help a dog remove flesh from as close to the bone as possible. They are also the primary teeth used in self-grooming.
- 4 canines. The adult fangs come in next, also at 12 to 16 weeks. Due to their relative size, the maxillary canines — those on the upper jaw — actually take the longest of any dog teeth to reach their full length. Adult canines are used for gripping and puncturing.
- 16 premolars. Adult dogs gain four premolars as they reach maturity. These teeth begin to erupt between 16 and 20 weeks of age, and should all have emerged by 5 months. Premolars are sharp, jagged, and angled teeth that are used for tearing and grinding food. Premolars are the ones used most with chew toys.
- 10 molars. There are four molars at the rear of the upper jaw, two on each side. There are six molars on the lower jaw, three on each side. The molars erupt between weeks 16 to 24. These teeth are broader and flatter, helping a dog crush and pulverize his food en route to the digestive tract.
All of a puppy’s permanent teeth should have erupted by 5 to 6 months of age. Compare that to human children, who tend to begin losing baby teeth around 5 or 6 years of age. A puppy’s accelerated maturation compared to humans means their adult teeth have already erupted by 8 months.
These are just rules of thumb, not strict guidelines. Size and breed have an impact on the length of the process. As soon as puppies get teeth of either kind, deciduous or adult, they’ll have and start expressing a need to use them. To spare your furniture, footwear, and home decorations from feeling the brunt of a puppy’s early adventures in dentition, consult with your veterinarian. She will recommend chew toys appropriate to your puppy’s size, breed, or mix.
About the author: Melvin Peña trained as a scholar and teacher of 18th-century British literature before turning his research and writing skills to puppies and kittens. He enjoys making art, hiking, and concert-going, as well as dazzling crowds with operatic karaoke performances. He has a two-year-old female Bluetick Coonhound mix named Baby, and his online life is conveniently encapsulated here.