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Malocclusion in dogs… Do you think I need braces?

OK, first things first, the word malocclusion certainly sounds bad, and it is even spelt worse (Two C’s in a row?  Really?).  But don’t fret, all it really means is that your dog has some pretty messed up teeth!

And in fact…

Malocclusion is actually a fairly common condition for small dogs to have problems with their teeth and jaws as they have been bred to have a smaller jawline than they are supposed to have had they been allowed to evolve naturally.

The problem is…

In some situations, this condition can result in all sorts of dental problems which is why we wanted to take a moment and discuss exactly what malocclusion is and discuss what it might be like to own a dog that has been diagnosed with the condition.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Malocclusion’s

Is a term used to describe a condition where the maxillary and mandibular arches of the jaw (that’s the upper jaw and lower jaw) don’t line up properly.  It occurs commonly in brachycephalic dogs (that’s dog with short snouts) because they don’t have much space in their little mouth for their teeth to come in.

And while…

We would love to tell you exactly what this condition looks like, the truth is, there are various different classes of this disease, some being hereditary and others being the results of mismatched jaw bones which makes it next to impossible to predict how one dog’s malocclusions will appear vs another dog’s malocclusions.  That said however, it is fair to say that this common dental problem generally comes in four classes.

  • In the first class…
    • The jaw bones are aligned but one or more of the teeth are not.
  • In the second class…
    • The upper jaw is longer than the lower jaw, either bilaterally or unilaterally.
  • Class three is considered a normal occlusion in brachycephalic breeds and occurs when the lower jaw is longer than the upper jaw.
  • The fourth class is the worst.
    • On one side the upper jaw is longer, on the other the lower jaw is longer. This can only happen unilaterally.

Symptoms of this disease include your dog:

  • Not having a level bite,
  • Upper teeth might overhang
  • And its lower teeth might overshoot its top ones.

You will be able to tell this by looking at the position of the upper incisors. The two teeth sets should fit together. If the jaw is misaligned the upper maxillary incisors will either fall behind or in front of the bottom teeth. In the most visible cases the dog’s teeth will be permanently visible.

Malocclusion’s can…

Arguably be seen most commonly in European bred Lhasa Apso’s. On the continent this breed has a protruding bottom jaw whose lower Mandibular incisors are constantly exposed and rest on the skin of the snout. This is considered completely normal in European countries like Spain.

Skeletal malocclusion…

Is a name your veterinary surgeon may give to any of the above classes. It simply means that the skeleton’s shape is responsible for the malocclusion and that there is very little to be done about it.

Affected breeds

Any breed of dog with a short snout can be affected, but it is possible to see this condition in dog breeds with larger jaws, too. That being said, the known affected breeds are as follows:

  • The Boxer
  • The Bulldog (English and French)
  • The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • The Chihuahua
  • The Lhasa Apso
  • The Pekingese
  • The Pug
  • The Shih Tzu
  • The Toy Poodle
  • The Yorkshire Terrier

Treatment options

Since this is not a degenerative periodontal disease and it is generally considered a “normal” trait of some dog breeds, many vets will simply advise you to not do anything about it if it does not present a problem to the dog (this would be our advice as well).

Sure…

The affected canine mouth will have a sort of scissor bite, but this should not cause any damage. If it is detected in the molars or premolar teeth early enough, interceptive orthodontics can help to straighten out the baby teeth on the mandibular canine jawline therefore manipulating the deciduous teeth into an appropriate position before the adult teeth come in.

But come on! 

This is a dog we’re talking about, and one rule that we have here at IndulgeYourPet is first do no harm.  So, if your dog has messed up teeth, but they are functional, and aren’t causing him or her any harm, leave well enough alone.  We can assure you that both your dog and your wallet will thank you for it!

Which brings us to…

Were we like to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians or medical professionals.  All we are is a bunch of folks who just happen to be passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them.

This is why…

If you feel like your pet may have some type of health issue that may need attention, don’t try to self diagnosis it yourself, have him or her check out by a vet ASAP!

Because…

The truth is, an early diagnosis will often lead to the “best” medical outcome for your pet regardless of what is bothering him or her, but beyond that diagnosing a medical condition early could save you a bundle in medical costs!

Which is why…

We here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now will a pet insurance policy be right for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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