Tuna, the dog with an overbite, became an internet sensation after his rescuer and owner started posting photos of him on Instagram. Many people find this Chihuahua-Dachsund dog funny and adorable, thanks to its overbite and wrinkled skin. Tuna has since hit over 1 million followers on Instagram and is featured in tuna-themed merchandise such as iPhone covers and mugs. Tuna’s case is an exception as many people find dogs with overbite ugly. Read on to find out more about dog overbite.
What is Dog Overbite
Overbite is the common name for class 2 type of dog malocclusion (teeth misalignment). Also referred to as overshoot, overjet, parrot mouth, class 2, or mandibular brachygnathism, dog overbite is where the teeth on upper jaw (maxillary) are longer than, and thus protrude over, the teeth on the lower jaw (mandible).
Because the upper and lower teeth cannot fit as snugly as they would naturally do (for that specific breed of dog), a gap between the incisors (the front teeth) develops.
In normal cases, dog teeth interlock like scissors with the upper incisors touching the lower incisors but positioned slightly forward. An exception applies to short-muzzled dogs such as Bulldog and Pug. These breeds naturally have an underbite, the opposite of overbite.
Overbite in dogs is a major genetic defect and tends to occur more commonly in breeds with pointed muzzles. Think collies, Russian wolfhounds, dachshunds, and shelties for example.
What Causes Dog Overbite?
Overbite and other forms of malocclusion are hereditary. This means that a dog with overbite may pass the defect down to his or her puppies and thus future generations. The genetic aspect of overbite in dogs also explain why certain breeds are predisposed to the problem.
According to the PetHealthNetwork, dog overbite is usually caused by abnormal positioning of the teeth (dental malocclusion) or jaw misalignment (skeletal malocclusion).
Dog overbite may start developing as baby teeth (also known as deciduous teeth) set in. This is usually at about four weeks of age. In such a case, the overbite tends to worsen as the 42 permanent teeth replace the 28 deciduous teeth, usually at the age of 2-3 months. This is because adult teeth are typically larger than deciduous teeth. As a result, they tend to cause more damage.
Issues Associated with Overbite in Dogs
A minor dog overbite is usually an aesthetic concern, with no health implications whatsoever. Severe cases, however, may cause your canine companion several difficulties and health problems. These include:
- Mouth injuries: Dog overbite often causes the lower jaw teeth to hit the roof of the mouth. This can cause damage to soft tissues such as gums, palate, and even cheeks. This not only discomfort but can also lead to infections.
- Difficulty eating: Dogs use their incisors and canines for picking up and grasping onto food before crushing and chewing the same with premolars and molars respectively. Teeth misalignment that is typical in a dog with overbite may thus cause difficulty eating. On a good note though, overbite rarely causes eating difficulty.
- Plaque and tartar buildup: According to PetMD, teeth misalignment also subjects the affected dog to a higher risk of tartar and plaque accumulation. This is often associated with bad breath.
- Dental interlock: This is a rare anatomical problem characterized by an asymmetrical growth of the left and right sides of the upper jaw. In the case of dog overbite (as opposed to dog underbite), a dental interlock is typically attributed to alternate trapping of the lower canines by upper canines. That is one at the front and the other at the back of either of the upper canine. Treatment of dental interlock in a dog with overbite involves extracting the offending canine teeth from the lower jaw. This allows the jaws to grow more naturally.
Dog Overbite Correction – What to Do for a Dog with Overbite
According to the PetHealthNetwork, Cosmetic reasons don’t count as a reason for professional dog overbite correction. Malocclusions are only treated if they cause the affected dog pain, eating difficulty, or any other problem. Still, dog overbites rarely cause serious problems as to warrant correction. Also, most dogs with an overbite will have a great life and make wonderful pets.
There are also cases of minor overbites that correct themselves as the puppy grows older. Puppy jaws continue growing up to 10 months of age and slight overshot may heal themselves within this period. Once the jaws set, no further improvement will happen. Natural correction is especially true for certain breeds such as German shepherds.
For severe overbite that is deemed to warrant medical intervention, correction usually involves one or more of the options below. The choice depends on the degree of severity of the problem:
- Surgery: Surgical extraction is sometimes necessary for effective dog overbite treatment. The problematic teeth may also be shortened or even moved as your veterinarian (or a dental specialist) deems necessary.
- Orthodontics: Braces, tooth spacers, and other orthodontics can also be used to realign a puppy’s teeth.
Although these treatments can help to prevent injuries to the mouth’s soft tissues, your dog will no longer be eligible for the conformation ring as per the rules of the American Kennel Club.
It is also advisable to brush your dog’s teeth regularly to avoid tartar and plaque buildup.
In conclusion, a dog with overbite will in most cases live a normal, healthy life. If severe, however, the overbite can benefit from medical interventions such as surgery and braces. Given the hereditary aspect of this problem, you may want to think twice about breeding a dog with severe overbites.
- Hawthorne Hills Veterinary Hospital: When Can An Overbite Be A Problem For Your Growing Puppy? Have You Ever Heard Of Dental Interlock?
- PetHealthNetwork: Dog Orthodontics (Malocclusions)
- PetMD: Teeth Misalignment in Dogs
- Veterinary Dental Centre (Illinois): Veterinary Dental Center: Animal Pediatric Dentistry
- Vetary: Malocclusion of Teeth in Dogs