Dogs with overbites are dogs who need to be evaluated by a vet to determine the extent of the problem. There are overbites and overbites in dogs. Contrary to popular belief, just like humans, dogs with overbites experience more than just esthetic issues. Overbites are also functional disorders that decrease the dog’s quality of life and require veterinary attention. Following is information about dogs with overbites, the problems they cause and treatment options.
Causes of Dogs With Overbites
An overbite is a hereditary, dental condition that manifests with abnormal bite between the upper jaw (maxilla) and the lower jaws (mandibles). Simply put, an overbite means that the lower jaw is abnormally short, particularly in comparison with the upper jaw. The condition has several synonyms including class two malocclusion, over-jet, parrot mouth, overshot jaw and mandibular brachygnathism.
Why do overbites occur in dogs? As stated, in most cases, the overbite is a genetic, hereditary condition passed from parents to pups. It should be noted that even parents with perfect bites can give birth to a pup with an overbite. That means some ancestor in their family line probably had the same problem.
Sometimes, it is possible for a pup to be born with normally aligned teeth and then develop an overbite. This occurs if the pup is prone to excessive chewing which causes the teeth to align in an atypical angle.
Do overbites in dogs have any breed predispositions? Overbite is more likely to occur in dog breeds with long, narrow and pointed muzzles. It is most frequently reported in the following breeds:
- Border Collies
- Basset Hounds
- German Shepherds
- Doberman Pinschers
- Russian Wolfhounds
- Afghan Hounds
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
- Crossbreeds including the above listed ancestries.
Problems of Dogs With Overbites
Overbite causes several problems. For instance, when the teeth are misaligned an empty space or gap forms between them. That gap will prevent the dog from picking up food. Even if you align the food bowl in a more comfortable way or decide to hand feed your dog, the gap will prevent the dog from chewing the food.
The lower canine teeth are likely to strike the roof of the mouth or the palate. When the striking is repeated and prolonged, irritation will develop. The irritation is painful and will interfere with the dog’s eating habits.
Misaligned teeth do not fit properly. If the teeth do not fit properly they can easily get locked together in abnormal position. In the long run, the locking may lead to more pronounced crookedness and improper growth and formation of the jaw.
The overbite puts too much strain on the jaw muscles thus causing pain and discomfort.
It should be noted that overbite is a condition that gets worse with age.
What is the clinical manifestation of a dog with an overbite? The symptoms caused by an overbite depend on the malocclusion’s severity and its consequences. Generally speaking, these are the most common consequences and their signs and symptoms:
-Difficulty picking up food – the protruding upper jaw prevents the dog from picking up food.
-Difficulty chewing – even if the dog manages to pick up food it will likely be unable to chew it properly. Instead of chewing the dog will just swallow which on the long run may lead to nutritional deficiencies and weight loss.
-Periodontal disease – this is an inflammation of the teeth’s supportive surrounding tissues. If left untreated it results in premature teeth loss. Periodontal disease manifests with:
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-Oral irritation – because of the misalignment, the lower canine teeth pierce the roof of the mouth. This causes painful irritation that manifests with bruising, blistering and soft tissue damages.
-Wear and tear – since the teeth do not fit as they should, they rub and grind against each other which leads to excessive wearing and tearing.
Treatment for Dogs With Overbites
Can overbites be fixed? Fortunately overbites can be fixed. There are several fixing methods and which one will be chosen depends on the dog’s age and the severity of the overbite. Regardless of the fixation method, the goal is to provide a functional and comfortable bite.
In young pups (6 to 9 weeks of age) it is advisable to have the lower incisors and canine teeth removed. This will alleviate the pain caused by the tooth-to-palate contact and will make enough space for the jaw to grow up to its genetic potential. This is a temporary solution and re-evaluation is scheduled for when the pup is 5 to 6 months old. In most cases, in spite of the earlier teeth extraction, the jaw remains too short. In such cases there are three options:
- Extraction of the lower permanent canines
- Orthodontics specifically designed to tip the teeth outward
- Crown reduction followed by pulp capping, or in simple words, shortening of the teeth.
In older dogs, the only way to treat an overbite is with orthodontic accessories such as spacers and braces. More often than not, these accessories should be worn for long periods of time, sometimes for as much as 2 years.
Dog Overbite Questions
How much does overbite fixing in dogs costs?
Orthodontic procedures are quite expensive. What is more, the fact that all orthodontic procedures are performed in anesthetized patients only adds to the expense. The exact price will depend on the number of misaligned teeth and the type of fixing procedure but in general, fixing an overbite will definitely set you back several thousands of dollars.
How long does it take to fix an overbite?
Fixing an overbite is a long process that usually takes more than 6 months. In severe cases, as well as in older patients, the fixation may take as long as 2 years.
What is the best age to treat an overbite?
Overbites can be fixed at any age but the treatment is more successful in young puppies whose facial structures are still growing and easier to reshape. Generally speaking, the younger the dog the shorter the fixation period will be.
Will correcting the overbite change my dog’s face shape?
It depends on the overbite’s degree. In severe cases, fixation results in altered facial shape. On the other hand, in more subtle cases, the facial shape will not be changed.
Can a dog's overbite correct itself?
No, time does not heal an overbite. Overbite is not a self-limiting condition and fixing it requires veterinary attention. Overbites can be corrected through tooth extractions, surgeries and prosthetic aids.
About the Author
Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia. She currently practices as a veterinarian in Bitola and is completing her postgraduate studies in the Pathology of Domestic Carnivores at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, Croatia.