Overbite in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Plans

Pet Care


June 24, 2020

What is an overbite? This is the first question you’ll need to answer before understanding whether your furry companion needs help. Also referred to as parrot mouth or overshot jaw, an overbite is a genetic condition that is, in most cases, hereditary. This condition causes your dog’s lower jaw to become significantly shorter than the upper jaw, resulting in misalignment of teeth.

Although most fur parents find it hard to believe, all dogs are born with an overbite. The overshot jaw allows them to comfortably nurse as puppies. As the puppy begins to grow, the lower jaw catches up to its upper counterpart. However, if you don’t notice any changes in your puppy’s mandible growth, you will need to seek your vet’s advice. 

How to Tell If Your Dog Has an Overbite Condition

You should expect your dog to develop his first set of 28 baby teeth within his first six months. Once they fall off, they will be replaced by a set of 42 permanent teeth. Like their two-legged friends, dogs have four types of teeth, i.e., incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. Dogs use their incisors and canines to grasp food and other items, premolars to cut or tear food, and molars to grind the food.

Ideal healthy dog teeth should fit together into a “scissor’s bite” such that the upper jaw incisors will be located directly in front of the incisors on the lower jaw. With their mouth closed, your pup’s teeth should fit together. The teeth should not be significantly apart from each other or too close either.

Does my dog have an overbite condition? You can tell if your dog has an overbite by observing the bite. If you notice that the teeth are not locking properly, and the upper jaw seems to be protruding, then your dog has an overbite. Is it normal? While a parrot mouth is not good for any canine’s health, it does not necessarily determine your pup’s quality of life. Consider it as you would any other disease; unfortunate but normal.

The symptoms related to an overbite can vary depending on the severity of your dog’s condition. Here are some of the signs to look out for: 

  • Oral Irritation 

Oral irritation associated with an overbite entails blistering to the mouth, bruising, injury to the inner cheek, or even puncturing of your pup’s hard palate. These injuries occur when your dog rubs their lower teeth against the roof of their mouths due to teeth misalignment. Oral irritations can be very detrimental if unnoticed or untreated. You should check your dog’s gums regularly and alert your vet as soon as any suspicious sensitivities persist. 

  • Gum Disease: Periodontal Disease 

Periodontal disease causes an infection or inflammation on the gum as a result of plaque and tartar build-up. In severe cases, this disease can also lead to your pup’s loss of teeth or bones. The first tell-tale sign of this disease is bad breath. Other signs to watch out for are excessive drooling, bleeding gums, broken teeth, pawing at the mouth, a growth inside the mouth, and inability to chew hard foods.

Luckily, periodontal disease can be prevented by giving your pooch a proper diet, observing what they chew on, and brushing their teeth regularly with dog-friendly toothpaste. You should consult with your vet to advise you on the proper oral hygiene for your dog. However, if your dog’s condition requires it, your vet will help you develop viable treatment courses depending on the severity of the disease. 

  • Difficulty Eating Food 

Another visible sign that your dog has the parrot mouth condition is the way they pick up their food. The protruding jaw may prevent your pup from correctly picking up food or even obstruct them from picking up food pieces altogether. You can help your furry friend by hand-feeding and angling his food bowl such that the food gathers in one spot. In severe cases, your vet may propose pulling out some of your dog’s teeth to improve their life. 

  • Wear and Tear 

The misalignment of your dog’s teeth may force them to continually rub and grind their teeth against each other, even when they’re not chewing food. This will result in the wear and tear of his gums and teeth. You should consult your vet as soon as you notice any damage to his gums and teeth. 

What Causes Overbite in Dogs?

As previously mentioned, malocclusion can be passed down from parent to puppy. However, do not be surprised to find a healthy parent producing a puppy with an overbite, or vice versa. There are times when a healthy pup can develop the parrot mouth condition in their later growth stage.

Such situations can occur if your puppy has been chewing on things excessively and at an odd angle. Another cause of overbite is if your dog has an endocrine disorder. This condition affects your pup’s endocrine glands meant to produce hormones that regulate their body.

It is also important to note that particular dog breeds are more susceptible to the condition. Some of them include German shepherds, collies, Doberman pinschers, Great Danes, Siberian huskies, among many of their mixed breed puppies. What these dogs have in common are their long, narrow heads and pointed noses. Hence they are scientifically referred to as dolichocephalic dogs. If your pooch belongs anywhere in this group, it is paramount that you pay attention to their dental health. 

Treating an Overbite

If you are wondering whether you should seek medical help for your dog, the answer is a strong yes. Your vet can perform an extensive dental examination to prevent further damage to your dog’s overall health. The physical exam that the vet will conduct may entail sedating your dog so that the vet can do a thorough check. This check will include details such as your pup’s skull type and their general teeth alignment, i.e., the relationship between the upper and lower incisors. The veterinarian will also check for any trauma in the mouth caused by grinding and biting.

The next step is to perform a dental X-ray to assess the general health of your pup’s teeth and jaws. For effective treatment, the vet will evaluate whether your furry friend can lead a healthy life with their condition or whether the bite should be corrected. He will also monitor any teeth loss and degeneration.

If your puppy’s disease is severe, your vet may have to extract some interlocking teeth to allow the jaws to loosen and, in turn, provide space for the malocclusion to self-correct as your puppy grows. After the corrective procedure, your vet will discuss with you in detail about what you should expect after surgery and how to nurse your puppy back to health. 

Final Thoughts

If your pup’s dental health is not severe, your vet will advise you on how to help them. Since modern dogs are household pets as opposed to wild scavengers, your pooch can survive even with the overbite condition.

Do not be worried about your dog’s appearance; focus on helping your furry companion live a healthier life. As a general rule of thumb, it is crucial to pay attention to your puppy’s growth to avoid any further damage to their teeth and gums.