How to Deal with Overbite in Dogs?

Pet Care


June 15, 2020

Canine overbite is the general term for the two types of malocclusion. A dog overbite is where the upper jaw’s teeth are longer than and protrude over the lower jaw. This is commonly referred to as parrot mouth or overshot. Due to the upper and lower teeth being unable to fit as snugly as they would normally, a gap between the incisors develops.

In an unaffected dog, the teeth interlock as the upper incisors touch the lower incisors while positioned slightly forward. Exceptions to this are brachycephalic breeds like the French bulldog and Shih-Tzu, which have a natural underbite due to their flattened faces and short muzzles. Overbite is genetic and hereditary, and it most commonly occurs in pointed muzzle breeds such as collies and wolfhounds. 

What Causes Overbite in Dogs?

Along with some other forms of malocclusion, overbite is hereditary. Parent dogs with overbite are likely to pass the condition onto their offspring, and it will continue like this through future generations. The fact that the condition is genetic also helps to explain why only certain breeds are predisposed to it.

Canine overbite is believed to be caused by the abnormal positioning of teeth known as dental malocclusion or jaw misalignment, also called skeletal malocclusion. It can start early on in a dog’s development, and it is not uncommon to have a puppy with overbite. If this is the case, a puppy’s symptoms tend to worsen as they age since their adult teeth are much larger than the baby teeth and can be much more painful and damaging. 

Potential Issues Stemming From a Canine Overbite

While a mild case of overbite is usually just an aesthetic issue that is absent of any real health concerns, severe cases of overbite could potentially result in various health issues and a great deal of pain. 

  • Mouth injuries 

Overbite often causes a dog’s jaw to hit the top of their mouths, which can cause damage to soft tissues such as the gums and soft palate. This can lead to discomfort, pain, and potential infections. You should check your dog’s mouth for cuts. If you suspect tissue may have become infected, you should contact your vet to arrange an appointment as infected tissue will need antibiotic treatment. 

  • Periodontal disease 

The crowding and closeness of teeth can make them hard to clean and can trap food particles, which can lead to an infection of the gums and buildup of tartar, which are known as periodontal disease. Bad breath is one of the early signs of this disease. Even with regular cleaning, it can be difficult to avoid these issues in a dog with a severe overbite. Professional dental cleaning may be needed to ensure that your pooch’s gums stay healthy. 

  • Difficulty when eating 

As dogs use their incisors and canines when they eat for picking up and grasping food before chewing it, an overbite can cause difficulty with eating due to the misalignment of teeth. Luckily, this symptom is fairly rare. 

  • Dental interlock 

This is a rare anatomical problem characterized by asymmetrical growth of the left and right-hand sides of the upper jaw. With dog overbite, a dental interlock is usually when the lower canines are trapped by the upper canines alternately. Unfortunately, sometimes the only option to solve the issue is to remove the lower canine teeth, which allows the jaw to grow more naturally. 

Treating a Dog Overbite

The first step to treating an overbite is to arrange an appointment with your vet for a dental examination of your puppy. Dogs can begin to show their overbite as early as 8-12 weeks old, and by the time they are ten months old, the overbite becomes much more difficult to treat. Minor overbites can correct themselves spontaneously as the puppy ages.

Brushing their teeth regularly to prevent the buildup of tartar and potentially harmful debris can help prevent the overbite from becoming more severe. With an underbite or overbite malocclusion, it’s best to avoid games like tug-of-war. This can put additional strain on the jaw, which may further exaggerate the deformation.

If your dog is suffering from a more severe overbite that’s causing dental interlock, dental intervention may be needed to rectify the problem. It’s important to remember that this is not necessary for cosmetic reasons. Still, if your dog is suffering from associated symptoms such as the ones above, an intervention is a wise choice. Invasive correction procedures purely for cosmetic reasons, on the other hand, can be more stressful than beneficial.

There are spacers, bracers, and other orthodontic accessories that can be applied to your dog’s teeth to correct their overbite. As a dog’s mouth grows quicker than a human’s, these accessories will usually need to be in place for just a few weeks or months, but they can also take up to two years.

However, if the dog is young enough, tooth extraction is a preferred method of treatment. A young dog only has baby teeth. If those teeth are misaligned, then removing them can loosen the jaw and create space for it to grow properly and realign itself correctly before the adult teeth come in.

Professional extraction of the teeth by your veterinarian will not damage the adult teeth whatsoever, but it’s important to remember that your puppy’s mouth is likely to be sore after the procedure, so you should treat them with care accordingly. For example, your dog will most likely have difficulty eating. Therefore, some dietary adjustments and softer food may be needed until your puppy’s teeth start to come in. 

How to Avoid Overbite in Dogs

Generally, if your puppy is older than four weeks and appears to have an overbite, it is a cause for concern. Therefore, when you’re thinking about the breed of dog that you would like to join your household, you should carefully consider whether you’re prepared for the potential vet bills and other adjustments that could result from getting a dog breed that is known for suffering from teeth misalignment.

For example, brachycephalic breeds were designed to have underbites, and many of them will have it, even if it is not yet visible. These dogs are often prone to many other health conditions such as BOAS, so unless you’re prepared to fork out a hefty sum of money to ensure you’re getting a dog from the healthiest bloodline with all of the necessary health checks and tests completed, then these dogs are not for you.

The only way to avoid the potential problems associated with a canine overbite is to avoid getting a breed that is known to suffer from this condition. Typically, teeth misalignment is more common in smaller breeds than medium-sized breeds, but it is not unheard of. You should think long and hard and weigh up the potential risks, pros, and cons of choosing one of these breeds as these dogs often do endure lots of discomfort, particularly if they are a brachycephalic breed. 

Final Thoughts

While dogs with mild overbites can live healthy, normal lives, it’s best to avoid breeding dogs with any kind of overbite because the condition is hereditary. Breeding dogs with an overbite and passing on the genes could potentially result in their offspring developing an overbite too.

The condition could be either mild or serious, which is unfair to them. Therefore, it’s best to get a dog suffering from an overbite neutered or spayed to prevent them from having puppies in the future. It’s the safest way to prevent the condition from passing on.