If you noticed that your dog has abnormally aligned jaws, then there’s a possibility that it has a parrot mouth. While a parrot mouth doesn’t reduce the quality of life for most dogs, severe cases can cause issues such as gingivitis and oral pain.
What’s a Parrot Mouth?
Before you learn about parrot mouth in detail, it’s important to know that there are several terms used to describe the same condition in dogs where a misalignment of the upper and lower jaw is present. These terms are parrot mouth, overbite, malocclusion, and overshot jaws. Medically, this condition is known as mandibular brachygnathism.
Under normal circumstances or occlusion, dogs have both their upper jaw (maxilla) and lower jaw (mandible) aligned. Their upper incisors (also called front or biting teeth) appear in front of the lower incisors. The lower canines (sharp teeth) fit at an equal distance between the last upper incisor and canine.
In malocclusion or parrot mouth, the dog’s mouth will resemble a parrot’s beak. The upper jaw is extended outward while the lower jaw is shorter. This results in the lower canine teeth directly hitting the upper canine.
A good thing is that if you noticed this condition in your days-old puppy, there’s no need to worry. As surprising as it may sound, dogs are actually born with a parrot mouth or overshot jaw.
This allows the puppies to nurse comfortably.
However, as the puppies mature, the lower jaw catches up to the upper jaw. By the third or fourth week, the jaws should be somewhat aligned. If the mandible remains inhibited, then that may be a detriment.
What Breeds Are Prone to the Parrot Mouth Condition?
Breeds having narrow and long muzzles can develop a parrot mouth. These include the Irish wolfhound, German shepherd, collies, etc. A few breeds like a boxer, Shih Tzu, and Boston Terrier also develop parrot mouths.
Causes of Parrot Mouth in Dogs
Parrot mouth is a hereditary or developmental defect, meaning that there’s no definite way to prevent this from happening. This genetic property is a good explanation for why some breeds are predisposed to this issue more than others. Parrot mouth may be due to abnormal positioning of teeth, jaw misalignment, or a combination of both.
A parrot mouth may start developing in puppies as they grow deciduous teeth (also called primary or baby teeth) at about four weeks of age. That’s the age when you can look for preliminary signs to determine whether or not there’s a parrot mouth defect.
Parrot mouth can grow worse as your dog ages. The 28 deciduous teeth are replaced by 42 permanent teeth which are also larger in size. They grow at about two to four months of age. Severe parrot’s mouth poses some risks for grown-up dogs.
Other than genetic defects, parrot mouth may occur due to endocrinological (hormonal) issues. Parrot mouth caused by nutritional deficiency during development is minor and doesn’t pose major health risks.
Symptoms and Health Risks for a Parrot Mouth Dog
First things first; remember that a small parrot mouth is nothing to be concerned about. Besides the odd look, a small misalignment of jaws carries little to no health implication. However, severe cases of overbite can cause various difficulties and troubles for your pup.
Diagnosing a Parrot Mouth
Parrot mouth in dogs has many symptoms that can be easily spotted.
- The dog will have difficulty picking up food chunks and would prefer eating the larger pieces of food. Your dog will chew just fine, however.
- Your pup will drool excessively. As there are open spaces even if your dog tries to keep its mouth shut, the drooling will be more than usual.
- Food spillage while chewing is another sign of parrot mouth, along with constant rubbing of the face.
- On closer inspection, you’ll observe that the incisors either meet edge-to-edge or have a wide gap between them.
Possible Health Risks
Minor misalignment poses no major problem and causes slight discomfort with chewy meats and toys at most. Only severe parrot mouth carries health risks, which are uncommon. The risks are serious, though, and need to be checked and treated by a vet.
- Mouth injuries are the most common risk of parrot mouth. The lower jaw is misaligned and can hit the roof of the mouth. This leads to soft tissue damage and cuts in the gums, cheeks, and palate. It’s uncomfortable and can lower your dog’s appetite. Piercing the soft tissue often can lead to painful infections and oral ulcers as well.
- Parrot mouth also causes plaque buildup. This plaque and tartar not only weaken the teeth but negatively affects your dog’s health by accumulating bacteria in the mouth. Plaque buildup is characterized by bad breath, red gums, and yellowing or browning of teeth.
- Although very rare, a parrot mouth dog may have difficulty eating properly as well.
In addition to these, a rare anatomical issue that also presents itself as a parrot mouth on the exterior is dental interlock. It’s mostly found in puppies. There’s an asymmetrical growth on either side of the upper jaw, and the lower canines are trapped by the upper canines, causing trouble for the dog when he’s eating. Extracting the lower jaw canine can help the mandible grow naturally.
Parrot Mouth Treatment
A parrot mouth dog rarely needs treatment and can spend a happy, healthy life. However, if your pup has a major parrot mouth issue and can’t seem to chew properly or injures its soft palate, gums, and cheeks a lot, then getting in touch with your vet is important.
Your vet can determine whether or not the overbite or parrot mouth is an issue that needs medical attention. As puppy jaws grow until around nine to ten months of age, a small parrot mouth may correct itself naturally. After this time has passed, though, no improvement will happen without a vet’s intervention.
Vets correct parrot mouths by first performing an X-ray and assessing the overall health of the jaws. If realignment is needed, your vet can perform corrective procedures. They may suggest orthodontics such as braces, do tooth extractions, or perform jaw realignment surgery.
Lastly, it’s also important to understand that correcting a parrot mouth in show dogs is unethical and illegal in some areas. If your dog has a mild issue that doesn’t hinder its lifestyle, avoid unnecessary procedures. Be sure to brush your dog’s teeth daily to avoid any plaque buildup.
Parrot mouth is a genetic defect that can’t be controlled. Luckily, it poses few to no risks. Only severe cases of parrot mouth cause health issues like mouth ulcers or dental interlocking. If your dog suffers from these, your vet may perform corrective procedures.