Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Puppy With Too Many Teeth

If you asked Baxter, I'm sure he would tell you that Kirby has plenty of teeth...teeth that are used repeatedly throughout the day to chew on Baxter's ears, legs and toys. Truth is, Kirby has more than enough teeth for a dog, and certainly more than his little mouth can handle.

There are those parents who, once they see the state of their child's second teeth coming in, know they'd better start a savings account for the inevitable braces. If Kirby were human, we would be those parents... only without the time for a savings account. Kirby's dental woes had a rather urgent timeline.

From a purely cosmetic perspective, taking measures to straighten a dog's teeth seem pretty silly to me, unless you have a potential show champion that stands to rake in stud fees for the next decade. But sometimes tooth issues are more than cosmetic, they're functional, and this is where the decisions get a little more complicated.

We recognized right away that Kirby has a slight can't tell from looking at him until you open his mouth and voila, those bottom teeth are in front of the tops. We asked about functional problems at his first vet visit, and there will be no embarassing head gear and taunting at school for this dog. An underbite is just fine. But, the vet warned, Kirby's little mouth is just the type to have problems when his adult canine teeth start coming in.

The first round was the removal of his baby canines when we had him neutered, in an effort to avoid some serious misalignment of the teeth and jaw that could wreak havoc in the years to come.


Kirby already had his six adult incisors across the top front, so we figured we were finished in that department. Then, within days after Kirby's operation, another adult incisor started coming in, just in front of one of the others to make what looks like a double tooth. How could this be? Oh yes, our little Kirby is prolific in the tooth department. The lucky boy has seven incisors! I contacted the vet.

"Aren't you the lucky ones!" was the vet's reply. He explained that at the time of the removal of Kirby's other teeth, he found that Kirby had a similar extra tooth coming in on the left side, which the vet extracted at that time. As for the new needs to be removed, says the vet, "and the sooner the better." Super...a tiny dog that would have EIGHT incisors? Big smile on this guy.

We hate to put Kirby under again, but it looks inevitable as the tooth in the back is starting to push the front one straight out. The vet said it could wait until after the holidays, and it kind of appears that as the canine moves back into its proper position, he's getting a bit more room for the extra tooth. Still, it should probably come out. Ultimately, we just want him to be comfortable, and having a sharp tooth jutting into his upper lip probably won't be very comfortable after a while.

So there you have it. More than you (or we) wanted to know about canine dental alignment.

We keep joking that Kirby is our "$5 dog," (the cost of adoption, minus the refundable neuter deposit). There's no such thing as a "free puppy," or so the saying goes. Very true. But when we made the decision to bring dogs into our family, we recognized that there would be financial investments to go along with them. And compared to braces or a college fund, the costs associated with Kirby's ample chompers are a wee drop in the bucket.

It all just adds to the mystery of little Kirby. What sort of canine bloodline has extra teeth? Boxers? Looking at Kirby, I seriously doubt there's any Boxer in there. Then again, I'd say the same for German Shepherd, and his mother was definitely a good part shepherd. I will say that Kirby is getting some pretty big teeth for a little dog. Chalk another one up for the terrier.

No comments: