Sully is almost five months old now. He is growing by leaps and bounds. He has also started teething—in full force.
Our puppies are initially born without teeth. Their puppy teeth start coming in at about six weeks old. They grow a total of 28 teeth, which are known as baby teeth or deciduous teeth. For puppies, the teething process begins at about three months and continues for several months, off and on, and this can be an uncomfortable and painful period. When puppies are teething, they increase their biting and chewing and test out different objects and textures to relieve the discomfort. Between the ages of three and seven months, a puppy begins to lose its deciduous teeth, starting with the incisors, to make room for the new adult teeth. At the age of four months, the adult molars and adult canines are beginning to come in. Between the ages of six and seven months, the adult molars will come in. Finally, by seven to eight months, the full set of adult teeth should have come in.
The teething process can last for five months! Yes, five months, and we must remember that this is a natural process for our puppies. They need to chew things in order to help their adult teeth come in. Good management practices are very important in order to keep our pups from destroying our favorite things. I keep an arsenal of appropriate chew toys that I know Sully will like in order to help him make the right decisions when he has the urge to chew, which these days seems to be a constant. Some of his favorites are:
• The Kong (www.kongcompany.com )
This toy is one of my all-time favorites. This cone-shaped, rubber toy is hollow, so that it can be stuffed with food or treats to keep your puppy interested. This is my go-to toy with Sully. I often stuff it with some softened kibble mixed with a binder such as peanut butter, yogurt, or cottage cheese. Then they go in the freezer for a couple of hours. This keeps all my dogs busy for quite some time. This toy comes in several sizes and chew strengths.
• Busybuddy bones (www.premierpet.com )
These come in several different shapes and sizes for all dogs. These interactive toys have replaceable rawhide rings to help keep the puppy interested. They are great for small dogs and puppies, but don’t hold up so well if you have a large breed, or aggressive chewer.
• Nylabones (www.nylabone.com )
This has a fantastic assortment for all life stages and chew styles. These are always available to my dogs.
• Rope Floss Toys
All my dogs enjoy playing with these, and for Sully, I’ve been soaking them in broth and freezing them, creating a makeshift teething ring. He seems to like the relief that the cold provides to his sore gums.
The most important consideration when choosing a teething toy is that the puppy likes it. If the puppy doesn’t find the toy appealing, then he will search elsewhere to find relief, and it may very well be your table leg or your sofa cushion. Some puppies prefer de-stuffing stuffed toys. If you’ve got one of these, it can be easier on your budget to stuff an old sock, or hit the thrift store for some cast-off stuffed toys. It is important to remove all parts that could cause choking before giving it to your pet.
Also be sure that you get the appropriate size for your puppy. Too small and you run the risk of the toy being destroyed, too big and your puppy won’t be able to get his mouth around it to chew on. To be sure that you are getting the best bang for your buck, check to be sure whatever items you choose are well made and durable.
Lastly, have patience; this phase will pass. The key to success through this phase is good management. Supervise your puppy constantly. I tell puppy students to watch their puppies like they would watch an 18-month-old un-diapered child in their house!
[In next month’s River Reporter Pets Section, Catskills veterinarian Joseph D’Abbraccio addresses what happens when dogs swallow items that can cause internal obstructions.]