Danville Express

Living - December 7, 2007

The Pet Vet says... Perfect your dog's 'bite'

by Dr. Heidi Strand

Q. We have a Maltese puppy who still has some of his baby teeth, even though the big teeth have come in. Do they need to be pulled and will this hurt him?

A. Retained deciduous (or baby) teeth are common, particularly in small breed dogs. Normally when an adult tooth erupts, it puts pressure on the root of the deciduous tooth until the root deteriorates and the baby tooth comes out. This should happen by around 7 or 8 months of age. Since dogs such as Chihuahuas, Maltese, Yorkies, etc., often have abnormal tooth position, the adult teeth can erupt without putting enough pressure on the deciduous tooth root. They are usually canine teeth or incisors. Although it has not been well studied, it appears to be a genetic disorder - probably a by-product of having a cute, small face. It is surprising how often pet owners fail to notice malocclusion, overbites, and underbites until their veterinarian points these problems out.

It's important to remove retained teeth as soon as possible, to promote movement of the adult teeth into their proper position while they are still somewhat moveable. Sometimes additional orthodontic treatment is needed to realign the dog's bite. I know, most people do not want to budget for braces for their children, let alone their dogs. Unfortunately the consequence of an improper bite or not removing retained teeth is not just cosmetic. These problems will predispose your dog to periodontal disease and possibly even tooth loss down the road.

Extracting the retained teeth is done under general anesthesia. Many people opt to have it done when their pet is being spayed or neutered. Pain medication is usually prescribed, as we can surmise that the extraction is painful as it is in humans.

Q. My daughter's 2-year-old hamster is losing most of her hair. She doesn't seem to be itching, just losing hair. What can we do?

A. There could be several explanations for your hamster's hair loss. Parasites, endocrine problems and ovarian disease are all possible. I would recommend that you have her seen by a veterinarian who has experience with hamsters. Some of these problems are treatable. In general, it's best to keep hamsters on hypoallergenic bedding, such as Carefresh, rather than on pine shavings. Cedar shavings should never be used. Pelleted diets are usually more nutritious than seed mixes. Hamsters usually only live about 2 years, but proper care can extend their lifespan.

--Dr. Heidi Strand is a veterinarian for the East Bay SPCA in Dublin. She has lived in the Tri-Valley for 10 years with her family and an assortment of four-legged friends. Questions can be mailed to 315 Diablo Road, Suite 100, Danville 94526; or e-mailed to hstrand@eastbayspca.org. Her column runs every other week.


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