Showsight - July 2021


Figure 11. Full Dentition vs. Missing Premolars A


Figure 10. Canine Dentition in Model Skull. OVAM. Copyright the University of Nottingham.

The molars are the last teeth at the back of the dog’s mouth. There are four (2-2) molars in the upper jaw and six (3-3) molars in the lower jaw. (See Figure 9.) The two largest teeth in the jaws on each side are the P4 and M1. These are called the Carnassial teeth. (See figure 9.) The molars at the back of the mouth, with their flatter surfaces, are used to grind food and to crush bones. Dams will use their molars to sever the umbilical cords when whelping their pups. (See figure 9.) When doing my recent research on canine dentition, I came across a wonderful image at the Online Veterinary Anatomy Muse- um that demonstrates why it is so important for a Herding dog to have full dentition. Not only do the teeth help in all the ways listed above, but the roots of the teeth serve the purpose of reinforcement and strengthening the jaws of the dog by their density and size. (In Figure 10, this is fully demonstrated by showing the teeth imbedded in the clear skeletal formation of the head.) I was even surprised by the size of the roots of the canine teeth as I had never seen them demonstrated in such a manner. It is plain to see that a missing tooth not only hampers a dog in daily chores, but it can endanger a dog with a weak spot in the jaw (especially the lower jaw). A well-placed kick from livestock can snap the jaw in half at the point of a missing tooth. This was brought to my attention early in my judging career when I was thanked by an exhibitor for checking for full dentition in his breed. His dogs were used as working cattle dogs, and they were usually far from a motor vehicle—and well over 100 miles away from veterinary care—when gathering the cattle to bring them in closer to the ranch from their far-ranging pastures for the winter. He’d had a dog, missing bilateral P4s on the lower jaws, have just such an accident, and he was dis- tressed that he had to destroy his dog because his jaw snapped when kicked for just the reason stated above. (See Figure 11.) The first illustration “A” in Figure 11 shows a dog will full denti- tion. The second illustration “B” shows the dog missing one premo- lar on the upper jaw and one on the lower jaw. What do you think would happen if this dog took a kick right to the area of the missing lower jaw premolar? When judging a breed that calls for counting teeth, I was taught to do it in groups when checking the bite: 6 incisors (both up and down) and 4 canines, and then 4 (premolars) and 2 (molars) on the upper jaw and 4 (premolars) and 3 (molars) on the bottom jaw on each side. Thus, reaching the total of 42 teeth. (See Figure 12.) The last thing one must consider when discussing canine denti- tion is the owner’s care of the dog’s teeth. While there is little evi- dence of a tooth decay problem in the canine mouth, there is a lot of evidence that dogs are prone to gum disease if their teeth are not kept clean. Medical studies have proven that there is a connection

Figure 12. Counting Teeth

between gum disease and heart disease in dogs (as well as in people)! If you allow tartar to accumulate on the teeth, it opens up a direct line into the dog’s bloodstream for invasion by anaerobic bacteria that thrives in the tartar of the teeth. Pockets can form around the roots of the teeth and, as they grow larger, the teeth can actually fall out. From the tooth and into the bloodstream, the bacteria finds a home in the dog’s heart where it builds up as plaque and develops into heart disease. If left unchecked, it will lead to the death of the dog. The amount of tartar that accumulates on a dog’s teeth varies from dog to dog. Some dogs need little tooth care and keep their teeth clean by chewing on bones and treats that are created to scrape the tartar from the gum line. On the other hand, there are some dogs that are very much more likely to have a tartar build-up, even if you give treats to help keep the teeth clean. Many breeders have found that adding organic Norwegian kelp to the dog’s daily diet really does help to keep the teeth clean and tartar free. I order my kelp from Nature’s Farmacy as it is MUCH more inexpensive than others that I used to use. I also like the texture of their product—more like sand instead of powder, though it is not the kelp itself that cleans the teeth but the chemical reaction that occurs when the dog ingests it. (I have used these supplements for years, but I do not benefit from mentioning their product nor do I own stock in the company!) Others learn that they must brush their dog’s teeth on a routine basis. There are good suggestions for routine tooth care on the web, and a simple search on tooth care in the dog should bring up several ideas. This is one area of care that must not be neglected. For questions or comments, or to schedule a seminar on structure and movement, I may be reached via e-mail -


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