“Dogs Who Eat Their Own Heads”

How many teeth are in normal dog dentition? Are missing teeth an issue in your breed, does the breed standard address it, and can you recognize a wry bite versus an overbite versus an underbite?

Proper bites are not just for show dogs, and we’ll explain why.

The respected judge, author, and creator of the “You Be the Judge” series, Robert Cole, once shared a conversation he had with owners of a breed he never identified. The topic was “dogs who eat their own heads.” A descriptive phrase worthy of mention in a zombie apocalypse plot, but after reading the definition of the phrase, we realize that not only was there a scientific name for the condition, but that we’d seen it, ourselves.

“Eating their own heads,” was a euphemism for “base narrow syndrome” (also known as base narrow canines), a condition in which a dog’s lower canine teeth are angled straight upward, instead of tipping outward (see an illustration here). It’s the most common orthodontic abnormality seen in dogs, and if not dealt with, can cause serious damage to the roof of a dog’s mouth, its soft palate, as well as pain.

Some dogs show only minimal contact between the canine and soft tissue, but others have such direct contact that the canine tooth has actually punctured the upper hard palate. These contact points are painful, to say nothing of the potential for infection.

What causes this? Retained puppy teeth can be a frequent cause, so can the delayed eruption of permanent canines. Sometimes, deciduous canines are “base narrow” in orientation, and sometimes the cause is a discrepancy in jaw length. As we’re not canine dentists, it would be imprudent to offer “fixes” here, but we can say, “Get thee dog to a Veterinary Dentist.” A careful examination is in order to ascertain the cause (vitally important to a responsible breeder) as well as the remedy, even more important to caring dog owners. For more information, check out this link, and to find a canine dentist, look to the top right at this link.

Image: “Smiling Labrador” by Clair Hartmann

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