Dogs can have many of the same medical issues as humans, from allergies and acne to hydrocephalus and vitiligo. But, did you know that some dogs have dental issues, just like some of us? In fact, there are even dogs that need braces, just like Wesley, an adorable golden retriever whose teeth needed a little help from the doggy dentist.
Wesley’s Story of Braces for Dogs
When Wesley was born, he was perfectly normal. However, when his adult teeth began to emerge, his family noticed that they were growing strangely. In fact, they were so crooked that this pup couldn’t properly close his mouth. This meant that he couldn’t play with his toys, and — as his teeth worsened — eating became a challenge.
After he began to lose weight, Wesley’s owner, Molly Moore, rushed him to the vet.
There, she received shocking news: Wesley needed braces!
With the help of the skilled staff at Harborfront Hospital for Animals, Wesley was anesthetized and fitted with a full set of dog-friendly orthodontic braces. These worked exactly like the ones you see on many kids’ and teenagers’ teeth.
Unlike a child, Wesley only had to wear his braces for a few weeks.
Since they were removed, Wesley has been living an amazing life! He has enjoyed all of the activities that any other dog would, and his smile is now extra gorgeous.
What Other Pups Have Braces?
Wesley isn’t the only dog with a set of dog braces.
He is, however, the most well-known recipient of braces for pups. His orthodontic foray earned him a spot on ABC News!
This is a rather invasive process, and it requires anesthesia. For this reason, many vets are hesitant to perform this operation without an extremely good reason. Most dogs with braces have extreme deformities, which prevent them from eating normally.
In this photo, we can see a pup with a gnarly snaggletooth. In this situation, the tooth was causing discomfort when the pup was chewing, so the tooth was drawn forward with a set of orthodontic braces.
What Happens When a Dog Gets Braces?
During the operation, veterinarians will affix whatever orthodontic equipment is necessary. This may include metal braces, spacers, and arch bars. All of these items will be held in place with special dental glue, and the dog will slowly wake after the anesthesia wears off.
What to Avoid After Braces
Like people, dogs will have some limitations after getting their new set of chomper aligners. They should be fed limited amounts of hard foods, and for the first few days after the surgery, no hard food should be given at all. Examples of treats that should be avoided after a pup gets braces are:
What Kind of Braces for Dogs Are There?
The most common type of braces for dogs are old-fashioned metal braces. These work by threading flexible wire through bases, which are affixed to the pup’s teeth, and slowly manipulating the wire until the dog’s teeth are aligned properly.
There are also clear orthodontic braces, known as ‘Petalign,’ which work similarly to Invisalign systems for humans. Petalign is molded to fit a pup’s mouth, and the tight-fitting mold is slowly modified to match the desired alignment.
How Long Do Dogs Wear Braces?
Unlike people, dogs’ teeth are fairly easy to move around. After a few weeks of orthodontics, most pups are okay to take them off. This will be done in a similar operation and under anesthesia. However, extreme issues may require 6–12 months of braces.
How Much Do Braces for Dogs Cost?
Braces are a fairly expensive procedure, and the price tag can be anywhere from $3,000–$6,000. This figure is determined by the rarity of the procedure, equipment needed, and the demand for experienced practitioners.
When Do Dogs Need Braces?
That’s a lot of money to spend, especially if the procedure is primarily cosmetic.
Owners must also consider the risk posed to their beloved pooch. While anesthesia is fairly common and risk-free, death is still possible.
Nonetheless, some folks opt to get this procedure done for cosmetic reasons. In these instances, pups will be fitted with braces to fix relatively minor misalignments. They could live well and normally without them, but the braces will make their teeth perfect!
However, there are also cases where braces are necessary for dogs.
When Teeth Quality of Life
One of the first reasons is related to Wesley.
In these cases, a mix of dental problems cause pain and discomfort when a pup tries to eat. Because of this, dogs will fail to get enough nutrition, and this may cause them to lose weight.
Alleviating this will require orthodontics. However, a vet may also opt to perform surgery to remove problem teeth, which will generally cost less than a full course of orthodontic surgery.
Dogs can’t brush their teeth. They don’t have thumbs, and that makes it hard for them to hold a brush. Many people don’t realize that dogs also need to worry about their oral health and can neglect to care for their canine’s teeth, leading to eventual gum disease.
Sometimes, gum disease may become severe, and teeth may need to be removed leaving large gaps in a dog’s mouth that can make it hard for them to chew.
Sometimes, veterinarians will opt to fit braces onto a dog’s teeth to realign their chompers, hopefully closing the gaps and providing them with enough closure necessary to enjoy their food.
Both dogs and cats suffer from something known as “resorption.”
These are essentially the doggy version of cavities. Tooth decay occurs from the inside out, and these issues are often found after the tooth is beyond saving. At this point, veterinarians may opt to remove the tooth.
However, the gap left behind may cause problems for your pup. To alleviate this issue, a vet may suggest that the dog be fitted with an orthodontic appliance, which will slowly pull the teeth together and fill in the gap.
If a dog experiences an accident and their teeth are knocked out of alignment, they may need to have some orthodontic implants and braces to rebuild their jaw. These operations will be incredibly risky, and it’s worth speaking with your vet if you find yourself in this unfortunate situation.
In cases of severe trauma, teeth will generally be a low priority. Dogs will be suffering from more pressing ailments, and trying to fix their teeth at this point may do more harm than good.
Taking Care of Your Pup’s Teeth
Regardless of whether or not your pup needs braces, it’s a fascinating topic!
Training pups to tolerate a thorough brushing every now and then can go a long way to improving their overall health. Bones and chew toys also serve as toothbrushes for pups, as the plaque on their teeth is rubbed off with each bite.
If you want to learn even more about braces for dogs and other health-related topics, then be sure to check out some of the other posts on my blog– I’m constantly updating my page with new information!