Should I Buy A Puppy With An Underbite? (Vet Answer)

Dr Daisy May, MRCVS BVSc, Vet Surgeon
Should I Buy A Puppy With An Underbite

Getting a puppy with an overbite is confusing, but the same goes for puppies with an underbite.

Many people find this unique appearance of a puppy with an underbite to be endearing, but deciding to bring home a new puppy involves more than just aesthetics.

In this article, we will discuss and explore whether to get a puppy with an underbite, as it is a very important decision.

What Causes An Underbite In Dogs?

An underbite exists where a dog’s lower jaw visibly protrudes beyond the upper jaw in terms of its length. It is usually due to a condition called mandibular prognathism, where the lower jaw is too long in relation to the upper jaw.

However, it can also be due to an overly short upper jaw, which we term maxillary brachygnathism. Underbites are relatively common and maybe a result of one or more of the following factors:

1. Genetic Predisposition

Some dog breeds are genetically prone to congenital underbites. Such breeds include the Boxer, the Bulldog, and the Shih Tzu.

2. Malocclusion

This is the medical term for the misalignment of the teeth. When your dentist asks you to bite down, they are probably checking you for malocclusion, and if you’re unlucky, you may find yourself with a set of braces or aligners as a result!

If left untreated, malocclusion can lead to an underbite developing over time. Malocclusion can be genetic, or in rarer instances may result from trauma to the jaw(s).

Two healthy dogos
Image: via Twenty20

3. Jaw Growth Disorders

Not a common cause, but in rare instances developmental disorders may cause a dog’s jaws to develop abnormally, resulting in an underbite.

4. Brachycephalic Conformation

‘Brachycephalic’ refers to a short, flattened facial conformation, such as that possessed by pugs and French bulldogs. Due to having been selectively bred to have very little in the way of a muzzle or snout, these dogs are very prone to underbites, as well as to dental disease and respiratory issues (since the nose and throat are also affected).

What Problems Can An Underbite Cause?

The following are the issues that an underbite can influence;

1. Dental Disease

Being especially prone to dental problems is probably the biggest downside for canine underbite sufferers. Since the teeth are not properly aligned, abnormal wear and/or chipping may result from teeth rubbing or clashing against one another.

Furthermore, if you choose to buy a puppy with an underbite they are very likely to suffer from periodontal disease earlier in their adult life, more frequently and more severely than their unaffected canine counterparts.

You can mitigate this problem to some extent by ensuring that you help your dog maintain a high standard of routine dental hygiene by brushing their teeth daily with a toothbrush and toothpaste that is formulated for canine use.

2. Difficulty Eating And Drinking

Where an underbite is very pronounced, it may make it difficult for a puppy or dog to eat and drink. In the vast majority of cases, affected dogs will still manage to get enough to eat and drink, but they may make very messy and/or slow eaters.

Some pooches with underbites may also find it difficult to pick up and carry toys, sticks, balls, or other objects in their mouths, which can negatively affect their enjoyment of playtime.

3. Breathing Problems

Dogs with a severe underbite may experience snoring or even difficulties with breathing as a result of the condition, although more frequently, this is due to an overall brachycephalic conformation.

Labrador Puppy

4. Predisposition To Certain Infections

In some cases, an underbite may make a dog more susceptible to developing infections, particularly in or around the mouth.

This is because the misalignment of the teeth can create pockets where bacteria and food debris can accumulate, or in some instances may be because the teeth are directly rubbing against the lips or muzzle causing ulceration and/or dermatitis.

5. Problems With Insurance

If you decide to buy a puppy with an underbite, it’s important to be aware that there is a chance you may experience some difficulty when it comes to the small print of pet insurance for your puppy.

For example, an insurance company could reasonably claim that any dental disease your puppy-turned-adult-dog develops is related to the underbite that they were born with, and therefore refuse to pay out for dental disease claims.

Treatment Options For A Puppy With An Underbite

In reality, in most cases, puppies born with this condition will lead a normal life mostly unaffected by their underbite (except for additional dental care needs). So, more often than not, no treatment is recommended other than taking good care of their teeth.

Whilst it is possible to fit a dog with braces, moderate and severe underbites might not be correctable in this manner. Any orthodontic appliances must be applied, and treatment overseen by a veterinary dentist with additional certification; a ‘GP’ veterinary practitioner cannot undertake treatment.

And, of course, as with any orthodontic treatment, you should not expect results overnight! It can take weeks or months for movement to occur.

In theory, surgical repositioning of the jaw and/or the use of bone grafts could be considered at the specialist level for correction of canine underbites, but this is rarely, if ever, undertaken in practice, perhaps in part due to a lack of demand since many pet owners feel that their dog is not excessively bothered by the condition.

Key Points To Consider Before Buying A Puppy With An Underbite

Here are vital factors you need to consider before getting a puppy with an underbite;

  • Underbites are a common condition affecting puppies and dogs, particularly those of certain breeds. Unfortunately, treating them can be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive, especially if moderate or severe.
  • Whilst most underbites do not pose major problems in dogs, those that are combined with a brachycephalic (‘flat faced’) conformation may be particularly troublesome, and so it is perhaps wise to avoid buying a puppy that is exhibiting both.
  • In non-brachycephalic puppies and dogs, mild-to-moderate underbites usually are not much of a problem, and so long as you are prepared to take great care of your new puppy’s teeth throughout his or her life (and are not planning to breed from him or her – see below) then you may wish to consider buying your chosen puppy despite the underbite.
  • Consider selecting a puppy without an underbite, or perhaps you may wish to try explaining to the breeder that you would like a price reduction because the puppy could prove more difficult to insure and is likely to have additional health costs in the future.

Final Words

A final factor to consider when deciding whether to buy a puppy with an underbite is that you really should not breed him or her once they reach adulthood.

This is because underbite is frequently a genetic condition, and so there is a strong likelihood that one or more of your dog’s offspring will suffer from the condition.

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