Common Genetic Dental Problems in Shetland Sheepdogs

by Joanna Ehlers
    Shelties are prone to early tooth decay.

    Shelties are prone to early tooth decay.

    Apple Tree House/Photodisc/Getty Images

    Due to its long, slender muzzle, the lively Shetland sheepdog is prone to a host of dental problems, many of which are genetic in origin. Some dental issues may simply be cosmetic, while others can require surgery or orthodontic devices for correction. Potential sheltie owners can insist on X-rays during their puppy's dental exam, and follow their veterinary dentist's advice when it comes to the oral health of their canine companion.

    Abnormal Bites

    Abnormal tooth alignment, called malocclusion, is most common in dogs with long muzzles and can include over or underbites. Normally, the dog's premolar teeth should meet in a saw-toothed fashion, according to Dr. Jan Bellows, DVM, for the Veterinary Partner website. Dr. Bellows notes that malocclusions caused by a genetic defect are identified by the observation of the positioning of the dog's teeth. When the tips of the dog's teeth point to the tips of the teeth above instead of fitting into the crowns, genetics may be to blame.

    Lance Canines

    Though lance canines occur frequently in Shetland sheepdogs, they also have been found in other breeds of dogs and cats. Lance canines, also known as mesioversion, occur in the upper canine teeth, which are pointed out more than usual. The dog may have one lance canine or two. If the lance canine is simply a cosmetic defect, it may not require correction. Should the problem be severe, however, the dog can experience greater tooth wear, trauma to his hard palate and abnormal contact with his lip. Treatment options for these troublesome teeth depend on the severity of the dog's condition, according to Apex Dog and Cat Dentistry. Some teeth can be corrected with orthodontic devices. Tooth extraction may be considered when less-invasive orthodontics are not an option.

    Abnormal Incisors

    Occasionally, the third incisor in adult Shelties appears different in size, shape and position when compared to normal incisors. According to Dr. Mary Mahaffey, DVM, for the American Shetland Sheepdog Association, these abnormal incisors erupt between 12 and 16 weeks of age and are larger than the dog's normal milk teeth, though smaller than adult incisor teeth. These abnormal incisors may point outward and some can be rotated. The teeth are either retained or shed several years later. Though the condition is usually cosmetic, there is concern that individuals lacking their correct incisor teeth are being bred. Mahaffey is a proponent of developing a DNA test to check for the anomaly.

    Missing Teeth

    According to the Amatras Shetland Sheepdogs website, missing teeth are one of the genetic defects that can plague shelties. The dog may be born without the correct number of teeth or the teeth may not erupt. Dental X-rays can help concerned owners determine if their dog has all of his teeth, and if some have failed to erupt. Considered a genetic fault, missing teeth usually effect the premolar area of the dog's mouth, although any tooth can fail to reach the gumline.

    Photo Credits

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    About the Author

    Joanna Ehlers is a paraprofessional, equestrian and musician. Based in Independence, Mo., Joanna has been writing and editing parenting, lifestyle and pet articles since 2013. Her work has been published on eBay, ApartmentList and Record. She holds both a Bachelor of music-performance degree and a Master of music-performance degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

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