Image via iStock.com/fotostok_pdv
By Deanna deBara
When you get a puppy, you want to make sure they’re as comfortable as possible in their new home, especially as they grow and their needs evolve. One way that you can help your new puppy is to support him through his puppy teething stages.
The different puppy teething stages can be a challenge to navigate when it comes to finding appropriate puppy teething toys and helping to soothe puppy teething symptoms.
You’ll need to first understand the different stages of puppy teething to find out how you can help.
The Puppy Teething Stages
Before we talk about safe puppy chew toys for teething, let’s talk about the different puppy teething stages and what happens at each stage.
“Like babies, puppies have different stages of teething,” says Dr. Rachel Barrack, DVM, CVA, CVCH, and founder of Animal Acupuncture. According to Dr. Barrack, the stages are as follows:
Weeks 2-4: Baby teeth start coming in; puppies nurse from their mothers at this time.
Weeks 5-6: All 28 baby teeth will come in; caretakers will begin weaning the puppies from an exclusively milk diet and begin integrating soft, wet puppy food.
Weeks 12-16: Baby teeth start to fall out due to the eruption of permanent (adult) dentition. This process can be stressful and uncomfortable for your pup.
Weeks 24+: All puppy teeth have fallen out, leaving 42 adult teeth in their place (that’s 10 more than an adult human has). Consult your veterinarian if you notice any baby teeth remaining, as they may need to be extracted.
Each stage of puppy teething has different challenges—and your pup will need different puppy teething toys to keep them comfortable through each stage.
Weeks 2-12: Emergence of Puppy Teeth
There’s a lot going on during the early weeks of your pup’s life when their baby teeth are just starting to come in. During weeks 2-4, puppies are nursing from their mothers. In weeks 5-6, all of their teeth will have come in, and they’re starting to transition from nursing to eating puppy food.
Unless you’re a breeder or caretaker at a rescue, you’re not likely to have access to your puppy at this time—and even if you do, there’s no need to worry about getting them a puppy teething toy just yet.
The focus during these early weeks of a puppy’s life is getting them ready to wean from their mother and go to their forever homes; teething toys will come later.
Weeks 12-24: Adult Teeth Start Pushing Puppy Teeth Out
Weeks 12-24 are the peak of a puppy’s teething activity—and it can be a really uncomfortable time for your pup.
Getting them the right puppy teething toys at this stage is crucial; not only will it lessen pain and discomfort in their teeth and gums, but it will also prevent them from taking their teething out on things around your home (like your furniture, shoes or fingers).
“Teething puppies are uncomfortable and require chew toys at this time,” says Dr. Barrack. “By giving them chew toys, they will (hopefully) forgo chewing your furniture and household items.”
So, what kind of puppy teething toys should you get your pup to help make the teething process easier and more comfortable?
First, look for rubber dog toys that you can pop in the freezer. “There are many toys that I recommend for teething. I like the rubber KONG products—especially fillable ones, so you can fill and freeze to help with any teething pain,” says Dr. Stephanie Liff, DVM, of Pure Paws Veterinary Care in New York City.
Try the KONG puppy dog toy, KONG puppy tires dog toy or KONG puppy teething stick dog toy. If you don’t have any rubber dog toys on hand to freeze, “you can also freeze a wet washcloth for the puppy to chew on,” says Dr. Liff.
Rope toys that are durable—like the Mammoth cottonblend 3 knot dog rope toy—present another option. “Thick rope toys (that cannot be shredded by the puppy) are also good for teething puppies,” says Dr. Liff.
Teething rings are also options for a teething puppy. They come in edible form, like the N-Bone puppy teething ring dog treats, or toy form, like the Nylabone puppy chew teething rings dog toy or the JW Pet Play Place butterfly puppy teether. Or try flavored teething toys, like the Nylabone chicken flavored puppy teething dinosaur chew toy or Fido Puppy’s First Bone beef flavored dog teething bone.
Weeks 24+: The End of Puppy Teething
Once your dog passes 24 weeks, their puppy teeth should be gone—which means any discomfort from teething should subside.
Once your dog grows out of the teething stage, you don’t need to worry about having teething-specific toys. But you should still make sure they have plenty of adult dog chew toys on hand (even when they’re not teething, dogs love to chew!).
Toys to Avoid During Puppy Teething
It’s important to give your puppy the toys they need to get through their different teething stages comfortably—but it’s also important to avoid any dog toys that could put them in danger.
Toys you should avoid include:
Any dog toy that could accidentally be ingested and cause a blockage.
“[Avoid] any toys that have thin ribbon or rope, [which] can be swallowed and cause intestinal blockage. Also, avoid soft, foam-filled toys your puppy can shred and accidentally ingest…[which] can cause blockage,” says Dr. Barrack.
Any dog toy that presents a choking hazard.
“Avoid any toys with small parts, as these can be choking hazards,” says Dr. Barrack.
“Squeaky toys are also a hazard, as puppies can open them and swallow the squeaker,” says Dr. Liff.
Any dog toy that isn’t built to withstand constant chewing.
“Bones can splinter and fragment, causing intestinal perforation, while rawhides can cause obstruction,” says Dr. Barrack.
Any dog toy that is too big or too small for your puppy.
“Make sure to choose appropriately sized toys for your dog,” says Dr. Barrack. “For example, giant breeds can choke on toys formulated for smaller canines.”
Dog toys that are too large for your puppy—and too difficult for them to get their mouths around—could damage their still-growing teeth.
Dog jaw bones are still forming, too, and large bones can cause fractured teeth. This can lead to abnormal growth of the adult dentition or fractured jaws in some cases.