Many times a week, we get asked the question of “how old is this pet?” Sometimes this is from a stray animal that has just been found or a pet adopted from a rescue organization. Either way, one of the best tools to determine the age are the teeth. This is especially true with young animals. If an animal has baby teeth then we can give an even more accurate estimate. The easiest teeth to use are the front ones (the incisors and canines). The incisors are the ones in the very front of the mouth. Remember the song, “My two front teeth”? It is referring to the incisors. There are 3 sets of incisors. The very middle pair come in first and occasionally will give a young puppy the “beaver teeth” look. This generally happens about 3 months of age. The next set comes in around 4 months of age and then the last set around 5 months of age.
Next teeth in the mouth are the canines (the big fang teeth in the front of the mouth). The baby teeth to this set are very skinny, pointy and sharp! Most owners will agree that the adults of these teeth do not come in quick enough since they can pierce the skin if play gets too rough. These teeth generally come in around 6 months of age. This gives us a good basis for figuring out the age of a puppy or kitten.
As far as adults go, generally their age is judged on the amount of tartar or plaque accumulation that is found. The more tartar, generally the older the pet. However, there are exceptions to every rule and someone with experience with looking at teeth and knowing breed differences will be the best person to help determine the age in that case. For instance, a 3 year old small breed dog can have much more tartar than a 3 year old large breed dog just due to their chewing habits and genetics.
Ok, so does that make sense? Let’s see if you can answer the quiz questions:
1. Mr. Richards found a puppy on the side of the road. The puppy appears to be young but he’s not sure. When he lifts the lips, there are 2 adult incisors found in the middle of the mouth. How old is the puppy?
2. Mrs. Richards, on the same day, adopts a miniature poodle from the shelter to surprise her family. No one knows how old the dog is. When she looks at the teeth, there is a very small amount of tartar buildup seen. What would be your estimate of age?
– Dr. Freihaut
1. Those 2 adult incisors are the first set, so the puppy is about 3 1/2 months old.
2. A small breed with very little tartar is generally between 1 1/2 to 2 years old.