What is it?

Orthodontic problems are not unusual in dogs but are fairly uncommon in cats. Malocclusion means that the jaws do not align properly. This problem may be purely cosmetic or can cause trauma to the lips, gums, palate, or teeth.

Signs of Problem

Most affected dogs do not show any overt clinical signs other than the jaws or teeth being out of alignment. Depending on the type and severity of the malocclusion the off-set jaws may be causing pain and problems inside the mouth. This may present as bleeding, pain, gum swelling and/or disease, tooth death, and even nasal infection.


Once the tooth dies, it can become infected through what used to be the blood supply. Once the tooth becomes infected, it acts as a bacterial fortress allowing the infection to spread out to the rest of the body.

Recommended Treatment

Therapy for malocclusions is dependent on the type and severity of the disease process.

Treatment options for pet orthodontic problems include:

  • No therapy (if purely cosmetic)
  • Extraction of the offending tooth or teeth
  • Orthodontic correction
  • Lowering the problematic tooth and then protecting the root canal
  • Coronal amputation and vital pulp therapy

VDS Positioning on Cosmetic Dentistry

For strictly cosmetic problems, it may not be recommended to pursue orthodontic treatment, as these techniques often involve multiple anesthetic procedures and associated pain. While possible, however, it may not be in the patient’s best interest.

For these reasons, orthodontic therapy can be a disservice to an otherwise healthy patient. At VDS we abide by the AVMA Principles of Veterinary Medicine and Medical Ethics. Read more here.

At VDS we offer these services to address malocclusion

Orthodontic problems are becoming more prevalent in our dogs and cats mostly due to selective breeding. They can occur in any breed and in mixed breed dogs as well. While we are capable of correcting cosmetic (non-traumatic) malocclusions, it’s rarely performed.