CVMA-ACMV

Cutting, Reduction, or Removal of Healthy Teeth in Dogs - Position Statement

March 9, 2017

Position

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) is strongly opposed to the practice of cutting teeth in dogs. In addition, the CVMA opposes the reduction or removal of dogs’ teeth for non-medical reasons. 

Summary

  • The CVMA is opposed to procedures involving the cutting, breaking off, or grinding down of the crowns of healthy teeth without the use of established veterinary endodontic techniques and  pain control, since such procedures are inappropriate and inhumane.
  • Biting is a normal puppy behaviour; however, puppies need to be educated that biting humans is not acceptable.
  • The CVMA is opposed to veterinarians reducing or removing healthy teeth in puppies and dogs for non-medical reasons as a proposed solution to unwanted biting behaviours.
  • To effectively treat and manage inappropriate biting behaviour, clear communication between the dog’s owner and their veterinarian is needed, so that owners can be allowed to make an informed decision.

Background

  1. For the purpose of this position statement, the definition of cutting teeth in dogs is the cutting, breaking off, or grinding down of the crowns of healthy teeth without use of general anesthesia, analgesia (“pain killers”), and established veterinary endodontic procedures. These procedures are usually performed on the canine (“fang”) teeth in adult dogs and deciduous (“baby”) teeth in puppies. Non-veterinarians are known to perform these procedures in order to reduce the severity of potential bite wounds. This is also sometimes referred to as “dental disarming” or “canine disarming.” The CVMA strongly opposes such practices as they are inappropriate and inhumane.
  1. These procedures are known to involve manual restraint, the use of a mouth gag, and targeting of all four adult canine teeth or lower canine teeth in puppies. The procedures are conducted by either cutting the teeth with bolt or wire cutters or grinding the teeth down to the gum line.
  1. In such cases no anesthetic or analgesic agents are used either during or after the procedure. No aftercare is usually provided to the dog following these extremely painful procedures. The tooth pulp is left exposed to bacteria which leads to significant risk of both acute and chronic infection, inflammation, and pain (1). As a consequence in puppies, there is the potential for serious damage to the permanent teeth (2).
  1. Veterinary dentistry including all procedures which involve the partial or full removal of a dog’s teeth must be performed by a licensed veterinarian. All veterinary dental procedures must be undertaken in accordance with the standards of veterinary practice of the respective regulatory body, as stated in CVMA’s position statement on Veterinary Dentistry (3).
  1. Biting is a normal puppy behaviour; however, puppies need to be educated that biting humans is not acceptable. At an early age, puppies should be taught to engage in alternative forms of biting and mouthing such as through the appropriate use of suitable chew toys (4). Bite inhibition training can help prevent severe damage from a bite wound if a dog bites under extreme circumstances later in life. In addition, owners must learn to interpret their dogs’ behaviours and body language in order to facilitate training and properly direct their puppy or dog towards alternative targets.
  1. Aggressive biting requires a thorough investigation in order to develop effective treatment and/or management options. As a minimum, veterinarians should complete a case history, and conduct a physical examination and temperament assessment in order to better understand the underlying cause of the problem (5). Depending on the diagnosis, many therapeutic options and/or management strategies may exist that do not involve reducing or removing healthy teeth.
  1. The CVMA is opposed to veterinarians reducing or removing healthy teeth in puppies and dogs for non-medical reasons as a proposed solution to unwanted biting behaviours. Reduction or removal of teeth will not prevent a dog from causing injury to a human (6,7). In cases in which a dog engages in inappropriate biting, a veterinarian and/or behaviourist should be consulted.
  1. In some situations, inappropriate biting behaviour cannot be modified to the point that a safe and secure environment is created for people including the owner, their family, and the public. In some cases moving the dog to a different environment may solve the problem. While it is neither ethical nor humane to suggest that every dog/puppy that bites a human should be euthanized (8), very rarely a dog may be deemed to be non-recuperable. In such cases euthanasia should be advised.
  1. To effectively treat and manage inappropriate biting behaviour, clear communication between the dog’s owner and their veterinarian is needed, so that owners can be allowed to make an informed decision. Owners need to thoroughly understand the potential for both treatment success and failures and for legal liability (9) in the event of an injury to a human from a dog bite. 


References

  1. Kortegaard HE et al. Consequences of crown shortening canine teeth in Greenland sled dogs. J Small Anim Pract, 2015;56:264-269.
  2. Hale SA. Juvenile veterinary dentistry. Vet Clin N Am Small, 2005;35:789-817.
  3. Canadian Veterinary Medical Association Position Statement on Veterinary Dentistry. Available from: https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/documents/veterinary-dentistry Last accessed June 2, 2016.
  4. Haug L. Behaviour tips every practitioner should know (Proceedings). DVM360 Magazine. May 2011. Available from: http://veterinarycalendar.dvm360.com/behavior-tips-every-practitioner-should-know-proceedings Last accessed June 9, 2016.
  5. Godbout M. Dog Aggression Assessing the Risk. Proc. 39th WSAVA World Conference Proceedings. Capetown, South Africa, September 16-19th, 2014.
  6. American Veterinary Medical Association. Removal or Reduction of Teeth in Nonhuman Primates and Carnivores. Available from: https://www.avma.org/KB/Policies/Pages/Removal-or-Reduction-of-Teeth-in-Non-Human-Primates-and-Carnivores.aspx Last accessed June 9, 2016.
  7. Hunthausen W. How dangerous is that dog? DVM360Magazine. Feb. 2016. Available from: http://veterinarynews.dvm360.com/how-dangerous-dog Last accessed June 9, 2016.
  8. American Veterinary Dental College. Aggressive Dogs and Cats - Dental Treatment. Available from: http://www.avdc.org/aggressivetreatment.html Last accessed June 9, 2016.
  9. Animal Law in Canada. Dog bites. Available from: http://www.animallaw.ca/dog-bites.html Last accessed June 9, 2016.

(Revised November 2016)