Many dog breeds have characteristic dental formations that result in an overbite, normally caused by the genetic size and shape of the jaws and the palette. The classic look of the Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apso breeds, for instance, is the protruding lower jaw which causes the bottom row of front teeth to overlap the top row. While this is generally called an overbite, the true technical term would be an underbite, as the reference of both terms is to the upper jaw formation in relation to the lower jaw.
Normal Overbite Growth for Shih Tzu Dogs
As with most breeds of dogs, especially the toy breeds, the Shih Tzu will show variations of dental growth in the puppy stage. Each puppy will likely have its own pattern of tooth growth, and it will not be possible to know whether there are going to be problems until the adult teeth start to come in, at about six or seven months. While most Shih Tzu puppies will develop normal growth patterns and the classic overbite, some may need corrective dental work to allow enough room for the adult teeth, since these dogs have small mouths to begin with.
Adult Shih Tzu Overbite Development
Once a Shih Tzu has reached full mature growth status, the lower front teeth will be plainly visible at all times. This is the natural look of the Shih Tzu face. If there are indeed malocclusion problems with either the remaining baby teeth or any adult teeth that have not grown in properly, this will be obvious as well and should be corrected by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Improper nesting of the lower teeth with the upper teeth will cause eating and digestion problems which could lead to more serious health problems in the future.
Inherent Problems with the Shih Tzu Overbite
Any dog that has a protruded lower jaw will naturally have breathing problems, due to the shortened nasal passages caused by the genetic shape of the face. Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apso breeds are recognised for their tendency to make nasal sounds like snorting, snuffling and snoring when they sleep. This is normal for these breeds, yet it can cause problems as they age. Shih Tzu dogs can develop respiratory problems later in their life. They are also susceptible to overheating when they exercise, which can sometimes lead to heatstroke.
Some Approaches to Correcting Overbites in Shih Tzu Dogs
There have been reported experimental procedures that address the overbite issue in Shih Tzu dogs. These include adding biological and synthetic extensions in the upper jaw to compensate for the over-extended lower jaw. The impetus to conduct these types of experimental surgical techniques undoubtedly is to alleviate the breathing problems that are common to this breed. While this may be considered a humane undertaking, the levels of success with these procedures are as yet unsubstantiated.
Conclusions about Shih Tzu Overbite Characteristics
While there is an ongoing debate about the benefits of surgical attempts to correct the genetic facial structure of Shih Tzu dogs to improve their overall health, the fact that many Shih Tzu puppies live to become healthy adults can be a sort of reassurance to owners of this breed of dogs. A healthy adult Shih Tzu can be an excellent house pet that is generally friendly toward strangers and children, and the characteristic overbite of this breed does not necessarily have to be a negative one.