Unlock the Pet Dental Wellness Impact: Essential insights on enhancing your pet’s health through oral care.
Kingsley, a rescued senior dog, transformed with good food and supplements. Learn how to help your own senior dog thrive.
Your pet’s dental health is an important piece of their overall health and wellness. Oral disease can be caused…
February is here and what that entails in the animal world is Dental Health Month! Dental health is so important because poor dental health can have long term negative impacts on the heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver.
Dental disease can impact pets of any age, but some factors can influence risk which includes:
- Poor diet
- Health status
- Home care
- Bacterial flora of the oral cavity
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Blood-tinged saliva
- Pawing at mouth
Plaque can form and build up on your pet’s teeth as quickly as 24 hours and if dental care/preventatives are not taken to remove plaque then calculus (tartar) buildup occurs within 3-5 days. When calculus starts to build up on your pet’s teeth, it gradually begins to push the gums away from the tooth, giving the calculus an opportunity to spread into your pet’s bloodstream. The bacteria that are built up within the calculus can lead to infection and have serious effects on the major organs mentioned above.
Amazingly enough, diet has a pretty decent impact on your pet’s dental health. There is a myth, kibble is the best for dogs and cats because when they crunch on the hard pieces of kibble, it supposedly helps scrape the calculus away. Think about that. Have you ever watched your pet eat? More often than not, they swallow their kibble whole. Also, go to your dentist and tell them you forgot to brush your teeth, so you had chips to help scrape the calculus away from your teeth. Kibble contains high levels of sugars and carbohydrates which rapidly produce oral bacteria and plaque. Whereas fresh or raw diets can help protect your pet’s teeth and gums simply due to low or lack of starches. In other words, the food will not stick to the teeth like kibble would.
The good news is that dental disease in your pet does not have to occur. While it is common, it’s actually not natural.
Helpful Preventative Care Techniques
- Pay close attention to the diet you are giving your pet
- Introduce brushing at a young age
- Supplements, dental cleaning pads and pet toothpastes include enzymes and pre and probiotics that can help break down plaque.
- Giving your pet toys and/or bones to chew to keep teeth clean
- Professional dental cleanings
Dental cleanings are great but should not have to happen yearly, or even in younger years. Yearly cleanings can have a negative impact on pets because anesthetic gasses used yearly can slowly apply stress on your pet’s organs. Think about the change that needs to happen- diet, toys/bones, brushing, etc.
Holmstrom, Steven E. “Pathogenesis of Periodontal Disease.” Veterinary Dentistry: A Team Approach, 2nd ed., Steven Holmstrom, 2013, pp. 150–153.
Holmstrom, Steven E. “Home-Care Instruction and Products.” Veterinary Dentistry: A Team Approach, 2nd ed., Steven Holmstrom, 2013, pp. 194–213.
Miller, Bonnie R, and John R Lewis. “Veterinary Dentistry.” Clinical Textbooks for Veterinary Technicians, 9th ed., Joanna M. Bassert, 2018, pp. 1222–1229.
The topic of feeding meaty bones tends to drum up some controversy. Is it safe to feed your pet a raw meaty bone? Is it even beneficial to your pet? How do you know which bones are safe to feed? Let’s address some of these questions.
Raw meaty bones (RMBs) are safe to feed as long as they meet certain safety parameters:
- Meaty bones should be purchased from a reliable source with safe handling practices in place and that regularly tests their products for harmful pathogens. Use only RMBs sold specifically for pet consumption. In the U.S., a zero-tolerance policy for raw pet food products ensures that the product has not tested positive for pathogens such as E. Coli or Salmonella. In other words, you should not give your pets RMBs from a grocery store.
- Choose the appropriate size/type of bone for your pet. Small RMB’s like chicken necks are perfect for small dogs and cats, whereas turkey and duck necks are better suited for medium to large dogs. As a general rule, it is appropriate to feed a bone the size of your dog’s head. Most dogs, when fed an appropriate size bone, will chew the bone well before swallowing. However, if your dog is a “gulper” or is likely to try and swallow large things without chewing, a RMB may not be an ideal choice for your dog. If you have questions, our staff can help you decide which bones may be appropriate for your dog.
- As with all toys and chews, always monitor your dog when feeding bones. Although dogs usually know what to do with a bone, it is important to ensure they are not going to swallow it whole.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’S)
I give my dog marrow bones. Is that the same thing?
No. Marrow bones are known as ‘recreational bones’ because your pet should not be able to chew and consume the bone itself, but rather the tiny bits of fat, tissue, and cartilage left on the bone, as well as the inner bone marrow. ‘Raw meaty bones’ generally refer to bones that have more ‘meat’ on them and less bone, such as turkey and duck necks.
Do they eat the whole thing, bone and all?
Yes. Since RMBs are mostly thin bone, tissue, and cartilage, they are easy for your pet to break up, chew and swallow.
Do I let it thaw?
No. It is not necessary to thaw your raw bones before feeding. However, some dogs and most cats prefer to have their bone thawed to soften the frozen tissue prior to feeding. If you must thaw the bone, leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours, or submerge it in cool water inside a plastic baggie to thaw it faster.
Should I cook it?
No. Never feed a cooked bone. Cooked bones can splinter, which can cause intestinal obstructions and perforations (not good!).
Which types of bones are safe to feed?
Do not feed weight-bearing bones of heavy animals. What does this mean? When you think of a large animal such as a cow, weight-bearing bones are those that allow the animal to stand properly, which can be too hard on your dog’s teeth.
Why should I offer my dog raw meaty bones?
Bones are an excellent addition to our pet’s diet, and here’s why:
- They’re an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, and glucosamine.
- They can help with firmer stool.
- They can help maintain cleaner teeth and better oral health.
- They offer mental and physical enrichment for an overall happier (and less bored) pet.
How often should I feed my dog raw meaty bones?
Bones should be fed intermittently as a compliment to your pet’s regular diet. Feeding frequency will depend on your pet’s size, age, and activity level. While they can occasionally be fed in place of a meal, they should not be fed every day.
Switching your dog or cat to raw food can bring many positive benefits to your pet, but there are important factors to consider.
Your pet’s dental health is an important piece of their overall health and wellness. Oral disease can be caused by diet, genetics, or poor oral care. Poor dental health can lead to other ailments, which is why pet owners should learn how to care for their pet’s teeth early. As with most ailments, prevention of oral disease is key. Taking preventative steps saves you the time, stress, and money it takes to treat oral disease down the road.
Good preventative care should:
- Remove tartar and plaque
- Prevent tooth decay and gum disease
- Kill harmful bacteria
- Help prevent plaque
- Freshen breath
Good: Food and Water Additives
What it is: A very fine, tasteless, and odorless prebiotic-based powder you add to your dog’s water.
How it works: Teef! promotes healthy teeth, gums, and fresh breath by encouraging the growth of healthy bacteria in the mouth.
How to use: Add Teef! powder into your pet’s water bowl.
What it is: A powdered cheese enzymatic meal topper for cats and dogs.
How it works: The first four ingredients are actually dried cheeses, which aside from being super tasty, makes your pet salivate. The saliva activates the enzymes that help to break down some of the sugary starches left in your pet’s mouth after eating and helps flush out some of the bad bacteria.
How to use: Sprinkle it over your pet’s meal or spread across your pet’s teeth and gums with your finger.
*Pro Tip: Picky eaters (and kitties) LOVE the smell and taste of DentaTreat. After all, who doesn’t love cheese!?
Canine Dental Wipes
What they are: Small round medicated wipes formulated to clean your dog’s teeth and gums.
How they work: Dental wipes remove and prevent dangerous plaque, tartar, and bacteria for optimal oral health and hygiene.
How to use: Working from back to front, wipe medicated pad on the inner and outer teeth and gums. For best results, use twice daily after each meal.
NPP Pick: Nootie dental wipes
Better: Chew, Chew, Chew!
Natural or Synthetic (Dog) Chews (Nylabone, Benebone, Antlers)
What they are: Natural and/or synthetic chews designed to scrape plaque off your dog’s teeth and massage the gums. Synthetic chews (Nylabone and Benebone) have unique shapes and textures infused with flavors.
How they Work: These physically scrape off plaque and tartar and massage the gums while your dog chews on them. They will naturally wear down gradually as your dog chews.
Digestible Canine Dental Chews
What it is: A digestible chew that targets plaque and freshens breath.
How it works: Dental chews are soft enough to bend but tough enough to pull plaque and tartar as your dog chews on them. They typically contain non-toxic oils (such as rosemary, peppermint, or lemongrass) to freshen breath.
How to use: Give these to your dog once daily. They will be chewed and digested in one sitting.
NPP Pick: Merrick Fresh Kisses
Best: Diet and Routine Dental Care
Raw bones (recreational and meaty bones)
What they are: Meaty bones (such as chicken, duck, or turkey necks) are mostly meat and cartilage and will be consumed entirely. Recreational bones (beef marrow bones) have small amounts of meat/cartilage attached and will be chewed but not consumed entirely.
How they work: These physically scrape off plaque and tartar and massage the gums while your pet chews on them.
How to use them: Introduce raw bones into your pet’s diet slowly. Start with short chewing sessions that are 5-10 minutes in duration and gradually increase chewing time. Learn more about how to safely feed raw bones here.
Minimally Processed Fresh Food Diet:
What it is: A fresh food diet rich in minimally processed protein and fat from animal sources, with little to no starchy carbohydrates.
How it works: While diet will not necessarily clean your pet’s teeth, the minimal carbohydrate percentage in a raw food diet means less bacteria that cause oral disease – which is the best step you can take to prevent the growth of plaque and tartar. Raw food diets also contain natural dietary enzymes that protect the teeth and gums. Lastly, these diets do not contain harmful aflatoxins and skip the chemical compounds that put stress on your pet’s immune system.
How to use: We recommend using commercially prepared raw food items as a compliment to your pet’s diet or as a complete meal.
Regular Teeth Brushing:
This is the gold standard in preventative oral care for your pet. Leftover food particles stuck between teeth and gums are swept away with brushing motion. For maximum benefits, brush your pet’s teeth daily after meals.
How to do it: It’s best to introduce teeth brushing as a regular occurrence for your pet, so it becomes part of your daily routine. Start by using your finger to massage the teeth and gums. Once they have adjusted to your finger in their mouth, you can start using a finger brush, and then graduate to using a pet toothbrush.
Pets are unique and there is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to dental hygiene. Take time to find what your pet likes and what works best for your pet’s dietary needs, genetics, and lifestyle.
Fact: Kibble contains large amounts of carbohydrates (sugars), creating an environment where bad bacteria thrive – often leading to bad breath, plaque, and gum disease.
Pro Tip: While no diet can actively remove existing plaque, fresh or raw diets can help protect your pet’s teeth and gums by maintaining optimal stomach pH, which is required for the body to combat bacteria that leads to oral diseases.
Read More in our Dental Health Month article
A ‘consumer advocate’ recently stirred up drama from July 2017 re-circulating an article (figure 1) claiming that Earth Animal No-Hide® treats were rawhide, again. This was on the heels of the announcement of a class-action lawsuit (figure 2) against Earth Animal Ventures (EAV) questioning the ingredients and sourcing of No-Hide® products. I didn’t think I would have to address this issue, but apparently, I do since misinformation and cherry-picked information from the original chain of events keeps circulating (if it’s on the internet it must be true, right?). Consumers and retailers alike need to see the situation for what it is, so I’ll also write this from both a retailer and consumer standpoint to provide the level of transparency I hold others to. As you read this, you’ll understand that both sides have significant issues. In fact, No-Hide® being (or not being) rawhide is hardly the issue. Instead there is a pervasive lack of transparency and misinformation from both the consumer advocate side and EAV.
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