April 6, 2011

True or False: Dry Dog Food = Cleaner Teeth?

Photo: Jennifer Gensch

One of the more stubborn and, in my experience, absurd myths around dry dog food is that it helps keep your dog’s teeth clean. 

Yes, this is bunk.

Dry dog food doesn’t help create healthier teeth and gums any more than a bag of corn chips is going to help keep your teeth clean and gums healthy. But the dry dog food manufacturers have endlessly told us about the magical tooth-cleaning power of their product, and somewhere along the way we starting buying it.

Your dog’s teeth face the same issues your teeth do. Plaque adheres to the surface of teeth and requires brushing to remove it. If it’s left on the teeth too long, plaque turns into tartar. If tartar builds up around the gumline, it can cause cavities, gum disease, and periodontal disease, which can adversely effect the overall health of your dog. Untreated periodontal disease can lead to systemic problems because that bacteria can move to the lungs and other internal organs. This can cause heart, liver, and kidney disease.

So, it’s important to keep your dog’s teeth clean.

There are a few things you should do for your dog’s teeth.

Photo: Cathy Stanley- Erickson

1. Check your dog’s breath. Bad breath can be a sign of infection.

2. It’s a stretch, but if your dog will let you, brush their teeth. But don’t use human toothpaste or baking soda; they’ll make your buddy sick. There are teeth cleaning products now available at most pet boutiques. Some are gels you rub on your dog’s teeth and massage into their gums. Check the ingredients and look for those with natural ingredients. These products should not be harsh or filled with unpronounceable chemicals.

3. Make sure your vet checks your dog’s teeth regularly. More than half of dogs over the age of three have some sort of dental problems. It’s the most common problem treated by vets.

(Hmmm, thought that dry dog food would keep their teeth clean!)

4. When appropriate and your vet recommends it, have your dog’s teeth cleaned. But, find a vet who will do it without the use of anesthesia. There is no compelling reason to put your dog under to clean their teeth unless it’s a very severe case. You can avoid that though with regular checkups and regular cleaning.

5. Get your dog off dry kibble. Feed a raw meat diet instead and give your dog raw bones to chew regularly. There are enzymes in raw meat that will help whiten and keep your dog’s teeth cleaner and even improve their breath. Bones are great for strengthening the jaw, scouring the teeth, and providing your dog with much-needed calcium (good for teeth and bones).

Good dental health is a process. It beings with prevention. And prevention does not involve dry food.

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