In my latest quest to collect and review all the information I can regarding switching my dog’s diet, I had sort of an “Aha!” moment this last weekend when talking to a representative from the Seattle area’s own All the Best Pet Care. You see, I’d been told dogs need crunchy kibble in their diet to keep their teeth clean. It made sense on the surface, right? But then I was thrown for a loop when I was told “that would be like your dentist telling you to go clean your teeth by eating pretzels.” What?? Pretzels make your teeth feel fuzzy & sorta scuzzy! Hmmm….
Upon further research, I’ve found several veterinarians are saying the same thing — dry dog food can cause more dental problems than it solves!
Now I’m not saying dry dog kibble is bad. Not at all. It’s just that if you’re feeding it thinking it is helping your dog with his/her dental health…well, that’s just not true. Dry dog food can contribute to increased amounts of plaque (the sticky film over any tooth surface) and tartar (the hardened plaque near the gum line).
So, what’s the solution to restore your dog’s pearly whites? Often you might need to start with professional teeth cleaning. This is the best option if your dog has advanced tartar. Teeth cleaning for a pet is fairly expensive, and unfortunately shelters see many dogs turned in because their owners can’t afford dental care. However, if you catch it early, as with most things, a dog’s dental care is less costly. There are a lot of anesthesia-free dental services being offered at reduced fees, but the verdict is still out on their effectiveness. Do your research first.
After your dog’s teeth have been professionally cleaned, you can do a lot at home to keep the plaque from re-forming into hard to remove tartar.
- Brushing your dog’s teeth. This will become necessary to remove the daily plaque. Yes, plaque forms daily. Just as it does in your own mouth. Which is why your dentist recommends you brush your teeth a few times a day (which I hope you do!). Ask your favorite local pet store about buying a soft toothbrush that will fit in your dog’s mouth comfortably, i.e., a Great Dane and a Chihuahua should probably not have the same sized toothbrush. There are even flavored toothpastes that might improve the experience for your dog.
- Water. Water is essential for all pets anyway, but it’s also a great way to keep food particles and newly formed plaque rinsed off the teeth. If your dog doesn’t have around the clock access to fresh water, like when you’re traveling, a drink after meals and treats is especially helpful for dental health.
- Raw meaty bone chewing. Raw bones are more flexible and can wrap around teeth in a way that may also help remove plaque.
Unlike the picture above, your dog is most likely not going to brush his/her own teeth (like toddlers or teenagers), so you will need to help them with this process. As always, consult your veterinarian for your dog’s specific needs.