Just as we worry about our pet’s general health and wellbeing, most of us also want to ensure we are taking the very best care of our dog’s teeth. And whilst Veterinary Dentists can help deal with serious tartar build up, extractions, and oral injuries, dental problems in dogs are entirely preventable. It may surprise you to know, however, that the secrets to great dental health lie in the food bowl rather than at the Vet Clinic. The truth is: it’s a lot easier and cheaper than you think to keep Toto’s pearly whites in tip-top shape.
Same as with us humans, by paying attention to your pooch’s diet and limiting carbohydrate rich foods such as commercial dry foods and cans, we can actually reduce the build-up of plaque & tartar and entirely prevent gingivitis in our pets. One of the most common myths I love to dispel with pet owners is that feeding dry food prevents dental problems and keeps teeth healthy, when the exact opposite is actually true.
Sadly, bad teeth and gums in dogs (and in people) are the result of an inappropriate diet. And the negative effects of gum disease are very serious. As well as tooth loss, discomfort and infection, gum disease can also lead to heart disease and organ dysfunction. But the great news is that preventing tooth troubles is not only easy, it can be fun as well, and is achieved by following these somewhat surprising steps:
1. Chew, gnaw, tear
A natural, fresh, raw food diet will maintain a healthy & balanced oral environment and prevent plaque formation. The chewing, tearing, ripping and puncturing action associated with eating as nature intended massages gums and scales the teeth clean of tartar and build up. Soft, edible bones such as raw poultry carcasses, necks and other non-weight bearing bones are ideal for this purpose.
I acknowledge that this may bother some people, as we are all aware of the risks of tooth damage and oral injury. However the pros of giving suitable bones outweigh the cons in significant numbers, and it’s about knowing your bones and what can and can’t be safely fed. Read this article over on Foodie Pooch on bone safety for more information. If you are still worried about bones, try raw, stringy muscle meats like beef tongue or green tripe, that are chewy and tough.
2. Brush, brush, brush
If you have the time, discipline, and a cooperative pooch, nothing beats a daily routine of brushing. Doggy toothbrushes and toothpastes are readily available from pet shops and vet clinics, but do your research and steer clear of nasty additives and ingredients such as artificial colourings, flavourings, preservatives, fillers, fluoride, parabens and sugar. A natural product we use and recommend is Colloidal Silver, which can be sprayed onto a toothbrush or added to the water bowl, and is very effective in warding off plaque and gum disease in pets as well as humans.
3. Chew, chew, chew
Hard, natural chews such as Kangaroo Tendons, Deer Antlers and Dehydrated Jerkies can really get in between the gaps in teeth and massage and floss away plaque build up, as well as giving your pooch something stimulating to do. But avoid rawhides and preservative and chemical-laden dental chews – contrary to their marketing, these are not healthy choices. Find out why.
4. Pull, tug, rip
Playing with your dog can play an important role in their dental hygiene. Bet you didn’t see that one coming! Observe the way your pooch chews on their favourite fleecy, rope or rubber toy. It may surprise you to know that toys are a great way of wiping teeth clean after meals and massaging the gums, but they really are! So next time you play tug of war, know that you are also giving Fido’s teeth a great floss. Check out these sheepskin agility toys – I think they are the perfect toothbrush!
5. Feed seaweed
It’s hard to imagine that a simple bit of seaweed can act as a powerful dental hygiene agent, but Atlantic Kelp is a very special type of seaweed powder that is not only amazing for the skin, digestion and joints, but has proven positive effects on teeth. Also marketed commercially as “ProDen Plaque Off”, incorporating Atlantic Kelp in the food bowl is scientifically proven to reduce dental plaque and tartar and improve breath in both cats and dogs. However, if your pooch has thyroid problems or is pregnant or lactating, Atlantic Kelp is not advised.
So, if your pooch has extreme tartar build up or infection, you will need to consult your Vet. However, with regular maintenance using my 5 simple steps, you can ensure that scaling and scraping under general anaesthetic is a rare occurrence, and those chompers stay healthy, white and clean. Woof!