National Pet Dental Month

I’ve been informed – through advertisements mostly – that February is National Pet Dental Month. (I hope it’s still Black History Month too but that’s another topic.) I have a lot to say about pet dental health and as only you dog lovers will understand, I can get huffy on the subject of dogs’ teeth. The thing that makes me mad is the lying advertising. People believing the lies without giving any thought to a subject also makes me mad.

The issue of teeth, especially in little dogs, is a big one and goes far beyond tooth decay. The big problem is periodontal disease which over 80% of all dogs have by the time they are 3 years old. Read that sentence again, it’s a BIG issue. It often causes a continual infection and it can cause or amplify diseases of almost all the other organs.  This is not a minor issue of a dog losing a tooth. Taking care of your dog’s dental health is an area where your actions can have a huge effect on the overall health of your dog.

Let’s get clear on something: Treats don’t clean your dog’s teeth. No biscuit, no Greenie (which I’ve read many times are dangerous for other reasons), no dog food, no toy (with or without fibers, nubs, pointy things that kill you when you step on them or other features).  Please if I’m wrong, show me before and after pictures. I’m teachable!

There are three possible things that will clean your dog’s teeth and two of them are MUCH better than the other.  If you start with clean dog teeth and brush your dog’s teeth every day (and yes, a lot of people really do this) they may stay clean. They will definitely stay cleaner than if you don’t do it.  You can train a dog to this and you can easily train a puppy to it. Always use dog toothpaste (never human toothpaste which can make your dog sick).  This is the least effective of the three methods but don’t write it off. It is definitely worth doing especially if you won’t do one of the following.

Dental cleanings at the vet.  This is the best cleaning you can get there is just one big drawback in my mind and that’s the fact that the dog has to be put under anesthesia. (It can also be pretty expensive especially for multi-dog owners.) If  your dog has to be put under anesthesia for another reason, have his teeth cleaned if possible. It will be a lot cheaper if he’s already under and you will have already made the anesthesia decision. (Note, My friend just pointed this out: Before taking your dog (or kitty) in for his/her teeth cleaning this month which is Pet Dental month please find out what they use to knock them out and then make sure it is not on a RECALL LIST. Just a precaution as we hear that some have been recalled.)

I have read of people who do dental scalings on their own dogs with dental tools. I’m a pretty dedicated do-it-yourselfer but that’s a little too much for me. If you think you could do it though, search for information from those who do.

The best all around method for keeping dog’s teeth clean is the least well known and the most controversial. One of the reasons for this is that it doesn’t require products that pet product manufactures can make money on.  The method is giving your dog raw meaty bones to chew on. There are two different types of bones for this, bones that the dogs will chew and bones they will actually eat.

There is a whole community of people who feed their dogs raw diets and these diets include raw meat (bones included). This is called the Biologically Appropriate Raw Food diet or the Bones and Raw Food diet,  unfortunately often shortened to the BARF diet. This is not the place to give you all the ins and outs of a raw food diet but what you should know is that even the tiny dogs can eat raw meat and bones (my 4 1/2 pound Java eats half a raw chicken wing in about 8 minutes) and almost all the dogs I’ve known on this diet have done very well on it.  (Sometimes too much raw meat causes diarrhea but that usually resolves in a short time.)

If you want the benefits of the raw food diet for your dog’s teeth but don’t want to go fully into a raw diet you can give your dog raw meaty bones to chew on. These will help their teeth enormously. Only the very back tooth on each side of my dogs’ mouths aren’t cleaned by the RMBs.  We use beef ribs that we buy in the grocery store. I give Deva a whole beef rib (she’s 35 lbs) but I have the butcher cut a slab of ribs in half for the little ones and they get a half a rib once or twice a week.  If you are starting your dogs on beef ribs cut most of the meat off to start and leave a bit more on each time until they are used to it and it won’t give them diarrhea. (A little bit of canned pumpkin – not pumpkin pie mix but plain pumpkin – is good for their digestion and can sometimes stave off diarrhea or constipation.)

I have proof of the efficiency of beef ribs.  As you already know about me I hate unfounded claims and I’m hesitant to believe things people tell me.  I realized that after I’d fed my dogs some RMBs and luckily before too much time passed it dawned on me to take pictures. You can see the results on my Molly’s teeth in the pictures I took.

If you are interested in learning more about a raw food diet for your dog there are numerous good books at dogwise.com and there are numerous forums all over the web where you will find people who will share their information with you. Dog.com has a good forum and some knowledgeable people.

Let me know if you have any questions and please remember to upload your dog’s picture to our Facebook Dog Stuff page.

I used to brush all these little teeth, every day.

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