Why dental health is important for your dogs.
You enter your house after a long day of work and your ever-loving, tail-wagging, happy dog is there to greet you. You are as excited to see him as he is to see you. He jumps up to lick your face and there it is – that terrible dog breath! He breathes in your face and the smell almost makes you faint. Does this situation seem all too familiar? Have you checked the dental health of your dog?
Here’s the truth that will hit you worse than your dog’s breath – if you have a dog that has bad breath, there is a very high chance you are ignoring the start of this serious disease.
The term “smells as bad as dog breath” has been overused to the point where people accepted that a dog with bad breath is completely normal. It is not!
There has been a significant rise in the number of pets suffering from dental disease over the past few years. Many dog owners are unintentionally causing dental deterioration in their dogs and ignore the risks associated with their dog’s bad breath. Dental disease is serious and in most cases, leads to diabetes, complications during pregnancy, failure of kidneys, lungs, heart, liver or even cancer.
Check your dog’s teeth for discoloration, check your dog’s breath for signs of decay, check your dog’s gums and tongue for inflammation or bleeding – all these need to be done on a consistent basis to make sure that there is no risk to your pet. If you are looking to improve your dog’s dental health and overall quality of life, you need to stay proactive and look for such signs at an early stage. The earlier dental disease is detected, better the chances of reversing the condition and preventing any chance of spreading the disease.
Dogs in the wild didn't brush their teeth:
Dogs rub their faces in dead animals and feces in the wild. It is highly unlikely that bad breath would bother them. Dogs are not excited about the idea of bristles poking the insides of their mouth, even if it means fresher breath. How did dogs in the wild maintain their dental health? Did every dog die of dental disease?
In the wild, dogs maintained much better dental health until we intervened. Dogs chewed on raw meaty bones from whole animal carcasses. The shearing action of the dog’s teeth against the meaty bones and roughage (feet, nails, teeth) of their prey provided all the cleaning their teeth ever needed. This does not mean that all wild dogs had their teeth in the best condition at all times.
Kibble cleans a dog’s teeth no more than potato chips cleans yours. Imagine going to your dentist and telling him that you gave up on brushing your teeth because you eat crunchy potato chips every day, that’s how illogical this concept is.
Does this mean that you can throw a raw meaty bone to your dog and you would not ever need to use a toothbrush? As mentioned, there was a percentage of wild dogs that suffered from dental problems. If your dog’s genetic makeup is such that he/she is prone to plaque or gum inflammation, there is only so much raw meaty bones can do to clean them. Such dogs will need regular teeth brushing at home and dental cleanings at your vet in addition to any bones you feed.
Kibble does not clean teeth!!
No, it just does not. In fact, research has shown that the starch content in kibble may contribute to a faster rate of bacterial growth as all the corn, soy, wheat glutens adhere to the teeth and since there are no biologically appropriate ingredients to break down the accumulation, the plaque is very common in kibble-fed dogs.
Some people completely ignore this build up in their dog’s teeth, which ultimately leads to periodontal disease (infection of the tissue surrounding the teeth), requires extraction of teeth or causes secondary diseases including organ failure. Some others choose to opt for more frequent veterinary dental cleanings under anesthesia. The more anesthetics pumped into your dog’s body, the more toxins he/she is exposed to. All this is avoidable to a very large extent by a simple change in diet and letting go of the belief that commercially processed foods can clean teeth.
Understanding the basics of Periodontal Disease:
When you enter your veterinarian’s clinic, you probably will see a chart similar to the one shown below:
(Sourced from South Hyland Pet Hospital)
It is important to not ignore this chart when you see it. Dog owners need to know the basics of periodontal disease to help prevent it.
The very first sign of periodontal disease starts out as the formation of a substance called ‘plaque’ on your dog’s teeth. When your dog chews on food, bacteria adhere to the teeth. At very early stages, plaque can be removed easily by brushing. Due to the calcium present in the dog’s saliva, the dead bacteria get calcified.
If the plaque is not removed at its initial stages, it can lead to inflamed gums aka gingivitis. This is a condition where the gums become red and swollen, causing them to bleed very easily. As this condition progresses, the infection spreads to the tissue around the root of the teeth. This is the start of periodontal disease. In the last stage of periodontal disease, all the tissue surrounding the teeth are destroyed causing the tooth to become loose.
Unfortunately, by the time dental problems are discovered in dogs, the infection has progressed farther than where it can be reversed. While dental cleanings cannot be prevented in some dogs that are prone to periodontitis, it is easy to increase the time between dental cleanings by regularly providing species appropriate foods and maintaining dental hygiene.
Periodontal disease is extremely painful for dogs. In many cases, early preventive steps can eliminate the chance of any pain to your dog.
My Dog does not like brushing teeth:
There is not a single dog in this world that will voluntarily allow anyone or anything to poke around the insides of the mouth. This is not natural for dogs. If you have a puppy, it is easier to desensitize him/her to you touching the teeth and gums.
Rub your fingers gently around the gums and mouth, touching their teeth. Your dog may allow you to do this only for a few seconds for the first time. Increase the time as you go along. Once your dog trusts you with your hands in his/her mouth, teeth brushing can be done very easily.
If your dog is still resistant to teeth brushing, raw meaty bones provide the best cleaning.
How does raw food help dental health?
If you are already feeding a raw diet to your dog, you have won half the battle against dental problems. Carbohydrate-rich foods, even the ones in their dry form, will only go so far in clearing out plaque.
Raw foods, even the ground forms, help control tartar build-up. Unlike kibble, raw food does not stick to dog’s teeth. Raw bones (whole or ground) provide gentle abrasion on the teeth removing any debris when chewed.
Digestive enzymes like amylase and cellulase are not predominant in dogs’ mouths, and starch-rich foods cannot be broken down easily. Thereby causing a biofilm on the surface of their teeth. Raw foods, when done right, are very low in carbohydrates.
Edible raw bones like chicken or turkey necks, thighs, backs, wings
etc. are very effective in cleaning teeth. And these bones can be consumed whole. Recreational bones like femur bones, marrow bones etc. also help maintain dental hygiene. These bones should not be consumed whole. For dogs that tend to swallow/gulp whole bones or chew aggressively, it is better to provide edible raw bones. Continuous monitoring is required while feeding any bone to your dog.
Keep your dog’s teeth is the best condition possible. Move your dog to biologically appropriate foods and ensure regular teeth cleaning. Wagging tails, healthy bodies, and happy smiles go hand in hand!