Wednesday, 9 May 2012

How to Select Safe, Effective Teeth Cleaning Chews & Dental Chews for Your Dog

Having something safe to chew can fulfill multiple requirements for your dog…
  • Provides enjoyment;
  • Exercises teeth gums and jaw;
  • Helps remove plaque;
  • Satisfies a dog’s natural need to chew;
  • Provides an outlet to expend energy;
  • Helps prevent boredom;
  • And for puppies, helps sooth itchy gums during teething.
There are many different types of chews that you can select from. Your dog may pick their own naturally available items to chew. My dog’s love to pick their own sticks to gnaw on while we are on out trail walks together…tree twigs actually contain some very good natural oral care properties - volatile oils that stimulate blood circulation and tannins that tighten and clean gum tissue.

You can choose from a wide assortment of chews available at most pet supply stores and on-line. Just make sure that when you are selecting a product you understand the pros and cons of using each product and what to look for to identify good product from poor or down right dangerous product (ingredients that include toxins and carcinogens). The information below provides a guide to choosing quality product and the right product.

And one other thing to keep in mind,  you won't know the quality of the item, much like the meat used in dog kibble - unless the labeling states that the chew (whether bone, rawhide, dental chew, etc.) is from an animal that was;
  • Antibiotic free;
  • Steroid free, 
  • Raised on organic and GM free food, and;
  • Not from a 4D animal (dead, diseased, disabled or dying prior to slaughter).
I point the above out primarily to make you aware of how many things your dog may ingest in the course of a typical day that may contribute to a toxic load. The more you are aware of, the greater opportunity you have to prioritize and make informed choices.

Raw Bones

Chewing on raw bones will definitely help to keep your dog’s teeth clean. But you do need to be careful what type of raw bone you give to your dog.
  • Fresh, raw chicken neck bones, chicken wing bones and turkey neck bones are safe for dogs - dogs can chew and swallow these soft bones (do not give your dog bones from the other parts of a chicken as the bones are harder, prone to splintering and can cause damage to your dog as noted below);
  •  Hip and femur bones of large animals such as cattle and bison are great for your dog to chew on, but beware the cautions noted below.
Many dogs eat raw bones all their life and never have an issue. Dogs on raw food diets may eat raw bones on a daily basis. Having said that, bones can also pose health risks…
  • Raw bones can lead to GI upset for dogs with very sensitive stomachs due to the rich marrow found in large animal bones. If your dog has a sensitive stomach make sure you remove the marrow first;
  • GI upset can also occur due to Salmonella and E. coli, although the stronger acids in a dog's stomach are much better at fighting off such bad bacteria than a human can -  however some dogs contract salmonella poisoning and some do die as a result;
  • Chewing on bones too intensely can cause tooth fractures;
  • Bone splinters can rip a dog’s stomach and/or intestines causing serious and sometimes lethal damage if swallowed - if you see that your dog is chipping and fragmenting the bone take the bone away, always make sure you pick up and discard the fragment. 
  • Don't give your dog cooked bones as cooking increases the fragility of the bone increasing the risk of splinters and fractures;
  •  Always be around to supervise when your dog is chewing bones.

Smoked or Natural Bones

My dogs love to chew on these! You can purchase smoked or natural bones. You can also purchase antler bones at many pet supply stores - antler bones are long lasting and are unlikely to fragment or splinter. Just follow a few precautions...

  • Chewing on bones too intensely can cause tooth fractures;
  • Bone splinters can rip a dog’s stomach and/or intestines causing serious and sometimes lethal damage if swallowed - if you see that your dog is chipping and fragmenting the bone take the bone away, always make sure you pick up and discard the fragment. 
  •  Always be around to supervise when your dog is chewing bones.

Natural Chews

Pet supply stores sell a wide variety of rawhide, bully sticks, pig ears, chicken jerky etc. These are all excellent for exercising your dog’s teeth and gums while scraping off plaque.  Just make sure you select chews that do not have any artificial flavour or artificial food dye (colouring) as these additives are carcinogenic.

My dogs all get a rawhide treat at night. It is part of their daily routine and a nice way for them to wind-down for the evening.

It is very important that rawhide be given to dogs only when you are around to supervise. Some dogs are really good about taking their time to chew properly and others are not so cautious and will not chew the entire rawhide properly. They will attempt to swallow larger pieces. These pieces can become lodged in the dog’s throat and cut off their air supply. Most of my dogs are careful, but my Boxer ‘Robbie’ is a repeat offender. There have been occasions when I have had to put my hand down his throat to remove a good size piece of rawhide.

And one last note - be very careful to note where the product is coming from - products from China can be full of toxins, contaminants, Salmonella and E. coli. Many dogs have died as a result of eating products produced in China - read the labels so you know where the product was manufactured.

Dental Chew Toys

Some dental chew toys are really well designed - long lasting, have a perfect consistency to exercise teeth, jaw and gums and remove plaque and do not contain toxins - Kong dental chew toys are one such example. Don’t purchase dental chew toys from China as the plastic may be full of toxins and may also fall apart and become a choking hazard.

Dental Chews

Dental chews are available at most pet supply stores, grocery stores etc. and on-line. Once again it is very important to look at the ingredients as many commonly stocked dental chews are chock full of ingredients that are seriously bad for your dog’s health. Remember don’t fall for advertising and labels read the ingredient list and know what ingredients to avoid. A truly good dental chew product consists of ingredients that are nutritional, fully digestible, and derived from 100% natural nutritive sources. While all of the products in the photo below look nice many of them are not good for your dog!

The product you choose should not include any of the ingredients noted on the to avoid’ list, but should instead be comprised - at minimum, of the following:
  • Natural, safe abrasives for cleaning action;
  • Nutritional ingredients including minerals and vitamins that support oral health.

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Article and graphics by Karen Rosenfeld. 

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1 comment:

  1. Have you heard of giving dogs green coconut shell to chew? The quality of raw hide chews at we get here in India is pretty suspect and my puppy doesn't respond to chew toys at all. He prefers the chair leg so I've given him an old rolling pin to chew on at the moment but I think he needs variety now that hes teething. Someone recommended coconut? Your thoughts?



Important Note

1.0 Use of Foods, Herbs, Alternative Medicines:

Safe use of items and protocols in the article above, is your sole responsibility.

Foods, herbs and alternative medicines have health issue, condition and conventional drug interactions. Safe use of all substances and protocol are your responsibility.

Before you use any substance or protocol do your research. Check for cautions, contradictions, interactions and side effects. Do not use substances or protocols not suitable to your animal's individual circumstances.

If your animal has an underlying condition substances and protocols may conflict.

2.0 Definition of Holistic…

Food, herbs, alternative medicines are NOT ‘holistic’ they are a substance and MAY, or may NOT be ‘NATURAL’.

If you use a ‘natural’ substance (ie. an herb) you are using a natural substance, not a holistic substance.

Holistic is not defined by use of one or several substances. Holistic is an approach.

Definition of “holistic” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press


"relating to the whole of something or to the total system instead of just to its parts"

"Holistic medicine attempts to treat the whole person, including mind and body, not just the injury or disease."

Holistic is a way of approaching life, and within that health, and well-being.

3.0 Expectation a natural substance remedies a health or behavioral situation.

A natural substance used to treat symptoms. But, if factors causing the underlying issue remain you do not have a remedy.

Remedy requires a comprehensive approach. It is necessary to identify root cause. Remove items that trigger, cause or otherwise contribute to issues. Holistic approach includes design, implementation to treat, remedy and maintain long-term health.

4.0 Leave a Comment

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I answer questions deemed appropriate when I have time to do so.

Wishing your dog and cat the best of health!

Karen Rosenfeld
Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer
Holistic Behaviorist - Dogs
Holistic Diet Nutrition Wellness Adviser – Dogs and Cats