Dry food, Dog teeth, and Puppies

Bear, Beth, Ellie, Fiona, Lady, Rose, Tank and Zoe

Large or small, puppies are always too cute for words and these Belgian Malinois puppies are no exception to that rule as they wait in our exam room for Dr. Frank.   

Whether your pet grows into a large dog like these puppies or stays very small like our client’s Boston Terrier puppy below, doesn’t matter. 
Fiona in David’s arm

All dogs need healthy teeth and gums – puppy or adult, Tibetan Mastiff or Teacup Yorkie mix.  This week’s Q&A covers questions we are frequently asked by current and new clients, so we thought the answers might be useful to you.

Some ads imply that a crunchy dry food or kibble will help clean your pet’s teeth or at least help them stay clean.  Is that really true?  Will a dry food at least keep my pet’s teeth cleaner than a canned food?  If you’ve had those questions pop into your head when you see an ad or commercial about dog food, read on…

Q: Is dry food better for my dog’s teeth because it cleans as they chew?

Dr. Frank:  The short answer is no.  No food (dry, canned, wet or raw) will clean your dog’s teeth.  Even the highest quality dry food will not clean your pet’s teeth any more than eating high quality, organic pretzels will clean your teeth.      

Q: I’ve seen and heard a little about brushing my dog’s teeth.  Does that really work?

Dr. Frank:  Pet toothbrushes and toothpaste with chicken or fish flavors are now widely available and is certainly one option that does work.  An additional benefit of this option is your pet will be comfortable with having her mouth handled for her yearly examinations.  For instructions from the American Veterinary Medical Association on what to look for and how to brush your pet’s teeth click here – How to Brush Your Pet’s Teeth.  

Q: Ok, but what if I don’t want to brush my dog’s teeth?  Is there another way to keep his teeth clean?

Dr. Frank:  In my opinion, chewing on raw bones (not cooked) is the best way to keep your dog’s teeth healthy and clean.  Not only are raw bones a major source of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, but in my experience they keep your pet’s teeth free of tartar and his gums free of gingivitis. 

Do NOT feed cooked bones to your dogs – cooked bones can easily splinter and cause obstruction.  Always feed fresh raw bones, preferably from organic, humanely raised sources since antibiotics and toxins are concentrated in the bones of cattle and other animals.  Many quality pet food stores now carry a supply of raw bones in their freezers.       

Good choices for dogs are marrow bones, beef backs and chicken backs.  Allowing your pet to chew up raw bones a few times weekly can go a long way in providing necessary minerals for healthy bones, teeth and other organ systems.    

Q: What about the dental chews I see packaged in the stores?

Dr. Frank:  Dental chews from a quality pet store are also beneficial for your dog’s teeth and gums.  Make sure to toss bones or chews if/when they become small enough for your pet to accidentally swallow whole.

Since chews are ingested, treat them as you would your own food by checking a chew toy’s ingredient label.  Look for organic and healthy ingredients, and avoid preservatives, flavor enhancers and other chemical ingredients.

One Final Note:
Many high quality pet food stores now carry all the items Dr. Frank mentions above.  Check your local store, or if you live in or visit our area (Monroe, WA), Sam’s Dogs and Cats, Naturally carries frozen raw bones, toothbrushes and toothpaste as well as quality dental chews.

2 thoughts on “Dry food, Dog teeth, and Puppies

  1. I am interested in the information re the raw bones. But, I am very cautious about having raw bones in the home. Basically – I don’t. So, how can I give these to my four dogs as I do not want to incur any aggressive behavior either. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

    • Thank you Corinne for your thoughtful comment and request for suggestions. I apologize for the delay in a reply. Dr. Frank and clinic staff have received a few similar questions about this topic, so we decided to put his suggestions as a separate post entry – Raw Bones for Dogs question

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