Today’s topic might be a slightly controversial one but I think that it is important we discuss it nonetheless.
They sound like a perfect idea. Your pet gets to enjoy a tasty treat and get their chompers cleaned at the same time. Unfortunately, as is often the case, if it sounds too good to be true, it is. Dental chews might not be something you want to give to your pets for several reasons.
Poor Quality Ingredients
Many of “dental” chews on the market contain ingredients of very poor quality.
Ingredients you want to avoid include:
- Animal By-products
- Propylene Glycol
- Powdered Cellulose
Ingredients in Greenies:
Ingredients in Milk Bone “Brushing Chews”
Ingredients in Pedigree Dentastix
A lot of mammals produce salivary amylase (which is the digestive enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates), dogs are not one of them.1 Therefore it seems extremely counterintuitive to give them chews made up primarily of carbohydrates because these carbs will sit in the mouth, feed bacteria, and contribute to tartar and plaque build up.
Yes, abrasion is useful in reducing tartar and plaque buildup, that is why our dentists advise we brush our teeth multiple times per day. However, using carbohydrate based treats as the sole means of dental care for your pet is the equivalent of a human eating a handful of crunchy tortilla chips every day and expecting to have clean teeth.
Instead, offer recreational bones to help your carnivore exercise his jaw muscles and satisfy his instinct to chew.
Follow Dr Becker’s Rules for Offering Your Pet Recreational Bones: 2
- Dogs who are aggressive chewers can and frequently do chip or fracture their teeth on raw bones.
- Edible bones are the hollow, non-weight-bearing bones of birds (typically chicken wings and chicken and turkey necks). They are soft, pliable, don’t contain marrow, and can be easily crushed in a meat grinder.
- Edible bones (whole or coarsely ground) are a good alternative to recreational raw bones for aggressive chewers.
- Bone marrow is fatty; it can add lots of calories to your pet’s daily caloric intake and should be avoided if your pet has pancreatitis.
- Marrow can also cause diarrhea if consumed by dogs with sensitive stomachs. My recommendation is to scoop out the marrow until your pet’s GI tract has adapted to the higher fat treat.
- Another alternative is to offer bones with no marrow if your pet is battling a weight problem or needs a low fat diet. You can also replace marrow with fat free pumpkin and freeze.
- Raw bones are usually sold frozen. When they thaw and your pet chews on them, they can be seriously messy. Many people offer bones outside, in crates, or on a surface that can be mopped afterwards.
- When it comes to the right size bone for your dog, my advice is to match the bone size to your dog’s head. There’s really no such thing as a “too big” bone, but there are definitely bones that are too small for some dogs.
- Bones that are too small can be choking hazards and can also cause significant oral trauma.
- If your pet breaks off large pieces of raw bone, I recommend removing them before she has the opportunity to swallow them.
- Never cook raw bones; cooked bones splinter and are dangerous.
- Always supervise dogs when you’ve given them raw bones.
- I recommend separating even the best of dog friends when offering raw bones.
- Keep in mind that recreational bones don’t supply adequate calcium for homemade meals that don’t contain edible bones or bone meal.
A Note About Dental Kibbles:
It is a myth that kibble will keep your pet’s teeth clean. Most of the “dental kibbles” on the market today have very high carbohydrate contents (e.g., Royal Canin Dental Dry Dog Food has 48% carbohydrates). As we know, dogs do not have the salivary amylase to break down those carbs, and so they will sit on their teeth and lead to tartar and plaque.
The only way these dental kibbles can be somewhat effective is when they use chemicals like sodium hexametaphosphate (SHMP) which “has an insulating effect on calcium and other minerals in the mouth that reduces dental plaque.”3 However, SHMP is known to be hazardous if ingested and can cause renal (kidney) failure, heart disturbances, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and behavioural symptoms to name a few. 4
About Nylabones/Benebones (and similar products)
While these products can seem appealing because they do not add any calories to your pet’s diet, they are also full of chemicals and extreme choking hazards.
Check out this video from Rodney Habib showing how nylon bones are made.
- Brush their teeth regularly
- You can check out our video for a natural toothpaste recipe here
- Feed a species appropriate diet
- i.e., One with a very low carbohydrate content
- Give your pet size appropriate raw bones with supervision
- Use a chlorhexidine-free water additive for pet’s who will not let you brush their teeth and cannot or won’t chew raw bones
- Take your pet for yearly dental checkups and have their teeth cleaned as necessary
- For maintenance, you can look into anesthesia-free dental cleanings and decide if that is the right choice for your pet