Updated: Nov 20
Oral health is so incredibly important. For any species!
Maintaining good oral health with your pets can seem like a challenging task.
But it doesn't have to be! ❌ The biggest mistake I see owners making is choosing the wrong type of dental chew.
For cats & dogs!
Keeping a pet's teeth clean can be so beneficial to health in reducing not only susceptibility to disease but also keeping them comfortable and able to eat their food.
Moderate to severe dental disease can impact a pets health in many ways.
This dog is 10 years old and has severe dental disease. Notice the accumulation of tarter and the bright red gums.
Dental disease can lead to:
Abscessed or infected teeth
Heart and other organ disease
Teeth and/ or jaw pain
Reluctance to eat
Inflamed, red or even bleeding gums
What a properly maintained oral cavity should look like:
The picture shown above is not typical for a 7yr old dog.
Most would have tartar buildup, terrible breath and an inflamed gum line.
Notice only a small amount of staining.
What causes dental disease?
Dental disease has many causes:
Poor gut health (a 2-way street)
... and more!
Plaque and tarter buildup is common in pets.
Cats can actually get what is called resorptive lesions which is extremely painful and needs veterinary care!
It's very important to inspect your pet's mouth routinely to notice when any of these changes start to occur.
What's a pet owner to do?
Step 1: Stay clear of the fancy tooth gels, toxic dental chews, and chemical water additives.
These do nothing to actually clean teeth.
I have found some mouth rinses to even contain toxic ingredients like xylitol which is well-known to be extremely dangerous to dogs! Xylitol is a natural sweetener made from wood, and causes hypoglycemia in dogs very quickly along with other organ failures. It is commonly found in sugar free gums along with many other products, including peanut butter!
This brand & product is readily sold by veterinarians... and it contains xylitol as the 3rd ingredient!!
Pet Poison Helpline specifically states in regards to chewing gum:
"In general, for most chewing gums, the amount of xylitol is often clinically insignificant if it’s listed as the 4th or 5th ingredient. If it’s listed as one of the first three ingredients, extreme caution should be taken."
How is this okay?! Let this show you how little care is taken by some of these companies. This may also tell a small tale at the lack of research and label reading some veterinarians actually do.
That being said, there are some that are enzyme-based and have no preservatives. I have seen one or two online but most everything sold/ in stores is filled with toxic ingredients.
Many dental chews on the market also contain very toxic ingredients that do not support health at all! Most contain very toxic ingredients & chemicals!
What danger do these products pose to your pet's health?!
Truth is, you aren't being told the truth!... Until now!
I get it, you're trying to help your pet. But PLEASE be aware that some dental chews are among the most toxic thing you can give.
With ingredients like:
▶Chicken by-product meal
▶Ground corn cob
This does NOT create health.
😰 This is a cocktail for an inflammatory disaster!
Yes, your veterinarian may have recommended the above named C.E.T chews... But please be aware: there's a reason for that.
Virbac is a pharmaceutical company. All veterinary clinics sell them. It does not mean they are healthy nor appropriate for your dog to ingest.
But, the most toxic dental chew on the market: RAWHIDE.
Are you still feeding that nasty death trap?! 😳
Rawhides are dried cow skin. Highly processed, bleached, rolled up, dyed and glued together in fun shapes. Sound delicious? Have a closer look at how rawhides are created.
*Video belongs to original creator and is for educational purposes only!
This processing makes it incredibly hard for a dog to digest which can lead to swelling and blockages in the digestive tract.... if it even makes it that far. Dogs have also been known to choke on rawhide as it becomes a slimy ball in their mouth. The most popular alternative 'No-Hides' are not any better, and I'll cover that in just a bit. There's also plastic molds shaped like rawhide, which I don't quite understand. But anyways..
Now that we've established how disgusting these chews truly are... let's have a peek at some other dental chews on the market.
What other popular dental chews are out there?
Sometimes I can't help myself at the store.
I gotta snoop the pet aisles & see what kind of new trendy, toxic products are on the shelves
Nylabone and other plastic dental toys
Very well-known, and available at almost any store. These are just pieces of molded plastic often with artificial flavoring and scents. I do not recommend them,. I have seen dogs shred and take off chunks of plastic which can be very dangerous.
Nylabone also now makes 'edible' dental treats. Which are just as bad.
We have nearly turned dogs into humanized herbivores.
I miss my job working in the pet department some days. I love the look on owners' faces when I explain to them why I DON'T recommend the product they're holding. I get it. it's hard! It feels like we are living in a Web of Illusions.
More like a compacted stick of wheat with chemicals.
*Note: Do Not EVER feed your dog cooked bones! You might want to toss your dog a tasty soup bone from the crock pot but this is VERY dangerous. Cooking bones makes them weak and brittle and they can splinter and cause choking and internal bleeding.
C.E.T Chews- Veterinarian Recommended?
Yep, this is one you will readily find at your local vet's office.
The ingredients include:
GROUND CORN COBS...What??!
No- Hide- One of the most toxic 'dental chews' on the market, especially the holiday versions
These may be advertised as rawhide free... but they are FAR from healthy.
Comparing labels: More dog dental chews
A short lesson in reading labels: (you will be seeing a lot of this in my posts, and I challenge you to implement it into your own products.. as well as your pet's).
While I'm not the biggest fan of a concoction of ingredients to make a "chew" (I prefer raw bones), I realize it's not always an option for some people. So when choosing one, it's important to look at what's in it. Or you may be doing more harm than good.
The top product has:
(A veterinary recommended brand, most clinics carry this product)
Corn, & soy (common allergens, non-digestible and contributes to inflammation).
'Palatable agent' ... whatever that is..?
Chemicals like chlorhexidine to clean the teeth
Bottom product has:
Cleaner grains (such as quinoa and oatmeal) which are less likely to contribute to inflammatory conditions
Rosemary & Green tea extract to freshen breath.
The bottom product I trust and have given my dog for many years, though the ingredients have now changed and I no longer buy it. Sad face!!
But, do you see the differences??
Last, but definitely not least; Cat Dental Treats!
This to me looks to be the exact same ingredients in low quality kibble. Which is said to be cleaning your cat's teeth in the first place, right?
Corn gluten meal
.....You get the picture. I also saw these cat dental treats and almost threw up... see if you can spot the red flags on the label. Hint: it's not hard to miss!
Read more about carbohydrates and how it affects dental health in cats here.
How can I care for my pet's teeth?
One of the best ways to combat tarter build-up, and the development of dental disease a healthy diet.
Alternatively, many owners have come to realize the benefits of raw food and bones!
Options are raw meaty bones, or recreational marrow bones.
*Please do your research on appropriate bones for ingestion vs recreation, pick appropriate sizes for your pet, and always supervise them.
Raw food and bones not only contain a variety of naturally occurring enzymes and bacteria, but also a natural scraping/ crunching action that actually CLEANS teeth!!
NEVER give cooked bones! Cooking breaks down minerals and weakens the bones, leaving a huge risk for breakage, splintering and ultimately punctured internal organs... which can lead to death.
Now, we have all been led to believe that kibble cleans teeth...
Heck, I was told this in school more times than I can count.
This is FALSE.
Kibble is made to contain a lot of carbohydrates/ starch (that's what helps it stick together). This actually CREATES tarter buildup on teeth.
This is especially true for cats, as they do not create the enzyme called amylase to break down starches.
Saying that kibble cleans teeth would be the equivalent of saying that a human eating a granola bar will clean their teeth... And we all know that isn't true!
Now, if you don't feed raw exclusively, you should be giving raw food and bones frequently, (a few times a week).
You should also be brushing your pet's teeth with:
Organic, unrefined coconut oil.
I've found this by far works the best to combat any odor and staining.
Coconut oil has SO many benefits. It is anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal.
Studies have actually shown it to be as effective as the chemical Chlorhexidine which I mentioned earlier!
I also feed it to my dog as a daily supplement.
Side note: For whatever reason, this also helps a lot with her anal glands!
Brush at least every 3 days for best results!
Some pet owners swear by a product called Plaque-Off.
I have no experience with it personally, and I've only seen moderate benefits in pets who have used it. I am also not a fan of how the company displays products on their website, they do not list any ingredients that are in their powdered supplements or their treats.
Dental disease can have contributing nutritional deficiencies, so doing a full diet analysis and evaluating the quality and digestibility of their food is very important!
There are also some ways you can provide extra supplements at home and adjust the Ph of your pet's mouth to minimize and prevent buildup!
What are some alternative dental chews?
Buck Bone Organics- Antlers
Choose the proper size, and be sure it is naturally sourced, and untreated. Please avoid split antlers to decrease risk of breakage. Antlers are the only chew I allow unsupervised. I also must urge caution to puppies with baby teeth, and older dogs as well as those with nutritional deficiencies. These dogs can be more prone to tooth breakage.
Diggin Your Dog- Bubba Chew Water Buffalo Horns
A favorite of ours! Great for big, tough chewers!
These can be messy!
Primal Pet- Freeze-dried liver treats
Crunchy and healthy!
Vital Essentials- Bully Sticks
Beware; these can be stinky!
Primal Pet- Raw meaty bones
Please always use appropriate sizes and always supervise your dog!
I don't personally have experience with this style of toy, but I know many dog owners who have had success with them. There are many different brands that make natural rubber chew toys, so just do your research and read the reviews!
Vital Essenatials- Dehydrated Chicken necks
Always supervise your kitty with these!
Primal Pet- Raw meaty bone chicken necks
Please use appropriate sizes and always supervise your cat!
Vital Essentials- Freeze-dried minnows
These are fun little snack to give! They also sell them for dogs (mine loves them)!
*Image courtesy of Vital Essentials website
The Honest Kitchen- Dehydrated fish fillets
Another fun one! Most cats really love fish!
Grandma Lucy's- Freeze-dried tuna treats
Tempting and packed with flavor!
Primal Pet- Freeze-dried liver treats
A crunchy, nutritious, flavorful snack
I've seen cats go crazy over these! And they work fairly well.
Is a professional cleaning needed?
But, if your pet has needed their teeth addressed professionally more than once, please consider a more appropriate diet. Choosing a higher quality food that is lower in carbohydrates can do wonders for many ailments including oral health. Take a look at this post to see how to choose a quality food that's lower in carbohydrates.
Also provide them with at least a weekly teeth brushing and appropriate chews!
In all honesty, some breeds are just more prone to dental disease than others.
Small breed dogs, especially. Yorkie, Maltese and Dachshunds are notorious for bad teeth!
The price of a professional dental cleaning by your veterinarian can range from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand.. this price mostly depends on the amount of extractions that need to be done.
A lot of veterinary clinics will have discounts on dental cleanings through the month of February as it is National Dental Health Month!
Remember these key signs that your pet may need an oral tune up and/ or diet change:
Reluctant to eat, mouth pain
Red, swollen or inflamed gums
Excessive plaque, tartar buildup
By not addressing dental issues, we are doing a disservice to our pets; because ultimately, dental disease can lead to more serious issues like infections and abscessed teeth, lowered immune health, heart disease and more.
All of this is preventable with proper dental care routines and an appropriate diet!
If you need help assessing your pet's diet, please contact me so you and your pet can have Happy Trails!
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