Chewing the Fat on Dental Chews: What Works?
People often look perplexed when I lift their pet’s lip and show them tartar deposits on the teeth, or point out the signs of gum inflammation that signify periodontal disease.
” But I feed Fido… insert latest chewy treat name here… all the time, I don’t understand how that has happened!?” they say.
Chewing is undoubtedly an important part of helping our pets keep their teeth clean. We’ve all observed that when our pet chews or gnaws for a period of time, the salivary glands are stimulated and saliva is released into the mouth. What you may not have realised is that saliva has some amazing antibacterial properties, which in combination with the scrubbing effect from a chew, can help control the buildup of plaque and the development of periodontal disease. It’s been suggested that dogs should spend at least half an hour chewing each day.
But, buyer beware! Not all chews are created equal.
In what is a hotly contested sector of the pet product market, there are now hundreds of chews and diets purporting to keep your pet’s teeth clean. This has come about largely because proactive consumers are seeking to avoid the problems of dental disease in their pets, and that’s a good thing. The flipside though, is that it is increasingly difficult to wade through the huge range of products and for us as consumers to substantiate their various claims. How do we do it at Prahran? We look for the evidence.
The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) is an independent body of dental specialists who rigorously review the claims and effectiveness of products designed to improve pet dental health. Only when chews and diets are scientifically proven to reduce dental disease do they receive VOHC certification. We ensure we only recommend products like Greenies and Hill’s T/D Diet that have earned this certification. Is your dog or cat’s favourite chew certified or could you inadvertently be prioritising good marketing over medical fact? It’s simple to check.
So if chewing is good for my pet’s teeth, what about bones?
There is still some debate about whether raw bones are a good idea. While raw bones can be effective at removing tartar, in some cases they can cause significant problems such as broken teeth – I’d estimate we see at least two pets a week with irreparably fractured teeth from chewing bones! – So due to this and other risks, we’ve made the decision to stop endorsing bones as part of routine dental care. They should certainly never be viewed as the complete solution to preventing dental disease, and never fed cooked, chicken bones are as good as pointless for most dogs – ask yourself how long your dog chews a chicken neck for? Remember the aim is 30 minutes a day. Raw hide chews may provide a safer alternative for some pets.
It’s worth remembering that brushing your pet’s teeth remains the best way to ensure dental health, just as it is the gold standard for humans. But if it’s not possible or practical, ensuring your pet regularly chews proven products can be a great way to reduce plaque and remove tartar.