“Your dog can crack their tooth on anything harder than what you can make a dent with your fingernail.” If you own a dog and you have been to a vet, it is likely you have heard or been told this statement. Usually, you hear it when you get chastised after your dog has already had a tooth fracture incident. Vets warn against bones and chews as a precaution. Since we already know that chewing is a natural behavior in dogs and that it can be beneficial for good dental hygiene - let’s take a look at the positive options and what to do if your dog does chip or fracture a tooth.
While it is true that your dog can do damage to their teeth on chews harder than what you can dent with your fingernail, there is still a huge market for recreational chews! The most important thing to note about recreational chews is that they are not meant to be ingested. Some of the most popular and accessible recreational chews in pet stores are Benebone and Nylabone. Benebone’s website includes the following about safety:
“Tooth injury is an unavoidable risk when using chew toys of this hardness and durability, such as nylon, natural bones, and antlers. Consider softer products to avoid this risk.”
There have also been instances where some benebone design’s have gotten stuck on the jaws of dog’s. Since this became a serious issue, they re-designed them so that it cannot happen anymore. They also offered to exchange the old design for a new one, as well as cover some expenses for any damage. More information can be found here.
These recreational chews are not only an “unavoidable risk” to a broken tooth, but they also can be a fatal risk if swallowed because nylon is not digestible. Many dogs have had to have surgery to remove a blockage. Rawhide bones are also a major culprit to intestinal blockages. Other recreational chews include antlers, hooves and roasted beef knuckle bones. I do not recommend these options for safe chewing. Recreational chews can cause unnecessary wear and tear, and are overall unsafe if ingested.
Safe Chewing and Edible Bones
In the wild, chewing keeps the dog's teeth clean and healthy. Since dogs have the instinct to chew, you want to make sure you are offering them the best and safest option. You can feed raw, edible bones instead. Raw, air-dried or dehydrated pork, lamb and poultry bones are the best options. Edible bones are non-weight bearing. These are flexible bones that you can bend slightly between your hands; pork ribs or poultry wings are good examples. Beef bones are much harder to chew and are considered recreational chews. Because of the animal’s nature, they are more dense and weigh more than other animal bones.
What to do if your dog fractures a tooth
First you must identify if your pup has broken or chipped a tooth. Sometimes this is not obvious because it can be hidden beneath the gum line. There are some signs you can look for like chewing on one side and dropping food while they are eating. They may even refuse hard food and lose interest in any hard toys. If your dog is presenting any of these signs or symptoms, you should have them examined.
According to the VCA, there are several classifications of tooth fractures in dogs.
Enamel fracture. A fracture with loss of crown substance confined to the enamel.
Uncomplicated crown fracture. A fracture of the crown that does not expose the pulp.
Complicated crown fracture. A fracture of the crown that exposes the pulp.
Uncomplicated crown-root fracture. A fracture of the crown and root that does not expose the pulp.
Complicated crown-root fracture. A fracture of the crown and root that exposes the pulp.
Root fracture. A fracture involving the root of the tooth.
It’s important to identify if the pulp is exposed (seen above), because that is what can cause infection. The root is exposed to bacteria, which is very problematic and needs to be treated immediately. You will want to take your dog to the vet to have it properly examined so the vet can assess what their treatment plan is.
Post-Dental Treatment Care
Depending on the severity of the fracture, you still want to keep your pup from chewing for a few weeks. It is possible that your dog can chew again. Of course, you want to offer chews in moderation and supervise as always! There are soft chews on the market that are designed specifically for senior dogs that are more appropriate for their aging teeth.
If you need to keep your pup from chewing, there are other toys suitable for play and mental stimulation that will keep their teeth safe.
In most cases, young healthy dogs will be able to return to moderate or light chewing. Again, edible bones are a great option. If you want to stay away from all bones, you can offer other types of chews like natural (not bleached) rabbit or lamb ears, beef aorta or trachea, and pig ears. You want to make sure these are air-dried or dehydrated, and not cooked or roasted. A raw, dehydrated pig ear can be soaked in warm-hot water and become soft! It’s still a challenge to chew, but will put less stress on your dog’s teeth.
While tooth fractures can be scary and expensive, they are manageable. In most cases your dog will be able to chew again! Many pet owners are reluctant to introduce chews after a chip or fracture. Dogs chew to relieve stress, and the benefits of removing plaque buildup are important to overall dental health.