A bone a day keeps the vet away! Well, the right kind of bone at least. It's common for the average dog owner to walk into their local pet shop in search of anything to clean their dog’s teeth. Unfortunately, the majority of local pet shops carry an abundance of unhealthy treats and chews promoted to keep dog’s teeth in tip-top shape. Pet parents will feed the traditional Greenies, Whimzees and Dentastix while still making appointments to visit their vet for a teeth cleaning. If those artificially colored dental treats aren’t doing the trick, what will? Lucky for you, I have the answer - real, raw meaty bones!
It is shocking to know that 75% of dogs and cats over the age of three have periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is defined as “a serious gum infection that damages gums and can destroy the jawbone.” However, there is much more to it than that. Periodontal disease affects the kidneys, liver, heart and lungs. Infections start in the mouth but can travel through the blood stream if not taken care of properly. Holistic Veterinarian Karen Becker goes more into detail regarding periodontal disease.
First, let’s take yourself for example. You need a teeth cleaning, so you book an appointment with your dentist. Your dentist uses tools to scrape off any plaque and tartar build up. Are you told by your dentist to go out to the grocery store and buy a bag of crunchy kettle potato chips to scrape off plaque and tartar? As cheap, easy and delicious that may sound - no, you are not told by your dentist to do this because carbohydrates stick to the teeth and cause cavities, gum disease, tooth loss and can even result in a brain abscess. Given the fact you do not use potato chips to clean your own teeth, why are you feeding your furry friends treats made of nothing but carbohydrates to try to clean theirs? Some common ingredients found in Greenies, Whimzees and Dentastix are wheat starch, potato starch, powdered cellulose and wheat gluten. These inferior treats are causing more plaque than they are preventing it. Now let’s dive into how you can actually get rid of and prevent plaque and tartar with the proper bones.
By giving your pup a raw meaty bone, you are giving them a healthy treat while providing them with a dental cleaning. Scraping the meat off the raw meaty bone will not only act as a dental tool for your dog but they will also benefit from all of the nutrients of the bone itself. Bones consist of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium - in addition, the meat itself on the bone has its own nutritional value. The meat will act as floss and provide healthy fats and natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin. But wait - there’s more! Whether an animal is domesticated or wild, it is crucial that chewing is apart of their normal behavior. Without chewing, your pup is being deprived of an important function that is needed for jaw exercise, mental stimulation and to keep him from becoming bored. Chewing on raw bones is a stress reliever and releases endorphins into the body. Without a raw bone, you could notice him becoming destructive and parts of your furniture have been destroyed.
Although raw bones are safe and healthy, it is important to understand that there are some things to consider when choosing which bone to feed to your dog. I want you to notice how I have been saying “raw bones” - not cooked, not smoked, not roasted. Without the knowledge between the different ways these bones are created, they can be dangerous and cost you a pretty penny at the vet.
Cooked, Smoked and Roasted Bones Bones that have been cooked, smoked or roasted are extremely brittle and will break off into sharp chunks that are not easy to digest. These types of bones can cause blockages and permanent damage to your pup’s gastro system. Next time you cook a steak or roast a chicken, remember you are not treating your dog, you are actually putting them into danger! Meaty bones that have been air-dried, NOT cooked, are safe because the bones are still soft and pliable when rehydrated.
Picking the Right Sized Bone Regardless of owning a small or large dog, it is recommended to always provide your dog with a raw meaty bone that is at least 2x the size of their mouth. By doing this, you are preventing your small or large dog from the bone getting stuck around their jaw and from choking. It is a common misconception that small dogs should not chew on large bones when it is actually the opposite! Examples of safe choices to feed a small/medium sized dog would be beef and pork ribs, lamb neck bones.
Recreational Bones These are the types of bones that can be chewed on but not consumed. Your dog will still get a great brush and floss cleaning from these as well as mental stimulation! An example of recreational bones are knee, hip and marrow bones.
Edible Bones These bones are a great way to add fresh food to your pup’s diet if they are on kibble and haven’t quite made the switch to raw yet. Edible bones are soft and non weight bearing. Here is a few examples of edible bones you can feed your pups of all sizes.
- XS Dog: wing tips and chicken necks
- SM Dog: chicken wings
- MD Dog: ducks necks and chicken carcasses (also shoulder bones)
- LG Dog: lamb ribs
- XL Dog: turkey necks Now keep in mind you can absolutely feed medium to extra large bones to your smaller dog, just supervise as always and split up their chew sessions! As for medium to extra large dogs, they can eat bones of all sizes but it is important to supervise as they are more at risk to swallowing a smaller edible bone whole.
Always Remember to Safely Feed Bones!
- ALWAYS supervise your dog. Even if you feed a large bone and it doesn’t look worrisome, accidents DO happen!
- If your dog tends to swallow food whole, hold the bone while they gnaw on it! This will not only help your pup slow down, but they are able to actually savor it :)
- Feed bones in a specific, easily cleaned area if possible (or outside) - you do not want your dog dropping a raw bone in different areas of your house due to bacteria.. yuck!
- Do not overfeed bone as it can be too much calcium and cause constipation. Too much calcium will lead to white, chalky poops! If you are experimenting with feeding bones and you notice your pup is constipated, feed some slippery elm. At Real Dog Box, we swear by that stuff!
- If your dog has any dental issues or needs dental work, skip feeding the bone for the time being as you do not want to cause any abscess.
- Have multiple dogs? Separate them when feeding bones as they could potentially become aggressive towards each other and fight over the bones... they are just THAT good!
What is your regime of keeping your dog's teeth clean?
Have you fed a raw bone to your dog before?
If you are now feeding raw bones for dental hygiene, do you notice a difference with less plaque and tartar?