In a nutshell, some foods work a bit like a toothbrush because they help rub the teeth clean. This cleaning action is sometimes called ‘natural dietary abrasion’. When your dog grinds, chews, grips, chomps and rips its food it helps the teeth, gums and jaw.
Bad teeth and diseased gums start with the build-up of plaque. If plaque this is not removed it can lead to formation of calculus (scale) on the teeth, and worsening gum problems. That’s why your vet may recommend a dog tooth brush (which is a small device you can buy from pet suppliers).
Research shows that food is also very important to help remove plaque.
Dogs that eat lots of soft foods don’t benefit from natural dietary abrasion. Soft foods include canned food, and also home-made food that’s well cooked. Dogs on soft diets can end up with worse teeth and gums that dogs on natural, meaty, and raw diets.
What are some of the best foods for cleaning your dog’s teeth?
Anything that your pet can chew, rip, and gnaw can be good for the teeth. Here are some examples:
- Pieces of palatable raw vegetables. Gravy mixed with raw cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage has been suggested by the authors Emily and Penman (Handbook Of Small Animal Dentistry
- Raw hides and leather chews. You can sometimes buy these with added enzymes that help reduce bacteria which leads to ‘plaque’ on the teeth
- Kitchen scraps that add texture and chewiness to a dog’s meal.
- Raw meaty bones. These are excellent – see below…
About meaty bones. Most agree that raw meaty bones are safer than cooked bones. Make sure there is still some meat on the bone. Depending on the size of your dog, try raw chicken necks, turkey necks, whole rabbit, ox tail, etc. Chicken wings are good for small dogs and lamb shanks can be good for larger dogs
You don’t have to avoid soft food altogether. Some vets recommend adding some large-sized kibble to a meal. This is like speed bumps that slow your dog’s eating. You want large hard chunks that your pet can sink its teeth into. I like to offer some kibble occasionally because it contains good amounts of protein and is fairly nutritionally balanced. (But I don’t think that kibble should be fed long term because it doesn’t offer raw food benefits).
If you are concerned about your dog’s dental health make an appointment to see your vet.
Australian Veterinary Journal – Diet and periodontal disease in dogs and cats