There is a lot of debate about whether dog chews really are effective at controlling bad breath and gum disease in our pooches.

Questions such as Which dog chews are effective? and How often should my dog be given a dog chew? come up regularly in veterinary consultations.

The goal of a dog chew is to both provide a mechanical way to clean your dog’s teeth as well as provide some environmental enrichment or fun!

The mouth is loaded with bacteria because it is a warm, moist & open environment. Bacteria contribute to dental disease and what is known as periodontal disease (gum disease), the most common problem plaguing our pets mouths. Without regular attention and awareness of ways in which to prevent gum disease, your pet could develop a painful condition where the dog’s teeth become loose and may need to be pulled out (extracted).

One of the options to help your dog maintain a healthy, pain-free mouth is to provide him or her with lots of dog chews.

What are the causes of periodontal disease?

Plaque is a colourless film that contains millions of bacteria and if left untreated can cause infections in the gum and destruction of the tissues that hold the teeth in place. This is known as periodontal disease.

How do dog chews work?

Preventative oral care, including the provision of dog chews, can help maintain a healthy mouth throughout your pet’s life.

When a dog chews or gnaws for a period of time, the salivary glands are stimulated and more saliva is produced and released into the mouth. What you may not be aware of is that saliva has some amazing antibacterial properties, which in combination with the scrubbing effect from the dog chew, can help control the buildup of plaque, and therefore the development of periodontal disease.

How often should my dog be given a dog chew?

Ideally your dog should be given something to chew on for at least 30 mins every day, or every second day at a minimum. This helps prevent large amounts of plaque from accumulating and hardening into tartar.

Which dog chews are effective?

With all the dog chews and treats on the market that claim to have dental benefits, it can be hard to determine which ones actually work. Some products have been approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC), an independent body set up by veterinary dentists to critically and scientifically analyse these claims, and can be used as a guide when selecting a chew for your dog. Your vet can also give advice on which products are effective for your dog.

It is important to select a chew that is appropriate for the size of your dog. Dog chews become ineffective if they are eaten too quickly and without any effort. Products such as the Greenies dental chews come in five different sizes catered to the size of your dog. These chews are very popular amongst pooches and one chew given daily is an effective means to reduce tartar build up. They are not suitable for dogs under 6 months of age. They also have the VOHC’s seal of approval (www.vohc.org).

 

Do some dog foods encourage more chewing than others?

 

Another effective means of encouraging your dog to chew more is to incorporate dog chews into their regular diet.

The Hills Science Diet T/D Diet range also has the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s seal of approval. This complete and balanced diet consists of a much larger and tougher kibble that ensures that your dog chews through each kibble, so that the teeth are cleaned from the tip to the gum. These diets are available through your local vet.

 

What about raw bones?

 

There is a lot of controversy in the media about whether raw bones are a good idea on a regular basis for dogs. While raw bones can be very effective, in some cases they can cause significant problems such as broken teeth. So due to the risks, we cannot completely endorse bone chewing as part of routine dental care.

NEVER FEED COOKED BONES.

 

What about tooth brushing?

 

Strange as it may sound, brushing your dog’s teeth is one of the best things you can do to maintain their health. As with humans, toothbrushing is the gold standard for dental care in dogs. Ideally this should be done daily but even every second day can dramatically reduce the build up of plaque. Leaving it for longer in between dog teeth brush sessions is less effective as this gives enough time for the plaque to harden into tartar, which is too hard to be removed by brushing alone.