One of the most common problems we see are broken dog teeth –  specifically slab fractures of the upper carnassials. These are the big teeth on the side of the mouth that dogs chew with in a scissor-like action. When they fracture, the whole side of the tooth snaps off, resulting in pain and infection. If the fracture is deep enough it can only be resolved by root canal treatment or extraction, both pretty big procedures!

The most common cause of this injury? Chewing objects that are simply too hard to be considered safe. The most common object bones!  Recently the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) released a consumer update confirming what veterinary dentists have known for a long time that chewing bones is not a safe option for our pet pooches (click here to view the release).

Culture & Myths About Bones

Here in Australia, giving the dog a bone is firmly ingrained in our culture. Dogs love to chew them, it gives them great pleasure, and seems at least on the surface to help keep their teeth clean. Even my own children are adamant that dogs eat bones, thanks to various nursery rhymes and Wiggles songs. It’s hard to argue with a toddler when it comes to Wags the Dog!

Let’s start by dispelling some of the myths about bones. Many people have fed bones to their dogs for years with no apparent signs of damage. While some dogs chew bones for years without problems, we see many others that aren’t so lucky. Some dogs play rougher than others, and some chew harder than others. If your dog chews like it is trying to kill a wild beast, watch for the damage. And don’t forget, we see many dogs with fractured teeth that have been undetected for years this doesn’t mean they aren’t hurting, just that they just don’t want to let us know about it!

Dogs in the wild chew bones, don’t they? Surely something so natural is safe? 

More often than not wild dogs chew the meat off the bone and leave the bones behind. And they get broken teeth and periodontal disease too! And natural isn’t always best there are many safer dental chew products available that are softer yet effective.

How do I tell if my dog has a broken tooth? 

Well, remember that dogs really aren’t good at telling us they are in pain in fact they will try to not show any weaknesses to their pack (that’s us!) until it becomes too sore to hide it any longer. Many of us have had an infected tooth and know how painful it is well it hurts your dog just as much, even if they don’t whinge about it! This means they will suffer in silence for years if we don’t keep an eye out for problems. Things you might notice include:

  • You might see that a tooth looks a different shape or colour to the one on the other side.
  • You might notice that a tooth on one side has more tartar buildup compared with the other side this often indicates a damaged tooth surface or that the dog is not chewing properly on one side due to pain.
  • You might see swelling around the tooth or a lump under the eye (in this case a tooth root abscess is highly likely).

Or you might not see anything at all! If you are unsure, get your vet to do a dental check.

What if you really want to give bones to your dog? 

Well, that’s ultimately up to you, and how you weigh up the risks and benefits. IF you wish to feed bones, you can decrease the risk of problems to dog teeth by only using raw bones (less likely to splinter), match the size of the bone to the size of the dog (less likely to get caught or cause an obstruction), leave the meat on (so there is something to chew), supervise your dog, and take the bone away once the meat is gone. Â Better still, look into safer chewing alternatives, such as specially formulated dental diets, dental chews and toys. Your dog will thank you for it.