Whole Dog Journal's Blog March 12, 2012

Check Your Dog’s Teeth and Gums – Today!

Posted at 09:55AM - Comments: (15)

I recently wrote an article about canine dental health; it will appear in the April issue of WDJ. I discussed the need to examine your dog’s teeth on a regular basis, and to keep them clean and healthy. Tartar-encrusted teeth lead to gum infections which lead to systemic infections that severely affect the heart, liver, and kidneys.

If you are lucky, your dog’s teeth stay white and healthy with absolutely no help from you at all; my previous dog, a Border Collie named Rupert, had perfect teeth throughout his lifetime with zero maintenance. In contrast was the long-haired Chihuahua Mokie, who used to be my sister Sue’s dog, stayed with me for four or five years, and has been living with my sister Pam for many years since then. He has to have his teeth cleaned at the vet’s every two or three years.

Writing the article inspired me to do what I’ve advised WDJ’s readers to do: to take the opportunity to thoroughly examine my dogs’ teeth.

Apparently, my luck ran out with Rupert. Otto is only about 4 ½ years old, but his teeth already have a little tartar on them. I need to start brushing his teeth; if I get right on it, I may be able to prevent the need for a professional cleaning for another year or so. I also looked at Tito’s teeth for the first time; he needs a cleaning ASAP, darn it. The first thing that popped into my head was the old line from the Pink Panther movie (Peter Sellars, not Steve Martin), “But it is not my dog!” But whether he’s our dog or not doesn’t matter: he’s living here indefinitely, and his teeth (like many Chihuahua and other tiny dogs with crowded mouths) are already (at age 5) very encrusted with tartar – to the point where his gums are inflamed. I’ll be calling around to price the procedure at various vets; this is one procedure where you will find a particularly wide range of prices.

Comments (15)

Babette is my 3rd rescue dog - I swear by DentaBones right after they eat. I have also added Bully Bones and Himalayan bones - but the DentaBones are cheaper and they really work. I also don't feed any soft sticky food or even canned food - dry with plenty of water and a few crunchy biscuits. Even the vet couldn't believe how white the dogs teeth always were and how pink their gums are.

Posted by: keller1312 | March 23, 2012 12:05 PM    Report this comment


Please do your homework. RAW bones, chicken or otherwise are just fine and are an important component of a raw diet.

Cooked bones are the ones that splinter dangerously. Raw bones are digestible.

The one exception to this that people are mentioning is weight bearing bones from large animals, like cattle. They might help to clean your dogs' teeth, but they can also cause them to fracture, resulting in expensive dental bills down the road for tooth extractions!

A properly formulated raw diet with appropriate, edible bones, will keep your dogs' teeth and gums healthy and eliminate the need for dental cleanings throughout the dogs' lives.

Posted by: Gentlelake | March 14, 2012 1:19 PM    Report this comment

I have a 2.5 year old Toy Fox Terrier. Just had her teeth cleaned by a veterinarian yesterday. I have been using, albeit incorrectly LEBA 111 (i.e. only used it once a day and was inconsistent in terms of teeth brushing) and giving her Himalayan Dog Chews (which she loves). Concerned about using the dental chews and rinses recommended by the veterinary technician (C.E.T. Veggiedent Chews, C.E.T. Enzymatic Oral Hygiene Chews, C.E.T. AquaDent (third ingredient Xylitol). Would very much appreciate if you would address all of these products (effectiveness, safety, warnings, etc.) in your upcoming article.

Posted by: Gina E | March 14, 2012 7:17 AM    Report this comment

Great article! Thanks for the info. We own a large dog walking company in Southern California. And for our clients we contracted a specialist that was trained in non-aneasethia teeth cleaning. She did cats, dogs, and horses. We interviewed 6 people for this position before we ended up with Jill. Anyway I bring this up for a few reasons: 1) if you go the non-aneasethia route not all companies/dental techs are equal- some of the people we interviewed only took one coarse before they started to be a "pet dental hygienist" 2) if the dental tech knows what they are doing they can do a great job and this is an excellent alternative for pets that have health issues (from what I can find non-aneasethia cleaning was first develop in a NYC SPCA hospital for pets that had heart issues) 2)non-aneasethia is not for all pets as it can be stressful on some pets. 3)its normally less expensive ranging from $40 up to $180.

Sorry for rambling. :-)

Posted by: David H | March 14, 2012 1:15 AM    Report this comment

My dobi has great teeth and no bad breath and I attribute it to feeding heavy beef bones a couple times a week . As she cleans them they clean her teeth.

Posted by: CarolynAnn | March 13, 2012 5:36 PM    Report this comment

The knuckle bones are raw that I feed. I have been told to only feed raw bones as cooked splinter and can cause problems. I have never had a problem with any raw bone they don't get sharp liked cooked ones in my experience. I also know many people that feed RAW chicken bones. Raw will not splinter like cooked. My dogs get turkey necks at Thanksgiving.

Posted by: Heidi R | March 13, 2012 4:38 PM    Report this comment

Raw chicken bones??? Very dangerous idea. Chicken bones are very soft and so splinter easily. They can cause a multitude of problems for your dog both in his gut and on the way down. In addition raw chicken carries a multitude of bacteria that can be harmful to both you in handling it and to the dog also.
Might want to check with your vet about this. I'm sure it will be strongly suggested that you stop this practice.

Posted by: Barbara W | March 13, 2012 3:52 PM    Report this comment

Yes, there is a great deal of price variation between 'Dentals' -- just be sure you understand that less expensive may not mean a full procedure - 'scaling' - it may just be a 'quickie' / polish job; not getting under the gum to remove plaque; and in really really nasty cases your vet may want to prescribe Clyndamycin for before the procedure (as well as to go home with) to help conteract the multitudes of bacteria that will be relased into the dogs system. Brushing is a great tool - but it may not be enough to control gingivitis. Make sure your vet does a good oral exam at the same time he/she does the 'yearly' CBC/Urinalysis,"Annual Health Check" etc.

Posted by: KinNC | March 13, 2012 3:25 PM    Report this comment

Are the knuckle bones you're using raw or cooked? Is there any difference between raw or cooked bones in regards to keeping your dogs teeth clean?

Posted by: Thomas J | March 13, 2012 12:16 PM    Report this comment

I have read that chicken feet are great for dogs' teeth. I'm currently giving mine one per day so we'll see. I had a lab that died at 16 and never had to have her teeth cleaned. She was on a raw diet for most of her life.

Posted by: Nancy L | March 13, 2012 10:53 AM    Report this comment

We use an Oral-B Pulsonic toothbrush. It is rechargeable and has the smallest end of bristle to back of brush size. I have toy poodles. Before I started using the Pulsonic daily, we needed frequent professional cleanings. Since I started, we have not had a professional cleaning in over six years. We use only water with the toothbrush. I cook for my dogs so they are not eating dry food, dental cleaning food, greenies, and they have no additives in their water. Regular sonic brushing keeps their teeth sparkling. The brush and brush heads are not inexpensive but compared to a professional cleaning... Time too is not expensive. I timed how long it takes to get a dog, clean its teeth, and release it. That time 90 seconds times 365 days is less than the time it takes to make a vet apt, drive there, wait, drive home and do it all over again to pick up a dog with clean teeth. Plus the time is spreadout over a year.

Posted by: Furrykids | March 13, 2012 10:49 AM    Report this comment

I agree. My 2 dogs a Lab and Mastiff get Knuckle bones once a month on a Sunday afternoon. They are content to lay in the back yard and chew for hours. (Great for the times when we have company too) Also I get them at my local grocery store for less than $2 each. This is a much cheaper alternative to a professional cleaning!

Posted by: Heidi R | March 13, 2012 10:44 AM    Report this comment

I have my dogs' teeth professionally cleaned without the use of anesthetic. I always wonder if they are getting clean enough and if the vet technicians can see everything they need to address while cleaning. Could you please address this in your upcoming article?

Posted by: Terri S | March 13, 2012 10:40 AM    Report this comment

I have a small dog whose teeth I brush daily ... and she has still needed 3 dental cleanings over the last decade. She came to us with missing teeth, her mouth has truly been a "mess." There may be a hereditary link -- I have a friend with 2 unrelated Chihuahuas that eat the same kibble and are close in age. One has great teeth and one has terrible teeth.

Posted by: Carolyn M | March 13, 2012 10:38 AM    Report this comment

I have a 5 year old Aussie who has nice clean teeth. I give her a knuckle bone or raw chicken bones to chew on a regular basis and this seems to do the trick. She will lie on her mat and work the knuckle bone for at least an hour. My vet recommended using the bones to keep teeth clean and it works for us.

Posted by: buechner@uplink.net | March 13, 2012 10:20 AM    Report this comment

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