Dogs love to chew and depending on the dog, the treats we give them do not last long at all. Usually the harder the treat, the longer they last, however, there is a downside to those long lasting hard treats. Teeth are covered by enamel which is the hardest surface in a dog’s body. Even though enamel is very hard, it can still be broken.
When dogs bite down, they can exert a pressure greater than 200 pounds per inch, and this is why dogs can chew through lots of toys and treats in short order. Beef bones, antlers and some chew toys made for dogs are so hard that even the great amount of force exerted by a dog’s jaw cannot break them. Sometimes if the bite is right, this force is transferred to the tooth doing the chewing and can fracture off pieces of enamel or whole pieces of tooth.
Fractured or broken teeth hurt. Broken teeth allow bacteria into the tooth and over time allow this bacteria to migrate into the bone around the tooth causing infection and more pain. The only treatment for a broken tooth is either root canal therapy or extraction of the tooth both of which are painful for your dog and expensive for you.
The solution is to select treats softer than your dog’s teeth. How do you judge which are soft and not too hard? That brings us back to the title of the article and the Knee Cap Rule. When you decide on a treat to give your dog, use that treat to hit your own knee cap. If it hurts, the treat is too hard for your dog and should not be used. The other similar rule is the Thumb Nail Rule. Take your thumbnail and push it into the treat, if you can, then the treat is appropriate to use. If you cannot push your thumbnail into the treat, then the treat is too hard and should not be used.
You may notice that any ‘appropriate ‘ treats do not last long and you may have to buy more treats than you have in the past. This can be annoying but doing this prevents the pain of broken teeth and prevents you from having to pay for oral surgery to address this preventable injury.
So, when deciding on a treat for your dog always consult your knee cap and your thumbnail. This will help to prevent injury to your dog’s teeth and allow for good chewing satisfaction for your family member.
Written by North Hill Animal Hospital