In a previous blog I wrote about the ‘pond scum’ of the mouth – plaque and how the best way to deal with plaque is to physically remove it, by brushing it off. Removal of plaque on a daily basis reduces harmful tooth-destroying bacteria and keeps our pets’ mouths happier and sweet smelling. There are other ways to physically remove plaque from our pets’ teeth and they all involve scraping it away.
Dental diets are available and these diets have large kibbles which do not crumble. When animals chew them, their teeth sink into the kibble and the kibble physically pushes the plaque off the teeth. We have available to us all sorts of chew things (rawhide, vegetable chews, manufactured bones) all of which physically scrape plaque and sometimes tartar from teeth when our pets chew them.
A number of people give their dogs bones, antlers, hooves to chew on and these are greatly enjoyed. They do help remove plaque and tartar but there is a great risk when giving these items to dogs. The risk is broken teeth. I have seen many dogs chew so hard on these items that teeth are broken and these broken teeth need to be removed.
My veterinary dentist friend, Dr. Hale, has taught me the “Knee Cap Rule” and the “Thumb Nail Rule” .
- The Knee Cap Rule: Take whatever treat, bone, toy you are going to give to your dog and hit your own knee cap. If it hurts, it is too hard. Pick another treat.
- The Thumb Nail Rule: Take whatever treat, bone, toy you are going to give to your dog and press your thumb nail into the side of it. If your nail leaves an indent, that treat is safe to give your dog. If there is no indent , pick another treat.
The whole purpose of giving dogs dental food, treats and other chew items is to make them happy, keep the plaque off the teeth and to prevent tooth damage. Pick an appropriate treat for your dog and remember the rules.
Written By: Dr. David Kerr, DVM