Dental Health Month

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Clients often ask “what sort of treats or bones can our dogs safely chew?”, and in short, there is no simple answer.

Be it for dental health or emotional enrichment, many dogs will find a need to chew. Which leaves us with the big question: “Is it safe?” Such is about as easy to answer as Dustin Hoffmann of the evil dentist in Marathon Man.

For now let’s focus a little on chew toys and even more on chews marketed for dental health. Safe for digestion, avoiding factures, toxicity all have been asked in various ways. Will dental chews cause indigestion or obstruction? Maybe if a dental chew is swallowed whole as the patient gobbles rather than the slow digestive chewing activity intended. Choose a chew that suits the size of the dog. If there isn’t a weight recommendation – choose another chew.

Will chewing toys fracture teeth? Yes, they will. There is always a risk. One of my veterinary dental mentors once said “swing a chew toy in question downward and whack your knee as hard as you can, if it hurts, it’s too hard for your dogs to chew.”   I’m paraphrasing, of course, and this might be an over simplification for humor sake, however point being, chew toys that are hard like commercial nylon bones can be hard enough to fracture teeth.  Also if you like your knees then I’d keep this purely in the theoretical frame of mind.

If you choose to allow chew toys, bones or antlers etc., etc. – one might limit risk by using a larger chew that the dog can suck and gnaw sideways rather than grip between upper and lower back teeth where great force to the crowns can be achieved. Either way, nothing is truly safe and accidents happen, thus one should always supervise chewing activities.

Toxicity? – This is more of side bar, but I feel compelled to mention that some might reach for large dried meat treats – jerky treats. There are many mysterious concerns for toxicity related to jerky treat ingestion, especially those made of chicken from foreign sources.   For now I’d avoid these all together if the protein source and production means are in any question at all.

So where do we look for honest answers when we’re standing in the local pet store bombarded by vast options for dental chews, for example? Look for the Veterinary Oral Health Counsel seal of approval.   Check out these guys and gals at www.vohc.org; there’s good stuff happening over there.