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Most cats and dogs are suffering some form of dental disease by the time they are three years old. It is normal for pets to require regular dental treatments under anaesthesia; and teeth cleaning at home is generally recommended too. This can end up costing hundreds or thousands over a lifetime.
Raw feeding provides an easier way, with no (or little) cost over and above the food. Chewing through raw meaty bones helps keep the teeth clean, as well as stimulating your cat or dogs mental health. Raw meaty bones are nature's toothbrush. The excerpt below is from our article on raw feeding science:
Improved appetites, longer periods spent feeding and greater possessiveness of food were noted in captive cheetahs fed a carcass based diet. The study notes that processed foods lack the ‘hassle factor’ and as a result of eating them, animals suffer tooth decay, dental pathologies, muscle atrophy and poor health.
The study references Fagan’s 1980 presentation to the American Association of Zoo Vets where the ‘hassle factor’ is defined. Dr Fagan, Zoo Veterinary Dental Consultant, states: “it is possible to do something immediately and significantly to minimise oral problems in (captive exotic) carnivores. That ‘something’ is to re-evaluate their diet. Animals need more ‘hassle factor’ per mouthful of nutrients. The best kept secret of the last fifty years is that we must eliminate the pre-processed, the overcooked, the smashed, the blended and the pureed foods and feed our animals a more appropriate diet, duplicating the feeding habits of feral conditions.”
Dental disease is a huge part of veterinary practice. Aside from pain, poor oral health provides a nidus of infection which will affect gut health and can spread in the bloodstream to damage organs, such as the kidneys and the heart.
Optimal dental health relies on a balanced oral microbiome, and mechanical teeth cleaning. When carnivorous jaws shear and tear at appropriate raw meaty bones and chunks of meat, teeth and gums are kept clean and healthy. Excellent gut health also plays a crucial role in oral health, the mouth being part of the digestive tract.
Choosing appropriate bones and chews for your pet is based on their personality, breed, health and size to avoid any hazards, such as obstruction or tooth breakage. Bones covered in meat and sinew are the most appropriate surface for chewing.
Please see our Bone Feeding Guide and chat to us about feeding raw meaty bones to your pet. If your pet is deemed unsafe to chew on raw meaty bones then some chewy treats may be beneficial and safe (NB avoid fillers, additives and preservatives).
Occasionally, pets (and people) can break a tooth when chewing. Everyone wants to avoid this situation and we strive to recommend the most appropriate raw meaty bones and/or chewy treats for your pet.
Load bearing leg bones of large animals, such as beef, venison or goat are very hard and therefore a greater risk for breaking teeth. Chewy treats that are more durable (such as hooves and golden tendons) tend to be harder too.
The occupation, mental and dental benefits of chewing need to be weighed up with the risk of tooth breakages or obstruction, especially in the young, old, or greedy eaters.
In the absence of chewing, home care is recommended for the mechanical action to clean the teeth. Teeth brushing can be very helpful in some pets - contact your primary veterinary clinic for advice. Please see here for Dr Karen Becker’s advice.
Never use human toothpaste. Pet toothpaste is not always necessary. Tooth brushes dipped in bone broth may enhance their experience!
The kelp supplement, Ascophyllum nodosum, has been sufficiently shown to reduce plaque buildup and soften calculus on teeth. It is also a nutritional boost which supports healthy digestion and overall health. See separate handout for more information.
Despite conscientious dental hygiene measures, genetic and anatomical features may still make some pets prone to dental disease, so we encourage regular checks by your primary veterinarian.
Remember - always talk to us before starting your pet on raw meaty bones or chews, so that we can help you choose wisely!
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