includes keeping your dog's teeth clean to maintain dental health (and protect against heart disease) but is there an alternative to anesthesia risk?
Teeth Cleaning Risks And Benefit
Barbara J. Andrews, TheDogPlace.org Publisher
Risk vs. benefit should be carefully considered on any elective surgery, including the necessity and reasons for having a dog’s teeth cleaned.
What is the anesthesia risk compared to the possibility of gum infection or tooth loss? The first can be fatal or cause cognitive impairment whereas tartar can lead to bacterial gum infection and possible heart problems. Veterinarians make tooth cleaning sound as routine as taking out the trash but let’s get the facts.
Ron Hines DVM PhD says “the risks of general anesthesia are usually greater than that of the surgery itself.” He points out the obvious, “Because it is common for pets to not sit still or become terrified in the animal hospital, we use general anesthetics more frequently than a human physician would.” Right, but humans are anesthetized by anesthesiologists intensely trained in their skill and who practice it several times per day… The best veterinarian simply doesn’t have the teaching hours or experience of an anesthesiologist.
Doggy Dentals Are High-profit Procedures
…and unlike hip x-rays or other one-time procedures that require anesthesia, tooth cleaning represents repeated risk for the dog weighed against repeat income for the veterinary practice. According to the Qualified Pet Dental website “If effective dental cleaning was simple, then anyone could do it. But in reality, it is a complicated and occasionally delicate procedure.” Sure, they are selling their service but canine tooth cleaning is what they do and the site states in part “Improper or Incomplete Dental Treatment can lead to… new infections or the spread of existing infections or accelerated tooth decay or gum disease development.”
First, ask your vet face to face (not whoever answers the phone) whether he/she personally does the teeth cleaning or whether a “technician” does the procedure. Then ask (the veterinarian) if there’s a better way to keep your dog’s breath smelling good and prevent tartar, gingivitis, decay and tooth loss? (There are products that protect against those dental problems.)
Why Gingivitis And Tooth Loss Is More Common In Toy Breeds
Prevention is especially critical for toy dogs which are notably prone to tooth loss from dental decay and infection. In miniaturizing the dog, we also created finer bone which thins and refines the jaw bone just as it does the leg bones. The other reason is that most toy breed owners pamper their dogs with canned dog food and “special dinners” which are the bane of the breed!
Toy dogs need raw bones (with real meat) just as much, if not more than do giant breeds. I am not a veterinarian but then how many newer generation vets actually learn about non-profitized, natural canine nutrition? Veterinary education is largely provided or sponsored by dog food manufacturers. You get the point. Vets tend to believe what they are taught, just like everyone else. I hope newer veterinary school graduates are reading this because “the old guys” (and lady vets) will be nodding in agreement. With that disclaimer about my lack of a veterinary degree, I will stipulate that I have forty nine years of on-the-job training in dog care.
While Chihuahuas are centuries removed from the wild, they have not lost their taste for a (warm) raw bone. A dog that has never had a meaty bone before may be skeptical, walking a wary circle around that enticing “thing” that might be a trap! If your dog rejects a raw bone, leave it be. Let nature take its course, both in the dog and in the natural aging (rotting) which makes the nature's tooth cleaner even better. That’s why dogs bury a bone, not to keep another dog from stealing it as you’ve been led to believe. Any dog with a nose can smell a buried bone!
Check Back Molars For Decay and Canine Gum Disease
“Awhile back I noticed that her breath was not its usual nice smell. Her teeth look great, so I just assumed it was the stinky lobster which she loves. Then one day I looked way in the back at her molars, which are darn hard to see and she fights like the dickens, but lo and behold, her back molars on both sides were loose… So, I took her to the dentist and she needs two, perhaps four teeth pulled. I am just devastated. Her other teeth are clean and white. My vet said that raw foods, bones, all of that stuff, doesn’t work like mechanical cleaning; even tooth brushing wouldn’t have prevented her situation. Then again, I hate to have her under anesthesia... Did you know that there are only 100 board certified vet dentists in the US? That is what I read. Thank God there is one near me.” (Diane Freeman, Toy Fox Terrier owner)
I included that because there’s an important lesson here. Check the back molars if your dog has bad breath. And because I totally disagree with her vet as regards raw bones. He may be right about tooth brushing but even with tasty toothpaste, dogs hate it and few owners do it often enough to stop tartar build up and gum infection. Nature always knows best and although the natural world did not plan on 3 pound dogs, the answer is the same. RAW BONES.
Wolves live up to 15 years in captivity (fed a natural diet) and wolves average over 8 years in the wild and most die from injury not from health problems or old age. The point is this: a wolf’s life expectancy is nearly twice that of a purebred dog in the same weight range. An adult wolf averages well over 125 pounds. The wolf’s teeth remain intact well into old age and although Wikipedia reports there is debate on whether raw meat and raw bones contribute to a wolf’s dental health, it seems obvious.
Therefore the only possible objection to feeding RAW bones for dental health is the risk of bone splinter damage to the intestinal wall. Cooked bones are brittle and may cause problems but tell that to city dogs that forage garbage cans and roadside scraps.
To me, feeding raw bones (excluding fish) is an acceptable risk compared to the certainty of gum disease, tartar and tooth loss from an unnatural/improper diet.
From the monthly column "On The Line" by BJ Andrews. ShowSight, November 2014
Learn Why Dental Disease Is Dangerous and can lead to heart problems in your dog. There is much to learn and Video Theater makes it easy with this FOUR-VIDEO collection: teeth cleaning without anesthesia, the importance of bones and American-made raw-hide, scaling and polishing those pearly whites and more.