Kick Kibble to The Curb - Dental Myths
Many people believe that feeding dry food will keep their pet's teeth clean and healthy. Unfortunately, this myth is perpetuated by veterinarians and pet food companies. Actually, it may contribute to dental disease. The photo above shows the mouth of a dog fed dry kibble only.
Kibble actually does nothing to prevent tartar from accumulating, unless it is a very large size with a large air-filled matrix that the dog must chew. For instance, Hill's makes T/D (tartar diet) and they claim it works due to its unique kibble shape & size and the special fiber matrix technology. Unfortunately the ingredients are Brewers Rice, Whole Grain Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal, Powdered Cellulose, Pork Fat, Soybean Mill Run, and a long list of chemicals. Certainly, that is not the level of nutrition I will feed to my pets.
So how does kibble contribute to dental disease? Again, kibble contains carbohydrates. Carbohydrates break down to sugar. Sugar causes increased plaque and feeds the oral bacteria. Plaque leads to tartar, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. One study showed that dental health declined within just 17 days of switching from a raw to a kibble diet in dogs. Another study showed dental calculus was significantly higher in cats fed commercial diets versus feral cats eating wild prey. Most rescue dogs that I foster have been fed a lifelong diet of kibble and they arrive with advanced periodontal disease.
Over 80% of pets have significant periodontal disease by age 3, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society. Untreated dental infection can lead to heart valve disease, kidney disease, and even diabetes and cancer due to chronic inflammation and immune stress, not to mention the significant pain associated with dental infections and loose teeth.
The Veterinary Oral Health Council shares a list of products that they claim will help decrease plaque and tartar accumulation, however the list is "sponsored", which means a price was paid to be on the list. Most of the products are made by big pet food companies using questionable ingredients (in my opinion).
Pets fed raw diets or home cooked diets supplemented with raw meaty bones will have significantly less tartar. If your pet has never had raw meaty bones, be sure to research how to feed them. Never feed cooked bones, as these are brittle and can splinter, causing broken teeth and bowel perforations.
The best prevention for pet dental disease is daily brushing, but some pets will just not allow this, and many pet owners do not have time to brush. With ten dogs, brushing would be pretty time-consuming, so I use oral dental drops along with a raw diet for my dogs.