Anyone who gets up close and personal with their pet dog or cat can attest to bad breath - and I am talking about your pet, not you, but go ahead and go gargle!
February is National Pet Dental Month. When was the last time that you lifted up your pet's lips and inspected her teeth and gum lines? Don't stop at just the front fangs - lift those lips back to her smile and check out those molars.
One of the myths that I hate is that feeding dry kibble or "Milkbones" (aka dry, stale, chemical laden time bombs) will chip tarter off dogs' teeth. This is not true. What chips tarter off teeth is eating raw, meaty bones, as nature intended our carnivores to do.
Many people are afraid of feeding raw, and many veterinarians object to the practice, so be sure to do your research before embarking on such an endeavor. Common sense dictates, too. If you have a Great Dane, giving her a chicken neck is going to be much less helpful (after she swallows it whole) than giving her a turkey neck, where she has to actually chew through the bones, sinew and tendons. Some people feel that feeding chicken wings and legs are detrimental, as these bones are the hardest of these birds' bodies and can cause dental trauma, but there are a great many books and testaments on the subject for one to formulate your own educated opinion about how to feed.
In years past, I used to feed chew hooves, but after working in my vet clinic for 11 years and taking them out of dogs' impacted intestines, I no longer recommend them. Additionally, they can be said to harbour salmonella and other diseases from being on the feet of cows that stand in polluted feed lots. There are many sterilized bones and "body parts" that are appropriate for chewing, and any such questions which might arise due to appropriateness should be discussed with your veterinarian.
There are many tooth brushing kits and even flavoured tooth paste (chicken, beef, etc) that you can use to brush your pets' teeth, but I recommend natural chewing both for the health benefits as well as the mental enrichment opportunities. When introducing new chew items, always be on hand to supervise and make sure that any competitive tendencies between pets are checked in advance.
Some breeds are prone to dental disease genetically, especially many of the small breeds. I have seen some dogs as young as six months old having surgical dentals done to them, sometimes even having extractions for bad dentition. If you have a young puppy who is shedding its baby teeth and growing in its adult teeth, watch the progression carefully, as sometimes retained deciduous canines can be a problem, and can opportunistically be removed at the same time as neutering.
Happy chewing, SMILE! and remember - Valentines Day is fun for us people, but chocolate is toxic to dogs, so be careful with your celebrations -
Dorene, Quill, Gulliver and Anna, all with smiling Pearly Whites from eating raw, meaty bones, and have never had a dental!