My pal Jim McBean over at DoggyBytes commented extensively on my recent post, Why Anesthesia Free Cleaning is Really Costly — so extensively, in fact, that I suggested he shed more light on the topic by doing a guest post. He agreed. One note: The $1000 in the title alludes to the price that a veterinary dentist Jim consulted charged for a teeth cleaning.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is an inflammatory disease that affects the tissues surrounding the teeth, gums and bone (alveolar bone). If left untreated, periodontitis will eventually lead to loosening of and loss of teeth and can also damage the kidneys, liver and heart.
- has been a known problem in domestic pets for at least 70 years and affects 8 out of 10 dogs 3 years and older. It coincides with the advent of commercial pet food. Coincidence?
- is worse in smaller animals
- progresses with age
- causes loosening of and loss of teeth
- is very common in dogs fed soft diets who have little dental activity by way of cutting and tearing raw flesh and breaking and crunching bones
- leads to pyorrhoea (an advanced form of periodontitis), 100 % of the time in dogs fed soft diets if they live long enough
From Bad to Worse
Due to the vascular nature of the gums, secondary diseases can develop as bacteria from the mouth enter the blood stream and make their way to the liver and kidneys. The bacteria then colonize in these organs wreaking havoc! Bacteria reaching the heart can cause vegetative endocarditis (infected heart valves).
Diet is the Main Cause of Periodontal Disease
It should really come as no surprise that diet is the main cause of periodontal disease given that so many other ailments, canine and human, are as a result of subpar dietary practices.
Numerous studies have looked at the effects of hard and soft food diets on the oral health of domestic pets, all concluding that soft foods contribute to periodontal disease and that more abrasive hard foods (raw meaty bones), help prevent it.
Two groups of dogs were fed either hard biscuits or the same biscuits ground and mixed with water for 14 months. At the end of the study, the dogs eating the hard food still had healthy teeth gums, while the dogs fed soft mush developed gingivitis, plaque and calculus. (Burwasser and Hill 1939)
Another study compared feeding raw whole bovine trachea with attached oesophagus, muscle and fat, to the same food finely minced. Plaque accumulation and the onset of gingivitis were observed in the group of dogs fed the minced food. (Egelberg 1965)
“…periodontal disease may be uncommon in wild canids and felids, and suggestive evidence (alveolar bone disease) was found in only 2% of 1157 canid jaw bone specimens examined by Colyer (Miles and Grigson 1990).” – Undoubtedly because they eat non-processed foods in the form of meat, connective tissue and bone.
Plaque will form on teeth regardless of what types of foods are eaten. However, it stands to reason that softer foods can stick to teeth speeding up the formation of plaque, and that soft foods are inefficient in removing existing plaque from teeth.
Foods that require tearing, cutting and crunching (such as raw meaty bones), are nutritionally beneficial for your dog and are much more likely to be effective at keeping periodontal disease at bay by abrading teeth as they are consumed.
“Raw meaty bones have good characteristics to promote oral health….” – Australian Veterinary Journal Vol. 71. No. 10. October 1994
3 Ways to Help Prevent Your Dog from Developing Periodontal Disease
- Take your dog for regular dental checkups.
- Feed your dog size & type appropriate raw meaty bones on a regular basis, if not daily, especially if you feed canned food or kibble. Go here to watch a couple of dogs eating RMBs and a cat devouring a chicken wing. There are lots of options, but do your research.
- Brushing may help, if your dog will let you do it, but remember, just like the dentist tells us, brushing won’t clean below the gum line.
There is no guarantee that feeding raw meaty bones will prevent an individual animal from developing periodontal disease, but feeding raw meaty bones is guaranteed to be less expensive than dental cleaning at your vet – with or without anesthesia.
For more Raw reading visit DoggyBytes.ca.
Update: Jim posted the following in the comments section, which I’m bringing up here:
There’s not a ton of research being done on raw diets for dogs and cats. For obvious reasons the pet food industry (who fund most of the “studies”) isn’t particularly interested in pouring a lot of money into that kind of research, except when it benefits from the spread misinformation.
I understand there are reasons that people don’t want to feed their pets a raw diet; they believe it to be too expensive (it’s not), they don’t like handling meat or whatever, that’s fine. What I don’t understand is the unwillingness of some to even explore the topic – and the degree to which they oppose the notion of raw feeding .
Needing large “controlled studies” to learn what we already know, that carnivores (which include dogs, wolves and cat) eat flesh and bone and have been equipped by nature to do so, seems sort of odd to me. How on earth have dogs been able to survive for hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of years without commercial kibble?
A Word About Salmonella
“At all events, the evidence in which the antibody response takes place suggests that the host-parasite relationship is not saprophytic but of latent infection. If there is no primary factor which produces harmfull effects on barriers within the body, dogs may not fall ill.” Source: Studies on Salmonella in Dogs
Definition: Latent Infection – “The state in which a host is infected with a pathogen but does not show any symptoms.”