Does kibble clean your dogs teeth?
Keep your dogs teeth clean.
Over 80% of dogs over the age of three have dental disease. That’s an insanely high number. And lots of sick dogs.
Why is this so? We think it has a lot to do with diet.
There is this really common idea that dogs need to eat kibble to keep their teeth clean. I think it comes from vets and processed pet food companies.
Like this marketing gem: “The fine structure of the kibble scrubs the tooth surface to clean teeth and keeps breath fresh. Distinctive Fibre Alignment helps kibble stay in contact with the tooth surface right to the gumline. This allows the kibble to gently scrub away plaque and tartar.”
That’s a bold claim! But there is no real evidence to support it.
Why is good oral hygiene important?
Tooth decay happens over a period of time. It begins with a build up of plaque on the teeth, which hardens into tartar. As the tarter builds up on the teeth it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. This ultimately leads to periodontal disease and infection.
Dental disease is serious and can be life threatening. We want to make sure it doesn’t happen to your dog.
Signs your dog has dental disease:
yellow or brown teeth
red or inflamed gums
change in chewing habits
Kibble for teeth
The idea that an extruded pellet can clean teeth is a bit counter intuitive.
As Dr Karen Becker says, “ It would never occur to you to eat a handful of peanut brittle or granola to remove plaque and tartar from your teeth, and the idea that dry food keeps your pet’s teeth clean is just as silly.”
Like any crunchy food, kibble can probably remove some of the plaque on your dogs teeth. But it's unlikely to remove the majority of plaque, or clean the gums. There is very little scientific evidence that kibble is an effective way to clean teeth.
In fact, it seems to have the opposite effect.
If you look at your dogs mouth, you can see that their jaw is designed to swallow food whole rather than chew it. Most dogs swallow kibble with minimal chewing, which means there is little real benefit for cleaning teeth.
Even AAFCO doesn’t agree with kibble for oral hygiene.
According to their 2008 official publication “dry dog foods do not necessarily produce healthier teeth and gums.” And claims to the contrary are “not objectionable” (ie. don’t worry about it).
With the vast majority of dogs eating a processed dry diet, it’s no wonder dental disease is so prevalent. The advice from most vets is to have regular professional cleaning. While this is undoubtably effective, it’s also invasive and expensive. Most dogs do not like having their teeth cleaned.
If only there was a natural, cheap way to keep your dog’s mouth healthy!
Raw bones are natures toothbrush
The best way to keep your dog’s teeth clean is to do it the natural way: by getting them to chew on raw meaty bones. The physical abrasion of chewing and grinding against a firm surface is the only way to remove the tooth plaque that builds up over time.
This is backed up by a 2016 study which shows that daily raw bones reduces tartar by up to 87.8%. The action of eating the bones gently cleans the teeth the same way a toothbrush does for you at home.
I do not believe feeding any commercial diet will be enough to keep your dogs teeth at their best. The only way to truly look after your dogs mouth is to feed raw meaty bones regularly.
What to feed
Aim to feed bones a minimum of 3 days a week. It’s important to match the bone to your dogs size and needs. We generally recommend feeding lamb ribs for smaller dogs, and lamb necks, roo tails and beef “soup” bones for larger dogs.
Don’t feed weight bearing or cooked bones as they can crack teeth or splinter and create a choking hazard. Avoid fatty bones as this will likely cause digestive upset. And make sure you supervise your dog when they are eating their bone, and remove the remains after they are finished.
If bones are not an option you will need to clean your dogs teeth yourself. Make sure that you have regular check ups with your vet to make sure that the teeth are being cleaned adequately.
What about synthetic bones?
There are many synthetic options available on the market. Because these do create the mechanical abrasion on the teeth via chewing, they will clean your dogs teeth. How much they clean the teeth will likely depend on your dog.
My major worry with synthetic bones is your dog ingesting plastic and chemicals as they grind it down. So while using a synthetic bone will be more effective than feeding kibble to clean teeth, the natural option of raw bones will be safer and much more effective.
Why we don’t recommend feeding kibble
Kibble seems convenient, but it is difficult to store in a way that keeps it fresh. The “best before” date only applies to an unopened pack of dry food. Once you open the bag you need to feed it within a few weeks before the fats go rancid.
So if you do decide to feed kibble make sure you buy smaller packs to keep it fresh.
The other issue is that the intense temperature processing required to make a shelf stable dry food effectively destroys much of the nutrition, as well as negatively alters the molecular structure of the protein. We believe this is the leading cause of illness in dogs, and is also the main driver behind food allergies.
From our point of view, the only real reason to feed kibble is because it is cheaper when you buy it. It’s worth keeping in mind that feeding a highly processed diet made with low quality ingredients (yes, even the expensive brands use low quality ingredients) will likely have negative health consequences down the road.
Our view is that nutrition is not only about being healthy now, but also at the end of your life. We believe the food choices you make now accumulate over lifetime.
Whatever you choose to feed your dog, having raw meaty bones as part of their diet is essential. The best bit? Most dogs love them ????