We have all seen the cartoons and commercials depicting dogs burying bones and stashing them away for later. Unfortunately, most pet owners are completely unaware of the significant risks and problems that are associated with feeding these treats. The situation has gotten so bad that even the FDA has warned consumers to avoid giving bones to their dogs.
Advocates of raw pet foods and other so-called “natural diets” claim that, given properly, bones are a great way to clean your pet’s teeth and provide an instinctive means of stress relief. Some even state that bones provide important nutrients and should be included in your pet’s daily routine.
So, is it okay to give a dog a bone?
Most veterinarians answer that question with a resounding “NO” for several reasons. One of the most common problems for a dog with regular access to bones is fractured teeth.
Veterinarians will see unusual patterns of enamel wear, cracks in the teeth and even painful fractures of the canine teeth or large molars and premolars. Even if the fracture doesn’t look serious, the connection of the inside of the tooth with the outside environment can lead to abscesses that show up on the muzzle or under the eye. These conditions will require a veterinary dentist to extract the affected tooth or perform a root canal. Either of these procedures will also cause pain to the owner’s wallet as root canals can start at $700 – $1000 and even extractions are rarely less than $500.
The American Veterinary Dental College’s website (avdc.org) states that dried natural bones are “too hard and do not mimic the effect of a dog tearing meat off a carcass.”
Another common problem seen with dogs who chew on bones is an obstruction of the digestive tract. These treats can become lodged in the esophagus, the stomach or anywhere along the intestines. Blockages in any of these areas will require emergency surgery and several days of hospitalization. A typical exploratory surgery to remove an obstruction caused by a bone or bone fragments can exceed $2000 or $3000!
Cooked bones are especially dangerous as they have the potential to splinter. These shards then can poke through the digestive tract or even lacerate other delicate structures, such as the tongue. A pet who experiences a perforation of the stomach or the intestine may be at risk for a deadly case of peritonitis and an expensive trip to the animal ER.
Beyond these very common dangers, veterinarians will also see pets with bones lodged in their mouth, encircling the lower jaw or even serious constipation caused by bone fragments. These conditions are not only painful, but just imagine how scary it would be to have a bone fragment lodged in the roof of your mouth!
Proponents of giving bones to dogs downplay these risks, citing the importance of matching the right type of bone to the dog. They state that uncooked bones are much safer, decrease the risk of obstruction and provide more nutrients.
However, veterinarians routinely see the problems listed above with ALL types of bones. It doesn’t matter if it is a large beef cattle femur or a poultry wishbone, the risks are still there.
With respect to the nutritional argument, bones are composed of minerals that are commonly found in many other foods and dogs can’t properly digest uncooked collagen, the main protein component of bones. Your pet can get all the beneficial nutrients in other foods with a much lower chance of problems.
So, before you decide to follow the dubious information provided by these so called “experts”, spend some time talking with your veterinarian about these potential hazards. They have seen the bad cases and can fully explain the very serious risks.
Many safer alternatives to bones exist for dogs and your veterinary team can help you find the right match for your pet. It’s important that owners always supervise their dogs when giving them any chew item, especially one they have never had before. More
Did you know that pets suffer from dental disease just like people do? One of the worst things about dental disease is the pain. Dogs and cats don’t always show how uncomfortable they are. Pets can have very serious dental problems, such as infected teeth, jawbone abscesses or fractured teeth and never say, “ouch” or hold their paw to their jaw, but they do hurt! Many times, when these problems are corrected, a pet’s entire personality can change. They often become more social, interactive and playful because they are no longer in pain.
So, how do you check for dental disease in your pet? First, look for yellow or brown color of the teeth, not just in the front teeth, but also the back part of the mouth. While this sounds very simple, most pet owners never lift their pet’s lip and look inside the mouth, so… Lift The Lip! Next, just smell the breath. It may not be minty fresh but it should not be foul smelling. If it is, bad bacteria have already set up and are working on infecting the gum and even loosening the attachment of the teeth to the jawbone. This means that dental disease has been progressing for months or years without you knowing.
A complete veterinary dental exam is necessary to discover hidden dental disease. Most veterinarians today use a 12-step process for this procedure. This assures that nothing is missed and all problems are properly treated.
The steps include: a history and physical exam, an oral survey checking for such things as cancer and missing teeth, ultrasonic scaling of the teeth and subgingival scaling. Subgingival scaling is critically important. This involves removing tartar and debris from the part of the tooth you can’t see – the part under the gum. This is where infection sets up.
Following the exam and cleaning, a complete polishing is done to remove irregularities in the enamel in order to slow future accumulation of tartar. Next, the gum pockets are flushed and treated with antiseptic. At this point, many veterinarians will apply a fluoride or enamel sealant treatment.
The next step includes compete charting of every tooth and the surrounding gum and bone tissue. Using a dental probe, the gum line around each tooth is probed for pockets where infection may exist. The location and depth of each pocket is recorded in the medical record, just as you have seen done at your own dentist’s office.
Next, a complete set of dental x-rays is taken. Dental x-rays have become the standard of care in veterinary practice. Without them, it is impossible to find many of the most serious dental problems such as fractured teeth, abscesses and developmental problems. Only by taking x-rays can you know the complete health status of your pet’s mouth.
Finally, a treatment plan is developed for the problems found, all necessary treatments are done and instructions are given for home care and any follow-up care that is needed. Pet owners are also taught ways to provide at home dental care to help keep their pet’s mouth and teeth healthy.
In order to perform a proper dental exam and treatment, it is essential that the pet be under anesthesia. Anesthesia today is very safe, using the most modern medications, anesthetic gases and monitoring by skilled technicians. Care for a veterinary patient under anesthesia is very similar to that of a human patient.
While the so called “no-anesthesia pet dentals” may sound appealing, the process has many risks and leaves most pets to suffer in silence simply because no actual treatment is done. This is often performed by unlicensed and untrained trained individuals who only scrape tartar from the outside of the few visible teeth while your pet is awake (assuming your pet will hold still). The process has no medical benefit whatsoever.
They cannot remove tartar from the inside surfaces of the pet’s teeth, and more importantly, they cannot remove tartar below the gum line. Often charging hundreds of dollars, these people prey on a pet owner’s fear of anesthesia. Worst of all, pet owners believe their pet’s teeth are healthy but underlying disease goes undetected and untreated, resulting in tremendous pain, tooth loss and systemic bacterial infections. In some states this practice has been outlawed.
So, to ensure your pet’s health and comfort, lift your pet’s lip and look at the teeth. Then call your veterinarian for a complete dental exam and treatment. This care is not expensive when you consider the complications and pain associated with untreated dental disease. More
Dental disease is the most common diagnosis veterinarians will make on any dog or cat over the age of one year. Despite a Pet Dental Health Month each February and constant reminders from veterinarians, some owners simply overlook or are unaware of what’s happening inside their pet’s mouth. But it is a real problem. Left untreated dental disease can lead to serious problems like heart or kidney disease, not to mention the horrible bad breath!
Even pet owners who do routinely try to brush their pets’ teeth or look at the mouth can be fooled. A study in the American Journal of Veterinary Research found that almost 30% of dogs and more than 40% of cats whose mouths were clinically normal actually had significant problems under the gumline. In addition, if the pet had visible dental problems, veterinary dentists found additional pathology more than 50% of the time using dental X-rays.
Some very serious problems can be found under the gumline. Root abscesses, fractures, jaw bone loss and even cancer often aren’t apparent with a visual examination. Dental x-rays (radiographs) are needed to find and successfully treat these painful and significant issues.
The use of radiology for veterinary patients is not new. Just like human dentists, veterinary dentists have long had the ability to use x-ray film and dental radiographic machines. However, long delays in getting the right shot and developing the film meant that dogs and cats were under anesthesia for long periods of time.
Fast forward to today and we see a great leap in technology. New digital sensors are replacing dental x-ray film and hand-held dental x-ray units are being used instead of large, wall mounted or floor units. Images are captured by computer using very special software instead of saving and filing lots of film.
The benefit to all of this is that skilled veterinary dentists and technicians are now able to get a set of full mouth radiographs in less than 15 minutes. That means less time under anesthesia for your pet and better imaging for diagnosis and treatment of problems in the mouth or around the teeth and roots. It also means that problems in your pet’s mouth can be found more easily and treatment started sooner.
Using sophisticated software, veterinarians can manipulate these images to look at a tooth or root in great detail or magnify a suspected lesion. If your veterinarian is using digital dental x-rays, areas of concern can be saved and even sent via email to a board certified veterinary dentist for review.
For some pet owners, the thought of having their four legged companion anesthetized for this is troublesome. But, it is important to remember that our pets will NOT hold still while someone tries to place a sensor in their mouth or position their head in exactly the correct position. Further, if a diseased tooth is found that needs extraction or a root canal, the pet is already for the procedure.
It is important to remember that most of the pet’s teeth and the problems they have are under the gumline where it can’t be seen in an awake animal. Mis-leading marketing campaigns try to tell you that non-anesthetic pet dental scaling is best. But experts and veterinary dentists highly discourage all pet owners from falling for these scams. Anesthesia is entirely necessary for proper evaluation of the pet’s mouth and for a a complete cleaning or even looking deeper should a serious problem be hidden.
Your veterinarian can help you understand that good oral care for your pets is more than scraping off tarter. Proper dental care is good imaging, complete cleanings and then treatment and correction of the underlying problems. And don’t forget, your help is then needed to provide the right type of at-home care, such as daily brushing. More
Non-anesthetic dental scalings (NADS) or “anesthesia free pet dentals” involve removing tartar from an animal’s teeth by simply holding the pet and not using any sort of sedation or anesthetic. Many of the websites promoting this service tout their “proprietary restraint techniques” as the reason they are able to work in your pet’s mouth while he or she is awake.
Videos advocating this practice show well-behaved pets sitting quietly on the floor or on laps while individuals scrape their teeth with sharp dental instruments. Is this how it happens or is this simply marketing hype?
Businesses that encourage these types of procedures claim that their methods are safer, healthier for the pet and less costly for the owner. However, understanding the risks of these supposedly safer options might offer an opposing view.
First, these methods should not be called “pet dentistry”. Dentistry involves much more than a simple scaling of the teeth. In fact, the term dentistry is defined as the branch of medical science concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the teeth and gums. The American Veterinary Dental College prefers the term “non-anesthetic dental scalings”, or NADS, as this more accurately describes these procedures. Individuals doing these scalings are rarely trained in dentistry.
Next, the marketing of these services focuses on the fact that the providers don’t use any sort of anesthetic or sedation. Several sites quote a single scientific article and claim that one out of every 253 pets dies from an anesthetic procedure. For people who have lost pets under anesthesia, these services seem heavenly and for others, it simply scares them.
What they DON’T tell you is that particular study was done at a veterinary teaching hospital where the vast majority of their surgical patients were severely ill or injured. Other studies show a much lower risk of anesthetic related deaths.
To be fair, anesthesia, like any medical practice, has risks. But, your veterinarian has the appropriate knowledge, skills, equipment and trained staff to help minimize adverse reactions.
Proponents of NADS also claim that it is healthier for the pet since the pet doesn’t need to undergo multiple anesthetic events. Again, this fiction is not borne out in reality as the vast majority of pets only need professional teeth cleanings once or twice annually.
Perhaps the biggest myth perpetrated by these unlicensed people is that a dental scaling will promote long term oral health for your pet. Dr. Brett Beckman, a veterinary dentist, has seen the effects of NADS on pets over time. He says, “these ‘cleanings’ actually do much more harm than good. The pitting of the enamel by the scalers allows for more hiding places for the plaque causing bacteria.” The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) agrees. In a statement on their website, AAHA says that these scalings “make the teeth whiter, but not healthier!”
Even the aspect of saving money that is highly publicized may not be accurate. A search of pricing showed a range between $125 and a $165 for these procedures. While this might be less expensive than the veterinarian, these companies and individuals are recommending that their clients return, on average, once every three months. That’s $500 to more than $650 per year! Dr. Beckman elaborates that “the damage done by the scaling encourages plaque growth and then, of course, return visits. This might be good for business, but it’s certainly not good for the pet.”
Remember, many of the people who encourage and provide these sorts of services are unlicensed, often unsupervised and unregulated. This means that you have no official recourse if your pet is injured during the scaling. Cuts of the gums, neck strains and even long term anxiety have been reported.
If you are concerned about your pet’s dental health, the best resource for you is your veterinarian. He or she will have the right equipment to fully assess the whole mouth, not just the outer surfaces of the teeth. With dental x-rays and effective dental probing done on an anesthetized pet, your veterinarian can get the entire picture of the health of your pet’s mouth.
Ask questions if you are concerned about anesthetic safety. Other options for sedation may exist, based on the overall health of your animal. You should also proactively brush your pet’s teeth or ask about home care products that help minimize plaque accumulation. More
Dental care in pets is necessary to provide optimal health and quality of life. Poor dental hygiene leads to diseases of the oral cavity, and if left untreated, are often painful and can contribute to other local or systemic diseases.
Dental care of dogs and cats is one of the most commonly overlooked areas of pet health care. Approximately 80% of all dogs and cats have periodontal disease by the time they are only two years old. Dental disease affects much more than fresh breath. It frequently leads to more serious health problems such as liver, kidney and heart disease. That’s why we’re not just treating dental disease, but taking new steps to prevent it. A major step in this process is encouraging our owners to participate in their pet’s oral health at home.
Periodontal disease in pets is the same as it is in people. It’s a sneaky and insidious process that begins when bacteria in the mouth attach to the teeth and produce a film called “plaque”. When the bacteria die, they are calcified into “calculus” commonly known as tartar which makes a rough surface for even more bacteria to stick to. In the beginning, plaque is soft and can easily be removed by brushing or chewing on appropriate toys or treats. But if left to spread, plaque leads to gum inflammation (called “gingivitis”) and infection. Eventually, the infection spreads to the tooth root and even the jaw bone itself – causing pain and tooth loss.
Examining a dog or cat’s mouth can be compared to opening a Christmas present. Inspecting the outside of the box may give you a hunch about the contents, but until you completely unwrap it, you’ll never really know what’s inside. In the same way peeling away the wrapping paper and packing material brings a present into the light of day, our new dental radiology equipment allows us the opportunity to look beyond the obvious and better examine teeth and their supporting structures below the gum line – exposing hidden, and often undiagnosed, problems.
The American Animal Hospital Association has devised guidelines for veterinarians in order to highlight the need for more professional oral hygiene care for pets. The organization stressed the necessity of going beyond the traditional “scraping the surface” of routine dental cleanings, known as “prophies”. We are encouraged to teach owners the importance of good oral hygiene when puppies and kittens are only a few months old in order to begin a lifetime of healthy benefits.
Research proves that unchecked dental disease can be the root of other problems. In a 2009 study at Purdue’s School of Veterinary Medicine, researchers have discovered significant associations between the severity of periodontal disease and the risk of cardiovascular-related conditions, such as endocarditis and cardiomyopathy.
A recent roundtable discussion between veterinary dental experts shed even more light on the impact that good preventative dentistry plays in a pet’s life. They strongly recommend daily dental care for pets and twice yearly mouth exams beginning when puppies and kittens are two months old. And while that schedule may seem too complicated for some pet owners, dental specialists, veterinary supply companies have developed products that will help pet busy owners put some bite into home dental care for their pets.
A recent development that goes beyond good veterinary and at-home care, is the actual prevention of plaque using a barrier sealant gel. This is applied by the veterinarian and continued at home by the pet owner. Called OraVet®, this system is the first method used by veterinarians to create a physical barrier that reduces bacterial plaque adhesion above and under the gum lines. It is applied at home only once a week after the initial hospital application. More