Reviewed by Amy Flowers on September 13, 2012


American Veterinary Medical Association. Kate Jackson, Certified Pet Trainer. Will Draper, DVM, The Village Vets. Stacy Stacy, DVM, The Village Vets.

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Video Transcript

Narrator: Ever wonder how dogs kept their teeth clean before they were domesticated?

Kate Jackson, Certified Dog Trainer: Wild dogs were eating raw carcasses, so they were chewing on bone and sinew, and they were tearing at flesh, and that would take hours.

Will Draper, DVM: And by chewing on the hard surface of the bones, they strengthened their teeth, they stimulated their gums, and they wore off some of the plaque and tartar.

Narrator: Tip number one to keeping your dog's teeth clean and healthy: Let him chew. But not on just anything. First, make sure it's safe. No sticks, no rocks, and be careful about bones.

Will Draper, DVM: Chicken bones, horrible, they splinter, they are small. They will lodge in their mouth and they will swallow them, and you will be going to the emergency room to have it removed. Rib bones, horrible. Any bones that come from the dinner plate to the dog are typically not good. Because the bones tend to be softer. They also tend to have a lot of salt and meat and things that just don't do well with dogs' GI system

Kate Jackson, Certified Dog Trainer: Raw beef bones that you buy from your grocery store, or from the butchery, work fantastically well. And they gnaw on them with their back teeth and keep those back molars clean.

Narrator: But what if your dog won't chew a bone? Try one of the many commercial treats.

Will Draper, DVM: What I tell owners when ask me, look, I found this dental treat here, what do you think about this? I say look on the bag and see if you see a seal for the Veterinary Oral Health Council, because they have tested them. They have made sure they are safe, not only for their oral health, but their gastrointestinal health and health otherwise.

Narrator: Next, make sure the chew treat is going to last awhile. You want to see that deep chewing action on the back of the teeth—that's what's going to break down the plague and tartar. If you see it going down this fast, you'll know you made the wrong choice.

Kate Jackson, Certified Dog Trainer: Pig's ears are a good way to tell actually, big dogs and little dogs. If they'll spend a good 20 minutes on a pig's ear, then you have a light chewer. If the pig's ear is gone within two or three minutes, you are probably going to have to invest in some marrowbones and bully sticks.

Narrator: If your dog is a rawhide lover, be sure to choose the right size.

Will Draper, DVM: Giving a big rawhide to a dog, a small dog, that they could potentially swallow could cause them some GI upset.

Narrator: Another tip: avoid feeding your dog wet food, which clings to the teeth and encourages plague buildup. Stick to dry food. For especially bad teeth, there are even dental diets.

Will Draper, DVM: The kernels are very big and hard. And they are designed so that when the dog bites in to it in an essence, pulls the tartar and plaque off of their teeth. There is always the potential with those hard diets, however, that pets can crack their teeth, and it's a warning generally listed on most of the quality treats and diets.

Surgery Nurse: Dr. Stacy will you take a quick peak at this? Just got a little bit of a fracture right here.

Narrator: Because cracked teeth can be an unfortunate byproduct of chewing on bones, treats and dental diets, vets recommend regular checkups and professional dental cleanings.

Kate Jackson, Certified Dog Trainer: You gonna want to brush in a circular motion, paying most attention canine in the back of their mouth.

Narrator: Last tip: chewing alone can never replace regular brushing. Ideally, you should brush your dog's teeth every day, but at least try for 2-3 times a week. Your pet might even thank you by flashing his pearly whites. For WebMD, I'm Sandee LaMotte.