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Monday, 7 March 2011

Getting our teeth into dental health

My three-and-a-half-year-old Cavalier is starting to show signs of dental plaque and I would like to deal with this before it becomes a health problem.

I brush his teeth twice daily with two different brands of doggie toothpaste. I add a product that removes plaque to his dry kibble on the off chance it might help, as it is cheap and easy to administer. He has always been fed dry food, but swallows most of the biscuits whole so they do not actually have an abrasive affect on his teeth. He gets given daily a large square of a fishy treat and has chew toys available at all times.

After many months, what I am doing does not seem to be making any difference and his breath is starting to get a little unpleasant.

Does anyone have any advice?

Options I have considered are:

-feeding raw bones. Would this benefit his teeth at all if given raw twice per week? Does a raw diet remove existing plaque or just prevent new plaque from forming?

-changing to a larger kibble, this would mean changing to large dog variety and I'm still not sure he would crunch them.

-adding a supplement to his water (which claims to break down plaque and tartar). I am dubious.

-Stagbars, would they help remove existing plaque or just prevent more forming?

-supplementing his diet with co-enzyme Q10

Any feedback very much appreciated! I really don't want him going through the trauma of a dental clean in a couple of years time if there's anything more I can do now.

Thank you

Claire, by email


  1. Feeding a raw meaty bones diet will help your dog to clean off the plaque already on his teeth aswell as prevent more coming, however it does need to be meaty bones and not just bones, as there is a 'flossing' effect as a 'meaty' bone is eaten.
    I don't know that just twice a week is enough - why not make it a daily treat ?
    See the new raw answer to the Dentastix advert here: done by Nikki Brown UK Dog Whisperer and Abbie Withers CHC member.

  2. I would strongly recommend feeding large beef bones. Our dog also had quite bad teeth and the vet advised us to let him chew on some raw bones and within an hour of him chewing it, already his teeth were looking a lot better.

  3. I would agree with both the above comments, but would say don't feed too many large hard beef bones, as although they work a treat for cleaning (well, the knuckle end ones anyway), I've found my dog's teeth have got worn down over the years from too many of these - so would go for the smaller, meatier ones. Because I also feed pulped raw veg I have noticed my dog's canine teeth get mucky and don't always get cleaned by the RMBs so do brush them weekly as well, and use Petzlife Oral Care Gel from Canine Natural Cures, which is totally natural (and they do one for humans too!)

  4. I don't think that brushing his teeth will make a significant difference and I don't buy into the idea that chewing kibble will help either. Do your teeth feel clean after eating biscuits? Feeding bones and chews may help to clean his teeth but there is an underlying cause of tooth tartar which ought to be addressed. Formation of tooth tartar is caused by accumulation of excessive wastes in the body fluids and organ systems. This can be avoided by feeding a whole-grain-based "holistic" diet which is low in protein and fat. Not only will this keep the teeth clean without special measures but it will promote and maintain the health of the whole body.
    John Burns BVMS MRCVS
    Burns Pet Nutrition

  5. thank you for all replies, definately swaying towards introducing meaty bones and building it up depending on how my dog (and me!) take to it (although this is daunting to me as i have no experience of doing this before)

    john- my dog is already on the diet you mention

    The raw meaty bones thing seems to be a bit like marmite and I cannot seem to find any reading material that is not really over-opiniated


  6. Hi Claire,

    You could try our 'Dental Dumbell'. Its designed with firm rubber tips to help reduce plaque and tartar build-up.

    It's also a toy so will be good fun to play with as well.

    Hope you find a solution,


    Laura, Just for Pets

  7. The two books to read about feeding your dog raw bones: Give Your Dog a Bone, by Ian Billinghurst, and Raw Meaty Bones, by Tom Lonsdale. Both these vets believe that bones are the most important part of the diet but there is a difference in their approach in that IB suggests giving your dog, as well as the raw bones, a bowlfull of ground up veggies mixed with things like raw eggs, cottage cheese, mince, etc, plus one or two supplements, while Tom Lonsdale thinks this is unnecessary - he believes that as long as the dog has a certain quantity of raw bones to eat every day, you can more or less give it what you want otherwise, and suggests leftovers.
    They are talking about feeding raw bones, not just letting dogs chew them, for then they get the benefits of eating the bone and their teeth get cleaned at the same time. As far as I remember, Billinghurst warns about giving large marrow bones to dogs to chew because he says they are so hard they can damage teeth.
    My previous dog used to eat a meaty lamb rib every day (breast of lamb) and his teeth were good into old age. My current dog doesn't like lamb for some reason, so she has two raw chicken wings each day as part of her diet.

  8. thank you Julia

    I am slightly worried, that as a dog which likes to swallow things whole, he may swallow pieces that are too big and cause an obstruction inside him.

    I have read that dogs need to be watched while eating their first few raw meaty bones but if the dog takes a bite and swallows it too quickly for it to be removed...theres not alot i can do!

    Would chicken wings/legs contain bones that are too small for my cavalier? he is a large cavalier

  9. My Belgian Shepherd gets raw chicken wings, and he only crunches them a couple of times then swallows them and we haven't had any problems. Dogs' stomach acid should be strong enough to dissolve the bone but as your Cavalier is new to raw food and bones his stomach acid may be weaker. Maybe you could start off with ground raw food, that includes ground bone (while his system gets used to digesting it), and give a couple of large raw knuckle bones a couple of weeks' apart, to get rid of the tartar that has built up on his teeth (but remember not to keep feeding them because of wear on teeth)? A couple of companies sell ready-made raw food with bone in by mail order: (and they also sell lamb spines and neck bones, and chicken carcasses, which you could move onto later) and - Darlings also sell chicken wings, so they could advise re: their experience of feeding those to smaller dogs. Good luck with it all!

  10. There are two main ways to introduce a dog to eating raw meaty bones safely - either are good.
    The first is to make what you give the dog something larger than it's own head - like half a chicken, rather than just the bone, and then it gets used to chewing and eating nicely and is a little exercised and tired by the time it gets to the bones and so is less likely to gobble, the other, to hold the bone/wing/carcass/rib etc. and only allow the dog access to a small piece at a time so it only gets small bits at a time - many people like this approach and find it good to be able to judge how the dog is eating and when he/she will be ready to 'go it alone'.
    It is always a good idea to be around when your dog is eating bones and they must always be raw bones, never ever cooked bones as they are the ones which are brittle and can therefore splinter.

  11. Besides brushing regularly we're adding ProDen PlaqueOff to our dogs' food since a couple of years back. It's a natural product made from seaweed that changes the composition of the dog's saliva so that plaque doesn't stick easily to the teeth. After a few months of regular use existing tartar softens and can be removed at home with a dental scraper. Our dogs seem to like the smell and taste of PlaqueOff so it's really easy to use. As a bonus, they get fresher breaths and whiter teeth too!