Does diet really affect dental health?
Dental health is something we get asked about a lot at Browns Natural Pet Store, in particular “which food is best for my dog’s teeth?” As with most things, there isn’t a quick fix or a simple answer! Here we are going to talk through a few factors to take into consideration when choosing a diet to keep your dog’s teeth sparkling.
First of all, what are the signs of dental problems to look out for? Unlike cats, many dogs will continue to eat even if they have pain or discomfort in the mouth, hence why regularly looking in your dog’s mouth is so important. Bad breath can be a massive indicator, especially if your dog is on a good diet and the odour is unlikely to be coming from the belly. Unless you’ve just fed some tripe or a pizzle stick, your dog’s breath shouldn’t smell bad!
Keep an eye on behavioural changes such as excessive drooling, becoming picky with food, swelling on the face, or pawing and rubbing of the mouth. If there is a slight suspicion, we always recommend visiting your vet to be safe.
So what actually causes dental issues? There can be a few reasons such as age and breed, with dogs such as pugs, bulldogs, and sighthounds being more prone due to the shape of their mouths. The main reasons by far are poor dental hygiene and unsuitable diet.
We often hear from customers that they have been advised to feed dry food because it is good for their dog’s teeth. This may be a controversial stance, but we don’t entirely agree with this! While to a certain extent it will physically scrape bacteria off the teeth, a lot of kibble is too small to make a massive difference, especially around the gumline where plaque and tartar are most prevalent. Dry food will contain some form of carbohydrate whether rice or potato, which is shown to feed oral bacteria. Kibble is also sprayed with oils and fats to increase palatability- this will sit on the dog’s teeth and harbours more bad bacteria! Some brands contain added sugars and chemicals, so always check the ingredients of your dog’s food.
That’s not to say you should steer clear of dry food completely when considering your dog’s diet, but it does mean you may need to spend more time brushing than if you were on a raw diet for example. Many believe that a raw food diet containing natural enzymes helps the body resist the bacteria that brings on plaque.
Raw feeding is by no means a “miracle cure-all”, but there is no disputing the dental health benefit. Raw food is classed as species appropriate, meaning its designed to mimic what your dog is biologically designed to eat. In terms of the mouth, dogs have four main types of teeth for puncturing, nibbling, shearing, and crushing their food. While our pets have adapted to eating various types of food over the years of association with humans, their teeth have remained largely the same- meaning they are better designed to eat meat and bone. Raw bones and chunks that have meat on them will benefit those “hard to reach” areas and make use of the nibbling and shearing teeth.
We are always talking about probiotics for improving gut health at Browns, and regarding dental health they are still very much relevant. Giving probiotics orally or physically applying them to the mouth allows all that good bacteria to collect and form a kind of barrier against harmful inflammatory bacteria.
When supplementing your dog’s diet to increase dental health, we would recommend feeding oily fish a couple of times a week. Omega 3 fatty acids are great for joints, but they are also known to support periodontal tissue and manage inflammation. You can also sprinkle Multimite Plaque Out on to the food, which is a seaweed-based powder that softens plaque and prevents it from building up.
Lastly, let’s not forget the best way to keep the teeth clean- brushing! Nutritional support is great but regular brushing will significantly reduce the risk of dental disease. There are several options; natural pastes, enzyme gels, and microfibre brushes to physically wipe away the plaque biofilm from the teeth.
At Browns we are firm believers in all round wellness and preventative measures. If you would like more support in improving your dog’s dental health, please speak to one of the Browns consultants in store.