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Winter is here, and with it the Pine Ridge Veterinary Clinic annual Dental Wellness Promotion. Lisa prompted me to write today about the importance of dental health for our pets.

As a veterinarian, I enjoy performing dentistry on pets. I find it satisfying to see all the yucky tartar and debris removed to reveal shiny healthy teeth underneath. I love seeing pets feel friskier and happier, after having rotten teeth removed that had been causing them pain and infection. Some of you, over the years, have come in after a dental and told me: “I can’t believe it! My pet is acting like a puppy/kitten again!”.... Oh yeah, I often hear, “their breath is sooo much better!” Even though dentistry can be a lot of work, it’s wonderful to know we are helping our patients live longer, healthier, pain-free lives. Every year we send out a newsletter touting the statistic about how 80% of pets over the age of 3 years have dental disease. So instead I will try to focus the blog on some dental tidbits you may not have already heard.

The Knee Cap Rule: Dr. Fraser Hale is a board certified veterinary dentist in Guelph Ontario, and he invented the “Knee Cap Rule." He removed a lot of broken teeth, as-well-as fixing some broken teeth too. Like Dr. Hale, I remove a lot of broken teeth, but this begs the question: WHY do dogs get broken teeth?

Dogs usually get broken teeth, because they have chewed on items that are harder than their own teeth. They may not break their teeth the first time they chew it… or even the 2nd time… but eventually they will gnaw on the wrong thing, hard enough, at the right angle and - crack. Voila, a broken tooth. Broken teeth are often painful, because the sensitive pulp chamber of the tooth is exposed to air and food. Aside from pain this exposure causes, another serious problem occurs when bacteria enter the pulp chamber and cause an abscessed tooth (ouch!).

So, Dr. Hale came up with the knee cap rule: “If you would not want me to hit you in the knee cap with it, do not let your dog chew on it!” For very small dogs, I would add: “if your dog would not want me to hit them in the knee cap with it, do not let them chew on it.”

Dr. Hale’s list of No-No chew items:

Natural Bone (of any kind);

Nylon or hard plastic “bones” and toys;

Antlers (which are actually bone);

Large raw-hide bones (the yellow compressed type);

Dried Cow Hooves

I am going to add rocks - those retrievers at the lake in the summer? No fetching rocks! Ever!

Want to read more pet dental articles by Dr. Hale? Here’s a link to his website:

So, what tooth-friendly treats should you give your pet? Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) approved treats! The foods, treats and water additives listed by VOHC have been studied and reviewed to show evidence of efficacy in controlling plaque and/or tartar in dogs & cats. Check out their list at:

Stay tuned next week for more Pine Ridge dental tidbits! Please feel free to come in anytime for an oral examination on your pet, and ask us more questions about how to keep those smiles healthy for a lifetime of sweet kisses.

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