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To chew or not to chew....

Broken teeth

February is Pet Dental Month, as such, it seems timely to talk teeth today.

Let’s talk about what to chew, and what not to chew.

This blog post was inspired particularly by one sweet little canine friend who broke a tooth this week while chewing on the dehydrated penis of a bull. Until this event, I admit, I did not take a firm stance on these “bully sticks”. I have not spent much time testing the various densities and flexibilities of the bull-penis-chew-items available to purchase for dogs (perhaps a bit put-off by the odour) - though I have been informed these factors are quite variable. Given the state of this poor pup’s tooth, I am now taking a stance: bully sticks can break teeth.

Other things that frequently break teeth: all bones (fresh, frozen, dried); antlers; cow hooves; nylon bones; rocks; metal objects.

“But my dog eats….X…. and has never broken a tooth Dr. McKenzie!”

You are lucky. Your dog is lucky. He/She may break one tomorrow. I have actually had a dog break a tooth 2 days after this statement was made in my exam room.

“What do you give your dog to chew, Dr. McKenzie?”

Dizzy gets her CET Chews (flexible strips of rawhide with an enzyme coating).

Can all dogs eat CET chews? No, some dogs are allergic to beef and these may upset their stomach. Some dogs will gulp these strips in large pieces without chewing - you must supervise your pets chewing behaviour with all dental treats.

“What else is ok for my dog to chew?”

The Veterinary Oral Health Council has a great list of products that they have tested for preventing plaque and tartar in pets (and not breaking teeth).

“But they eat those treats too fast… I want to keep them busy longer”

Type “puzzle toys for pets” or “puzzle feeders for pets” into google and you will be amazed. There have never been so many creative options for pets and pet owners. From the simple kong stuffed with food, to elaborate puzzles with sliding doors and flaps. Now there are even remote interactive devices where you can give your pet a treat at home with your phone at work!

To recap from last February’s blog, 2 good rules of thumb for choosing chew items for your pet:

The Knee-cap rule (credit to Dr. Fraser Hale): If you hit your knee cap with the chew item and it hurts - don’t let your pet chew it.

The Flex rule (credit to Dr. Sharon French): If you cannot flex the item easily with your two hands - don’t let your pet chew it.

As for my bully loving patient? Well, unfortunately his tooth is beyond repair. The fracture extends below the gumline involving the roots of the tooth, so a crown or “cap” will not fix the roots. The sensitive pulp tissue that contains the nerves and blood vessels is also exposed, which means the tooth is sore, and bacteria can enter the tooth and cause infection and potentially a root abscess. The tooth needs to be extracted to keep our friend healthy, and pain free. His supply of bully sticks is going in the new green bin.


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