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If there’s anything that galls my clients, it’s being told they could have prevented a painful and expensive condition — if only they’d been told to stay away from A, B or C hazard. Such is the case when it comes to the use of common chews and devices designed for dental cleaning or as an outlet for natural chewing behaviors in dogs.
Yet when I inform my dog-owning clients that certain “dental health” products can lead to serious problems, many can’t easily accept the notion that dental fractures, gastrointestinal obstruction and gastroenteritis (among other problems) are possible outcomes. After all, they say, how could anything sold expressly to help improve our pets’ dental health and behavior so adversely affect them?
Yet it’s true. Some of the most commonly marketed “oral health improvement” items are considered unsafe, unwholesome and/or downright unhelpful by board-certified veterinary dentists (and plenty of run-of-the-mill vets like me, too).
But here’s the thing: While many dogs won’t experience safety issues with the goods veterinary dentists suggest you should eschew, as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Which is why I say you should steer clear of the following six “dental health” products:
1. Rawhides. I used to have a Boxer who would swallow these whole, only to turn blue in the process of regurgitating them. Now, you might well ask why I’d give her the second rawhide after watching her do such a thing, but in my defense, I was trying to see whether different sizes might actually get chewed properly. No such luck. To my credit, I always watched carefully just in case a tracheotomy might be in order.
Honestly, though, some dogs tolerate these just fine. And they can be good for the teeth once they become soft and yielding. Just be sure that a) he actually chews it (otherwise, it’s not only useless but also a potential gastrointestinal obstruction), b) you know how many calories you’re offering when you give him that ginormous one you hope will keep him busy all day, and c) you never leave him unsupervised with it.
2. Dried Pig Ears. Now, these aren’t strictly off limits. As with rawhides, however, they can be swallowed whole by some dogs. And these fatty morsels do have far more calories than you’d expect. Moreover, some fat-sensitive dogs can be prodded into pancreatitis by consuming one. Overall, it’s perhaps not the best idea.
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