6 "Dental Health" Products Your Dog Shouldn’t Chew On

3. Antlers. I have one patient who not only fractured a tooth, but she also developed a terrible fungal infection at her gumline after eating one. All in all, it was a very strange situation. The good news, however, is that most dogs seem to enjoy these chews, and most do not fracture their teeth while chewing them (much less develop fungal infections). Still, I say you should beware.

4. Cooked Bones. Though there’s a lively debate when it comes to whether it’s safe or not to feed raw, meaty bones, there’s none on the subject of cooked bones. These hard-as-a-rock, splinter-prone bones aren’t good for the teeth or the GI tract.

5. Rocks and 6. Cow Hooves. As with cooked bones and antlers, rocks and cow hooves are generally considered a bad idea for pets. Not only do numbers 3 through 6 increase their risk of a tooth fracture and foreign body ingestion, they also don’t do much to improve their dental health, either.

After all, says Dr. Jan Bellows, board-certified veterinary dentist and owner of Hometown Animal Hospital in Weston, Fla., products that offer hard, unyielding surfaces are unlikely to offer much help against tartar buildup and gum disease. He urges pet owners to “make sure that whatever they use bends and allows teeth to sink in.”

What the Dentists Recommend

But none of this should lead pet owners to assume that all chews and treats are a no-no. Dr. Bellows recommends that pet owners head on over to VOHC.org where the Veterinary Oral Health Council offers a seal of approval to dental products deemed effective against periodontal disease in pets. Still, it’s important to be cautious, he says.

Dr. John Huff, board-certified veterinary dentist at Alameda East Animal Hospital in Denver, Colo., agrees. Here’s what he says when it comes to assessing the safety and efficacy of dental chews and tartar-control products: "Though I have found all the VOHC products to be safe and effective, [VOHC] does not test for safety.”

Moreover, he urges pet owners to keep things in perspective: "'Effective' is relative. If brushing is a hundred [percent], treats and chews are probably a one." He adds, "The positives on the VOHC-approved dental products are [that] they are better than nothing."

Which, I’m afraid, can’t be said for numbers 1 through 6 above. Proceed to feed any of the above at your pets’ peril. And whatever you do, don’t skip that nightly brushing your veterinarian recommends.

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