Apex Dog and Cat Dentistry
945 W. Jefferson Ave.
Englewood, CO 80110
(303) 810-6029
[email protected]

By The Cold Hard Facts About Bone Chewing
July 12, 2012
Category: Disease Prevention

While browsing the pet store, I often am astounded at the items that are sold. Some items, are just so ridiculous they are cute. For example, the pink flower raincoat made for chihuahuas so they can go outside in the rain (assuming you bought the matching boots) is a bit excessive but very adorable. Unfortunately, there are many items that are on the shelves that can harm your pet. Specifically, the natural bones that are sold can cause many problems in your pet. As a veterinary dental specialist with lots of exposure to emergency cases, I hate seeing these items in the store. Many people assume that because a large pet store with a good reputation is selling an item, it must be good. But pet parent beware, no bones about it, bones can cause more harm than good for your pet.

As a veterinary dental referral practice, we most often see fractured teeth as a result of bone chewing. When you put a bone up against your pet’s teeth, the bone often wins and we end up with tooth breaks or fractures that often need to be treated with root canal therapy or extraction. Broken teeth where the inner part of the tooth is exposed (the pulp canal) should never be left to be monitored until problems occur. Treatment should be performed as soon as possible. Besides tooth fractures, we have seen many cases where the sharp fragments of the bone cause cuts or lacerations within the mouth. Bones are also the perfect size to get trapped between teeth and the jaw bones. If left in place, infection and tissue death within your pet’s mouth may occur. 

Outside the mouth, bones can wreck havoc in the gastrointestinal system. Bones can get stuck inside your pet’s digestive system anywhere from the esophagus to the stomach to the lower intestines. Worst case scenario, the pieces of bones can puncture the digestive system and cause severe inflammation in your pet’s body. These are all cases where surgery would likely be required and where your pet’s well being and life are put at risk. 

As a dad of a Labrador Retriever, I am all too aware that dogs need to chew. This behavior is natural but should be directed toward proper chewing items. For dental chews, recommended chews include CET flat rawhids chews, Tartar Shield treats, and Greenies. These treats are all approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (www.VOHC.org) to control plaque. Toys that encourage chewing can help prevent tartar deposition. Kong and Kong-like toys are great at mechanically cleaning the teeth. Rope toys (be careful they are not shredded) are also beneficial. In general, toys should be able to be bent or indented and should not hurt when lightly tapped against your knee (the knee cap test).

To help prevent tooth fracture, the chewing of safe items should be encouraged and the following items should be avoided:

  • Real Bones
  • Nylon Bones
  • Cow Hooves
  • Ice Cubes
  • Sticks
  • Cages (if your pet chews on them)
  • Rocks
  • Other hard treats or toys

As always, I welcome your feedback. Please forward comments or questions to DentistVet.com

Proper regular dental care in the form of professional assessments and dental cleaning requires anesthesia. Without anesthesia, thorough examination, x-rays, and treatment below the gum line cannot be performed. One of the primary concerns pet owners have in relation to providing dental care is whether their pet will be safe under anesthesia. Here are some great questions to ask your veterinarian prior to having your pet anesthetized. 

What are the risks involved with anesthesia for my pet?
Risk is highly dependent on the health status of your pet, not necessarily their age. Anesthetic risk is also highly dependent on the training the veterinary staff has received.


Are IV Catheters placed?
IV catheters provide access to the vein to give fast acting medications and provide fluid support.


Are IV fluids given during the procedure?
IV fluids are important for blood pressure support.


Is an endotracheal tube placed during the procedure?
An endotracheal tube will help protect the airway during a procedure.


Do you use the same medications for all anesthesia procedures or are they adjusted based on the health status or type of procedure?
Certain drugs should not be used with certain health issues like heart disease. For example, an abdominal surgery will require a deeper level of anesthesia than a professional dental cleaning.


Is a specific individual solely dedicated to the monitoring of my pet during anesthesia and how often are measurements recorded?
Ideally, a veterinary technician with training in anesthesia should be monitoring the patient under anesthesia and recording values at least every 5 minutes to catch negative trends early. Having the same individual multi-task both the dental cleaning procedure as well the anesthesia monitoring increases he risk to the patient.


Is a veterinarian in the immediate area where my pet will be anesthetized?
The veterinarian should be available to help make adjustments in the anesthesia levels.


Do you regularly monitor temperature, heart rate and rhythm, respiration rate, blood pressure, oxygenation, and carbon dioxide levels?
All these parameters should be recorded at least every 5 minutes.


How is my pet kept warm during the procedure?
It is very common for dogs and cats to lose body heat during anesthesia. Keeping body temperature near normal improves recovery time and increases safety. 


Is a specific individual dedicated to my animal during recovery?
At least respiration, heart rate, and temperature should be monitored by the individual providing recovery services. They are also there to provide comfort to the animal during the recovery process.


What measures for pain control will be provided?
Providing pain control medications before, during, and after the procedure is key. 


Do you have protocols and regular training in place for anesthetic emergencies?
If an emergency arises, all members of the team should know and should have practiced their roles.


Board certified specialists in anesthesia are available at many hospitals for cases with higher risk. For more information on safety and anesthesia protocols, please visit our anesthesia and pain management page. 


We would love to hear from you. Please email your questions to Dentist Vet.


There has recently been a marketing surge pushing anesthesia free dentistry. 
Bottom line, anesthesia free (non-professional) dentistry is not recommended.  Here’s why:

  • Most people offering this service aren't trained medical professionals.
  • During the awake cleaning process, the pet may be stressed or injured. Removal of plaque involves the use of sharp instruments and if your pet moves, they may be injured. It is unlikely that even the best behaved pet will sit for the 45-60 minutes of time the process should take.
  • Real dental disease is not treated. Without anesthesia,  only the plaque, tartar,  and calculus that is on the visible surface of the teeth is removed. The teeth may look pretty but the plaque and tartar that is below the gumline and on the inside of the tooth is not properly removed. This is where the majority of dental disease exists.
  • Dental disease will undoubtedly be missed and go untreated. With anesthesia free dentistry, proper examination, measurements, and dental x-rays can not be taken.  

Above are pictures of a dog that received anesthesia free cleanings. The outside surfaces of the teeth (left) look clean, but the inside surfaces of the teeth (right) are covered with plaque and tartar. This dog was diagnosed with severe, chronic periodontal disease once proper examination was finally performed.

When performed correctly, anesthesia is considered safe.  Please visit our page on anesthesia for more information.

Unfortunately, we have seen many pets who have received frequent anesthesia free cleanings. It is not until a proper examination by a veterinarian is performed that severe dental disease is noted. It is much easier and less expensive to prevent dental disease by providing proper care  than to treat advanced periodontal disease with oral surgery and extractions. To read more about why non-professional dentistry is not recommended, please go to the AVDC website.

Please look for our next blog on questions to ask your veterinarian before your pet undergoes general anesthesia.

We want to hear from you. Please email your dental related questions to Dentist Vet.

Do not procrastinate on your pet's dental care. In North America periodontal disease is the number one diagnosed condition in companion animals. Periodontal disease is much easier to prevent than to treat. Even mild dental disease can potentially lead to irreversible damage and the possibility of future extractions if left untreated.


Similar to people, home dental care for companion animals should start early. Daily teeth brushing (even on cats) should be started ideally when they are young. But even older pets can learn to accept brushing. Dental sealants can easily be placed at the spay or neuter surgery. Other oral home care options such as dental formulated foods, water additives, and dental treats should be considered. 
Even with good oral home care, periodic professional cleanings are key. Professional cleanings should ideally be started early in a pet’s life before any advanced dental disease is present. Just like you, they need their teeth cleaned frequently throughout their lives to help prevent disease.


"Doggie breath" is not considered normal; it actually indicates bacterial involvement. It is also not normal for dogs and cats to lose teeth every year. Do not procrastinate on dental care. If dental disease is already present in your pet, address what can not be reversed and, with the help of your veterinarian, formulate a plan to help stop the progression.


For more information on periodontal disease, please visit http://www.dentistvet.com/periodontal-disease.html

Have a dental related question about your pet?  Send an email to Doctor Beebe.

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