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News and Information about Dogs, Cats, and Pet Products

If you look at a wild canine’s teeth, you’ll see clean, white shiny teeth.

Why? They are eating what nature intended, raw meat, bones, and organs of their prey.

If you look at a domestic canine’s teeth, many times you will find tartar buildup, yellow or brown discoloration, inflamed gums, and maybe even some loose teeth.

Why? They are eating food that has no dental benefits. It is a myth that kibble can help control your dog’s tartar. In reality, it will control tartar just as well as trying to clean your own teeth with granola. Many kibbles also contain ingredients such as sugars, carbohydrates, and starches that cause the kibble to stick to a dog’s teeth. These ingredients are also a food source for opportunistic oral bacteria, which will actually cause further tartar to form. Since these foods do not contain live nutrients and many times contain things like preservatives and dyes, they will disrupt normal flora in the body and can lead to tartar that way as well.

Many people view dental disease as a normal process when there is nothing normal or natural about it. The reason this unnatural process is happening is because dogs are eating food that they are not designed to eat. 

Raw food is the natural diet of your dog and it has a variety of benefits, with the focus of this article being to improve or maintain good dental hygiene.

Raw meaty bones are the best option to control tartar as they provide an abrasive, cleaning action on your dog’s teeth. It’s important to emphasize four areas when providing raw meaty bones to your dog.

  1. The bones must be raw. Cooked bones splinter and can cause harm to your pet.
  2. It is important to always supervise, know your dog and choose a size appropriate raw meaty bone for them. If they tent to gulp, the bone needs to be larger than their mouth or head so that they can gnaw rather than gulp.
  3. If your dog is an intense chomper, it is important to not give them a bone that is very dense as this can cause a tooth fracture. Dense bones are those which are weight-bearing bones of adult cattle, such as a marrow bone.
  4. Remember to handle raw meaty bones the same as you handle your own raw meat. Have your dog work on them in an area that you can sanitize such as a create or outside. Do not allow them to run around your house with a raw bone. Refrigerate or freeze the bone if they have more to work on later.

Raw meat contains live enzymes and probiotics. The enzymes help to keep teeth clean by breaking down bacteria on your dog’s teeth. The probiotics found in a raw diet also maintain normal balance and populations of bacterial flora in the mouth. Both also help to retain pH balance, making it less likely that any harmful bacteria can thrive in your dog’s mouth. Furthermore, it does not stick to a dog’s teeth like a dry food.

Healthy teeth & gums of my raw fed German shepherd

In terms of maintaining healthy teeth and gums, nothing compares to a raw diet. A raw diet is a species appropriate diet for our dogs, meaning it is the easiest diet for them to digest and assimilate nutrients from, as it is in the natural state that a dog’s body recognizes and utilizes. Prevention of dental disease is not feeding a kibble diet and doing regular dental cleanings. Rather, prevention is honoring the natural design of our dogs and feeding and caring for them accordingly. Their body will be better able to maintain health the way it was meant to in the first place.

Pictured are my raw feed dogs: Lolo (border collie), Bella (Italian greyhound), and Onyx (German shepherd)

Dr. Erin O’Connor is an AVCA Animal Chiropractor and ACAN Naturopathic Carnivore Nutrition Consultant. She sees patients out of her clinic, Vitality Chiropractic Center in Aurora, as well as Autumn Green Animal Hospital in Geneva. For further information, visit or email Dr. O’Connor at


Laurie Martin D.V.M.
February 27, 2018

There are a number of reasons why a wild canid’s teeth may appear whiter than the teeth of a domestic dog. The first reason that comes to mind is age. Wild canines’ lives are usually quite short compared to dogs’ lifespans and young animals would be expected to show fewer dental changes compared to older animals. Another reason is strong natural selection pressure for factors that promote oral health such as the quality and quantity of saliva and a normal bite. Domestic dogs are often challenged by tooth crowding and abnormal bites.Certainly diet also plays a role. Food influences dental health via nutrients, stimulating salivary flow, and mechanical cleansing. Chewing on raw meaty bones would be expected to stimulate salivary flow and mechanically cleanse the crowns just as any chewing activity would. While the cleansing benefit of kibble should be viewed skeptically, dogs and cats fed a dry diet have been found to have less calculus and gingivitis than those fed soft, canned and home cooked diets (Studer and Staply, 1973;Gawor Reiter et al,2006;Cave in Fascetti and Delany,2012). A ground raw diet,just as any soft diet, would not be expected to confer any dental benefits. The enzymes in raw meat require an acidic environment to function and the oral cavity of the dog is basic, rendering the enzymes in meat useless in breaking down bacteria. Additionally there are no probiotics in raw meat; muscle is sterile in its natural state. When a ground raw meat diet was compared to kibble, the subjects fed the raw diet accumulated nearly twice as much plaque as their carbohydrate containing kibble fed counterparts(Vosburgh et al,1982). This study provides support to the premise that there is not any inherent dental benefit to a raw meat diet. When examined, domestic dogs,African wild dogs, and feral cats eating a natural diet had cleaner teeth, a cosmetic difference, compared to their domestic counterparts. However, they had similar degrees of periodontal disease, a reflection of oral health(Robinson and Gorrel,1997;Steenkamp and Gorrel,1999; Verstraete, Van Aarde et al 1996;and Clark and Cameron 1998). It could be that thoughtfully chosen raw meaty bone allows for a superior chewing activity when compared to other chewing materials. That benefit though comes at a risk of oral trauma and pathogen exposure, a risk I find unacceptable, considering that access to such materials didn’t improve oral health. To prevent dental disease instill a comprehensive oral health program. That would include feeding a complete and balanced diet,providing safe chewing opportunities, and brushing teeth daily to clean under the gumline. Finally, just as you do to ensure your own dental health, utilize professional dental services on a consistent basis.

Jill Jamieson
March 9, 2018

I have two shih tsus–8 and 12 pounds. Would I use raw beef bones from meat packs in the grocery store?

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