You know your dog’s oral health is important, but what exactly should you be feeding them to prevent plaque buildup, smelly breath and dental disease?
There are lots of specialized dental dog food options claiming to look after your beloved pet’s teeth, but not all these formulations are effective – and many contain a long list of chemical additives.
We’ll let you in on a little secret…it’s possible to look after your dog’s teeth naturally.
Below we explore some misconceptions about specialized dental dog food, and also outline the optimal (and natural) diet you can start feeding your dog today to ensure their mouth, teeth and gums are clean and healthy for years to come.
Dental disease – a growing problem
Dental disease affects more than 70 percent of dogs before the age of two. To put that in perspective, that’s 7 out of 10 dogs you see walking down the street!
It starts with a buildup of plaque, which is a mixture of oral bacteria, food debris and saliva proteins that stick to the surface of teeth. Plaque hardens to form tartar, which then forms a base for more plaque to sit on top of, leading to smelly dog breath and inflamed and infected gums (gingivitis).
If untreated, these issues can lead to dental disease, which comes with a long list of painful problems (and associated vet bills!) from tooth decay and loss of teeth to bleeding gums.
Dental disease is certainly a big problem, but it’s one that can be avoided if your dog is eating the right food to tackle plaque and tartar before it gets the chance to accumulate.
‘Dental’ kibble to the rescue?
Many traditional kibbles claim to prevent plaque and tartar buildup through the ‘crunching’ action of teeth biting through dry biscuits.
Studies have shown, however, that many animals fed commercial dry diets still have heavy plaque and tartar buildup, as well as dental disease.
This is because most standard kibbles shatter and crumble when the tooth bites into them, which means there’s very little cleaning action offered. High amounts of sugar and carbohydrates are also cause for concern in many kibbles. Dogs don’t have the enzymes in their saliva to break down starch, so the bacteria in the mouth feed on these sugars and carbohydrates - leading to further plaque and tartar buildup.
This is why specialized ‘dental dog food’ has become popular in recent years, as it claims to clean teeth more effectively than standard kibble.
Does it work? Yes, some of these recipes can be effective, but they often rely on controversial ingredients such as sodium hexametaphosphate (SHMP) to get the job done. SHMP is an additive with no nutritional value and is found in household products such as soaps, detergents, and water treatment products.
Research shows the amount of sodium and phosphorus in SHMP may be a concern for animals with kidney disease, plus many of these diets aren’t appropriate to support growth, pregnancy or lactation.
An optimal diet = no need for dental dog food
If you’re a pet guardian who prefers a natural approach to health, you'll be pleased to know that feeding your dog the diet they were designed to eat (a high-protein, meat-rich diet, alongside raw and air-dried bones- nature's toothbrush!) will keep your dog’s pearly whites clean and strong naturally.
If you want to give your dog all the nutrients of a raw diet, but with the added convenience of longer storage, check out the ZIWI Peak range. There’s no mess and no prep - simply scoop and serve!
A short list of ingredients (96% meat, organs and New Zealand Green Mussels) makes this range irresistibly tasty, and because it’s gently air-dried without any additives, starches or sugars that promote unhealthy bacterial growth in the mouth, it will help keep your dog’s breath fresh, naturally. ZIWI Peak is ideal for dogs of all breeds and life stages, and with a range of recipes available including Mackerel & Lamb, Beef, Venison, and Free-Range Chicken, there’s bound to be an option that gets your dog’s tail wagging.
Once you’ve discovered an optimal diet, it’s also a good idea to take your furry friend to the vet for an oral checkup. Your vet can assess the state of your dog’s teeth and also advise other at-home habits to support their overall oral health, such as teeth brushing.