I had Ellie at the veterinarian's office yesterday and, at the end of the appointment, I asked the vet about what I can use to help with teeth cleaning.  Ellie likes to chew on her antler and her teeth look great, but Yuki has given up on antlers, it seems, and his teeth and breath are less than pleasant.  I do brush his teeth, but it doesn't seem to be quite enough for him.

Anyway, I asked about using raw bone as a chew to aid in cleaning his teeth because he needs something that he is motivated to chew on.  The vet, of course, told me that all bones are "bad" and I shouldn't feed any to the dogs.  It was a bit disappointing, as I had been hoping she would say ribs or other non-weight-bearing bones would be worth a try.  She did, however, recommend bully sticks, greenies and soft nylabones.  I don't like the idea of feeding my dogs plastic (no matter how safe they say the plastic is...) and I've known too many dogs who have had problems digesting greenies.  I also refuse to feed my dogs rawhide, as a personal choice, so she didn't bother to add that to the list.

So...has anyone ever tried using bully sticks to help with cleaning teeth?  I know Melissa feeds bully sticks to Franklin and so far his teeth have stayed great.  How about cleaning teeth that are already getting some plaque on them, though?  Has anyone seen bully sticks make an improvement?  Yuki isn't at the point where he needs a professional cleaning, yet, and I'd like to try to keep it that way.  Also, what sort of bully sticks do people recommend?  I've seen all sorts of them (braided, straight, knotted, etc.)

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I have given mine bullysticks, but Luke is a gulper and I always worry he's going to inhale that last chunk and choke. I prefer cow ears -  I buy them in bulk from bestbullysticks.com and they are a little smelly but not greasy or anything. The vet always comments on how clean Luke's teeth are, and Henry's used to look kind of bad but have really improved since we've been giving them chews regularly.

Dentastix and dehydrated sweet potato fries. :)

It is a shame that your vet is against the idea of using bones for cleaning teeth - they are nature's toothbrushes. Particularly lovely, crunchy bones like bird necks (turkey works great as it's quite large and unwieldy compared to chicken, so the dog spends longer chewing). They also clean up breath like nobody's business, and are pretty odourless in frozen form. Pity!

Maybe I can find a company that will ship frozen turkey necks.  I really like the idea of trying bones since they're about as natural as you can get.  Bully sticks are still natural, but I'm sure some sodium or other preservative has been added along the way somewhere.

Since you're in the U.S. I assume that it's very easy to get raw foodstuffs sent to one's doorstep. They do require supervision in case you have a "gulper", but if they're frozen and large enough for your pets, it would be nigh impossible for them to swallow whole any large bits.

I believe John from this forum lost a Corgi who choked on a turkey neck. Please be careful. In addition, the huge majority of human-grade chicken sold in this country is contaminated with salmonella. So you need to protect yourself as well.

My dogs have never had a raw bone in their lives. Maddie is 8 and Jack is 5 and a half and their teeth are great. Of all the dogs my family have owned, none have ever needed a professional teeth cleaning.

Very valid points, although I don't really know how the salmonella situation is there (I'm in the EU, quite a different story!).

When I gave raw meaty bones to Ace, I *always* held an end. With necks it's quite easy, since they are tube-like you can just grip it and let the dog work its way towards your hand. It is also a very nice to way ensure no human-oriented food aggression over something as prized and primal as raw meat and bone. This method assures that the dog is forced to chew and gnaw instead of trying to wolf down pieces he's managed to sever from the greater whole.

I think some dogs do have a predisposition to periodontal disease/build-up. That's what I'm starting to feel, anyway, based on just how easily some individuals seem to have these issues and they're being fed no different than what my two get. Is it possible?

I should have pointed out that there is no 100% safe chew.  Anything hard can break teeth and anything soft enough to tear apart can be a choking hazard, so it's a matter of weighing pros and cons.

I do think that some dogs have predisposition to tooth problems, just like some people do. There is probably a genetic component and a fetal development component, and also a neonatal component.   I know that toy breeds often don't have enough room in their mouths for all their teeth, and so are more prone to dentition problems.  Same with dogs with very short muzzles.  But there are other factors too.  Dental health has a lot to do with microbes, and microbes are like ecosystems of their own.  The microbes you have are based partly on your environment but also seem to be based on certain genetic variables as well.

My guess is that a lot of dogs will never develop dental problems unless they are in truly bad conditions, another subset will always have problems no matter what you do, and a third group might get them or not depending on their access to appropriate chews and/or manual cleaning.

And anyone who is considering feeding raw chicken should read this:

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/consumer-reports-chicken-salmonella-ca...

and weigh the pros and cons from that.  Dogs are more resistant (it seems) to salmonella than people, but my question is always what about their fur?  I don't now how you could easily decontaminate their faces after they eat....

We did indeed lose Siri to a whole raw turkey neck.  She was a gulper who inhaled her food.  She swallowed whole raw chicken necks, wings and small drumsticks.  The turkey neck was too much.

I've always loved giving beef bones (leg bones in 2" sections, raw but parboiled for disinfection) to the dogs, who chew them for hours. 

Al is going in tomorrow to have his cracked carnasial tooth extracted, full anesthesia, a big procedure, and I can't imagine what else he might have cracked the tooth on.

We used to feed Siri whole raw chicken legs, wings, necks.  She did not chew these, she gulped them whole.  They would just disappear.  She inhaled her food.

One bad day, she was fed a whole turkey neck instead of a chicken neck, and promptly choked to death.  [search on "choking" here, and you may find the story.]

If your dog in a "gulper", be very careful what you feed it.  If you do raw turkey necks, I would separate them into individual vertebrae and feed singly.  But I am never going near a turkey neck again.

Mouth chemistry varies.  Al's teeth are dirtier than Gwynnie's.  We add some kibble to the raw meat diet, and the more kibble, the stinkier the breath.  I suspect the kibble contributes to plaque, not sure.

I prefer American Made rawhide to bully sticks. Bully sticks are so expensive, stinky, and never seem to last more than 10 to 15 minutes and it seems Franklin usually vomits later that night because he's swallowed large chunks of the bully stick. Wholesome Hide makes rawhides that are not chemically treated and are kept refrigerated before being dried. 

I do feed Franklin Hills T/D dog food morning and night. I give him 3 to 4 pieces of the kibble with his regular food. I use the large dog T/D, it has enzymes in it and the chewing action helps break down plaque. 

There is a genetic component to dental disease. We see this A LOT in cats. Some cats are 10 years old with perfect teeth, while other cats in the same family will be 1 or 2 and need extractions due to dental disease. I have never had a dog that needed a dental cleaning. My family has always fed all the bones on the "no no" list (i.e. marrow bones, rib bones, nylabones, tennis balls, hooves, etc) and have NEVER had a problem with broken teeth until Franklin came along. I really do feel its a crap shoot on whether your dog will break a tooth or not. I had so much luck with the raw knuckle bones, giving the softer "head" of the femur and not including any part of the shaft in the pieces I gave. Franklin was able to easily scrape off the bone and ingest shavings and never had a problem. To this day I'm not 100% sure if he broke  his tooth on a knuckle bone or if it was on the plastic eye of a toy we were playing with before I noticed the broken tooth. Wish he could tell me because if it was not the knuckle bone I'd start giving them again in a heartbeat because they were super cheap, lasted 2 to 3 days, and kept his teeth spotless. 

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