After watching Tess come out of anesthesia and how miserable she was, AND knowing the dental health IS important to overall health of both animals and humans....I'm really interested in NOT subjecting my dog to any procedures that require her to be knocked out than what is strictly necessary.
I don't brush Tess's teeth. See my comments on the nail-trimming post...Eventually I will be able to handle her mouth, have her open it on command etc --> but in the meantime it's a battle that I do not need at this point in our training.
So, I need other options.
I give her plenty to chew on - but she's a powerful chewer (even for a 30 pound dog) so I have to chose carefully. For example, nylabone dental chews (blue bone with nubbies) is one of her favorites......but she can destroy one in just a couple of hours, and can tear off big enough chunks to give her diarrhea and vomiting......The only chew products that are tough enough for sustained chewing are also too hard for them to do an effective job cleaning the teeth and gums. I also worry about how hard they are that they might actually do damage to soft tissue in her mouth. Any soft toys are instantly destroyed before my eyes and destuffed before I can blink twice.
Some people swear by rawhides and other edible chews. Tess snarfs them as fast as possible and I've had to pull more than a couple out of her throat and every time I take one away because it's getting to a "snarffing" stage it increases the value of that rawhide because she knows she only gets it for a limited time and she snarfs it even faster. She's very food motivated and its hard to convince her I have ANYTHING of larger value than the rawhide that she possesses.
So, I decided to try a dental chew product, like greenies.
In fact, I tried exactly that: greenies.
They have a couple of things in their favor. They were developed by a vet, they are recommended by vets, they are certified by a dental pet organization and they've been around for a while.
So, I bought a month's supply.
Especially because they are pricey and have to be fed at least 5 days/week to be effective, I wanted to evaluate them critically. Do they really work? Was this good money spent? Will feeding this product once a day do something else to my dog nutritionally that is unintended?
I did some internet research. I was esepcially concerned that there seemed to be NO data supporting their claim that when regularly fed they improved dental health....except perhaps keeping breath fresh, which is the least of my concerns (although it can be a small indicator of oral health).
It looks like there were some concerns over the digestibility of greenies and a possible risk of GI obstructions - but greenies had been reformulated recently and were much more digestable, including being able to dissolve/be soft in glass of water over night. This at first reassured me - but I was also confused how something the consistency of a gummy was helping to keep her teeth clean.....
Especially something she didn't exactly spend anytime chomping down on and swallowing.
Then I learned something else. Greenies was recently bought by the "Mars" company (yes --> that Mars company you are familiar with in the human world) and the product was immediately reformulated (to be the more gummy texture I had noticed). Additionally, wheat - which I believe was absent before - is now like the 2nd ingredient on the label.
And folks, unless I've missed something major, that's the final nail in the Greenie coffin for me. No clear evidence or explaining of how this product works to promote oral health, the product is eaten in under one minute with no apparent oral effort, and it contains a significant amount of wheat.
I started to look for something else.
Zeke's brand dental chews were on sale at the local pet store so I picked up a back. Once called "Z-ridges" I believe they are now called "Z-bones". Same formulation, but different name and packaging. Wheat and corn free, it takes Tess 1/2 hour to get through one. The texture is a mix of hardness that breaks off in tiny chunks when aggressively chewed that are rough enough to create some abrasion, but soft enough not to do damage.
I will admit that it looked tasty enough that I stole a little chunk from Tess and tried it. :) It was good. Hard but chewy at the same time --> didn't get gummy. Actually a pleasant flavor. Made me wonder if I ate one I too could have shiny teeth without having to expend any actual effort. :).
Overall I'm really pleased with the Zeke bones and while I probably can't afford to feed them on a regular basis, I'll do my best to feed regularly enough to make a difference.
If I was really brave I'd just give her a raw drumstick or wing or something and let that do its work....but I'm a wimp :)