Stray Dogs Have Better Teeth Than Pet Dogs?
What are pet dogs eating that leads to tooth decay?
Dachshunds are notorious for having bad teeth. The pain from toothaches can be unbearable. Even worse is that they can’t communicate with us about how much pain they are in.
Since their bone density decreases as they get older, extracting all of the teeth can cause their jaws to break. Just the risk of putting old dogs under for surgery is worrisome as well.
The vet warned me about Cedric’s dental fate, saying other than brushing, there’s not much that can prevent it. I disagree. I think diet plays a huge part. The research is limited, but there are some signals.
A study from Japan done in 1989 offers some clues. Researchers compared 251 stray dogs from Tokyo and Hokkaido and compared their teeth to 108 pet dogs from the same areas. What they observed was increasing gum disease as dogs got older. Tooth decay, however, was far greater in pet dogs than in stray dogs.
“Dental caries (tooth decay) were observed in stray dogs, but neither to a serious degree nor at a significant level.”
While stray dogs had little tooth decay, pet dogs had serious tooth decay. This means that something pet dogs are eating contributes to a higher incident of tooth decay. What do you think it is?
If we reference research on people we find that the biggest contributing factor for human cavities is fermentable carbohydrates. In other words, bacteria and yeast in our mouths break down the food left behind in crevices of our teeth and release acid that eats away at the enamel (the outer layer of the tooth). Once the enamel is broken down, the bacteria can also start breaking down the inside of the tooth and a cavity forms.
What are fermentable carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are nutrients made of long chains of carbons, hydrogens and oxygens. They are a basic nutrient that many organisms can metabolize for energy. The simpler these carbohydrates are, the easier it is for both people, dogs and microbes to break down.
Processed food is often made of very simple carbohydrates. These foods are loved by the bacteria that cause cavities. Most pets eat highly processed food every day.
What can we do about it?
Fresh foods & variety — I feed my pups a varied diet of fresh, whole foods that are less likely to hide and ferment in their teeth.
Brushing, if possible — Brushing your pup’s teeth is also very helpful if you can get them used to it.
Chews — They love chew sticks (look for digestible, rawhide alternative chew sticks). These are great as they serve as an enriching activity as well as to clean their teeth.