Ask the Vet Dentist: What Things are Bad for My Dog to Chew On?

All of us who are doting pet parents love to buy new chew toys or treats for our dogs. We wander up and down the aisle of our favorite pet store or browse online for fun new toys we know will get tails wagging. But are there dangers lurking in among all of those items aimed at offering hours of chewing entertainment for our dogs.

So, we asked board certified veterinary dentists to weigh in and provide their opinions about what items are not recommended for dogs to chew based on the problems they’ve seen in their pet patients.

Dog’s teeth can break?

Dog’s teeth are just as susceptible to breaking as a human’s teeth. In fact, broken teeth from chewing on a damaging object is one of the more common injuries treated in a veterinary dental practice. Why you might ask? Dr. Allen Matson at Eastside Veterinary Dental Specialists in Washington will tell you, “If you ask your dentist, they will tell you not to chew on ice cubes, jaw breakers, popcorn kernels. The reason? With a hard object, biting down can’t break the object, but the teeth can break.” This same rule applies to pets.

“I tell clients to not give their pet anything to chew on that they can’t bend or break, or that splinters,” says Dr. Patrick Vall at Animal Dental Care & Oral Surgery in Colorado. A couple of other rules Dr. Vall says are good to go by, “Don’t give them anything you could pound a nail with, or that you wouldn’t want thrown at your knee caps.”

Dr. Mike Peak at Tampa Bay Veterinary Dentistry indicates the items he sees break dog’s teeth most frequently include, “Rocks, ice, real bones, hard plastic bones, cow hooves and deer antlers. As a rule of thumb, anything that is harder than what you would want to chew on is too hard for pets.”

What, no bones for my dog?

But everyone knows a dog loves a bone! The truth is that while your dog may spend hours chewing a bone, you could very well end up spending far more in dental costs. Dr. Curt Coffman at Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists sees this damage regularly and when asked about the worst things to let your pet chew on he says, “Real bones. Whether steak bones or marrow bones, they are too hard and can break or crack the tooth, crowns and cusp exposing the pulp and leading to pain and infection.”

Broken teeth are painful for your pet.

Whether bones or other hard items, it is important to keep your pet’s dental health in mind. Broken pet teeth are an injury that causes a great deal of pain for your pet. Dr. Dale Kressin at Animal Dentistry & Oral Surgery Specialists in Wisconsin makes this demonstration a part of his client education. “At our office we have a bag of items that have broken pet teeth. We show these to clients as items we strongly recommend avoiding pets chewing because these break pet teeth.  Broken teeth are painful.  In our view, it is a shame to have pets unnecessarily endure pain when these injuries can be avoided altogether.

Items from Dr. Kressin’s bag of items that have broken pet teeth.

So what can my pet safely chew?

Don’t worry, there are still plenty of toys that are safe for chewing. Choose items that are soft and bendable, while still durable. Many of these toys provide the same amount of entertainment and some even have spots for reward treats!

Its important to choose toys that are safe for your pet to chew.





Close up lesions

The case of hidden tooth resorption…

A professional veterinary dental cleaning is far more than a simple “scale and polish”.  While this is a key purpose for the procedure, there is another aspect which is as important (and actually in some cases MORE important) than the cleaning itself.  That is the oral examination and dental radiographs under anesthesia, almost always the only way painful problems can be identified in pets mouths. Continue reading “The case of hidden tooth resorption…” »

Non-Vital Teeth

Arlo is an eight year old Boxer/Hound mix who was a patient at Veterinary Dental Specialties and Oral Surgery in California. He came in due to a crown fracture of his right mandibular canine which was noted by the veterinarian at the Department of Animal Services.

On awake examination discoloration of the right maxillary canine and left mandibular canine were noted in addition to the complicated crown fracture of the right mandibular canine. Once under anesthesia, dental X-rays confirmed that the discolored teeth were non-vital, or dead, by the presence of a widened root canal. Due to a malocclusion, a few incisors also had complicated crown fractures.

The non-vital canines were treated with root canal therapies. One of the root canal therapies had a complication and was not able to be performed, so the canine was extracted. The fractured incisors were also extracted. Arlo’s other teeth were scaled and polished.

Post-Operative Result:
Arlo now has a nice clean smile to show off back at the Department of Animal Services. The discolored teeth will remain a unique color, but are no longer a source of infection. Hopefully, a sweet boy with a healthy mouth will help Arlo to be adopted soon!

Tooth Resorption in an Adult Dog

Ruby, an 8 year old German Shepherd, presented to Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists for her annual professional dental assessment and cleaning. Full mouth intraoral radiographs were obtained under general anesthesia and a thorough examination was performed to evaluate all of Ruby’s teeth and gingiva. Significant tooth resorption affecting the crown of the left maxillary fourth premolar tooth (208) was found. Calculus accumulation prevented this lesion from being visible while Ruby was awake, but  significant damage to this tooth was present. Continue reading “Tooth Resorption in an Adult Dog” »