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Q: Is raw hide good for cleaning my dog’s teeth? Or are dental chews better?  Would you recommend feeding my dog these instead of brushing?

A:  Raw hides, bones, dental chews or anything that will not cause obstruction to nasal passages or is toxic (if dispensed in huge amounts) will help keep the gums massaged and teeth clean. Brushing is something which was introduced in the 20th century to help dogs maintain proper dental hygiene, especially for those that are fed soft food. However it cannot be stressed enough that poor dental health can lead to heart, liver and kidney disease similar to man. Minor dental tartar and staining can be effectively removed through the use of oral enzymes that break down the tartar. Severe recurrent tartar and gingivitis which recurs shortly despite teeth scaling should be treated with suspicion that the dog has a food allergy. When animals have food allergies, ingested allergens can cause gingivitis, stomatitis and other oral lesions when the problem is unresolved and the offending allergen is not removed. This results in a very thick dental tartar with periodontal disease that leads to loosening of the teeth, receding gums and secondary infection. Ingested allergens also cause changes in the nature of saliva which then deposit increased amounts of waste products and minerals onto the diseased gums and dental enamel.