I went to a dental talk at a reputable neighboring vet’s office last fall. It was actually a sales pitch for annual anesthetized dental cleanings. I have a real fondness for vets; I absolutely believe that they are drawn to their profession for love of healing animals. But I disagree openly with the ones who routinely recommend Science Diet, or who over-vaccinate, or prescribe steroids or antibiotics as a first response to symptoms like scratching or vomiting or ‘leaking’, or who categorically trash raw bones.
Raw bones are controversial. As a raw feeder, and someone who sells natural pet foods, I’ll never gloss over controversy. I provide resources and information, and my customers can decide for themselves what to buy and feed. My dog in fact has pancreatitis, and can’t tolerate the fat in marrow or in chicken skin, so I don’t feed him raw bones anymore. I don’t even feed him closely trimmed bones because I’ve seen an acute pancreatic episode, and it’s not worth the risk. So I don’t tell my customers that all dogs must be fed raw bones. But, most dogs don’t have pancreatitis, and all dogs need to chew; and further, dental health doesn’t just happen in the modern dog world of biscuits and kibble and cans without some plan in place. So I do generally recommend raw bones. But I’ll never say ‘don’t ever get your dog’s teeth cleaned by your vet’. I wish vets who are inclined toward categorical stances would, for the benefit of animals everywhere, soften their language and concede controversy (rather than implying, or outright stating, that there is only one valid points of view: theirs).
I wondered, why did the vet not mention the risks of putting your animal under anesthesia yearly (and didn’t mention, either, the cost of this treatment)? And further, why is it that vets who sell foods like Science Diet don’t mention that feeding your animals an exclusively highly processed food whose ingredients list starts with by-products and fractionated grains (grain, usually corn, then slips under the radar as the #1 ingredient) can cause obesity, diabetes, food allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, myotoxin poisoning, kidney disease, and dental problems. Not to mention the nightmarish food recall lessons we learned in 2007.
When I refer to bones, I’m not just referring to beef marrow bones, which can be too hard for some aggressive chewers who won’t give in (they are the ones who are likely to crack a tooth); I’m referring to turkey and chicken backs and necks and wings, and fish bones (from whole raw fish), and knuckle bones, and bison/buffalo/elk bones. When you see the dental benefits of a reversal of severe tartar to white teeth (I’ve seen this in a customer’s adopted border collie), not to mention the instinctive attraction of puppies to bones, it’s hard to imagine excluding raw bones from the diet without a good reason.