Let's Talk Toofers & Doggie Dental Facts (Part 1 of 2)
Here at Virchew, when it comes to canine plant-based nutrition, we have been doggedly determined to set the record straight from the moment we began this incredible journey.
In the same way, we address the constant, consistent, and needless bantering about plant-based or animal-based food for dogs; part of our educational mission is to serve up some myth-busting regarding all the marketing BS that abounds when selling dental health for dogs. There are many reasons you do not find dental products in our sample shop or e-store.
Let's Talk Toofers!
Approaching this first from a hooman point of view, imagine you are at a dental visit and your dentist says, "I am confused as to why you are brushing every day. Forget your toothbrush—everyone knows all you need for good dental health is to eat a handful of crunchy tortilla chips every day—and like magic, your teeth will be sparkling clean!" So it is incomprehensible that any dental professional would advocate hard surface foods as an effective brushing alternative!
But when it comes to our canine companion’s dental health, pawrents have been conditioned to believe the nearly magical tooth-cleaning power of dry dog food or kibble, dental bones, and bite-sized treats! Then, can you imagine that same dentist advises us to eat taco chips to clean our teeth? Yeah, crazy right?
Do We Have Your Attention?
We are about to state a powerful and obvious fact - ALL forms of foods (dry or wet) cause bacteria, tartar, and plaque on both young and older dogs’ teeth—just as in humans.
We've been seeking studies and research that support the commercial dog food industry’s claims and, if you pardon the pun, have come up ‘bone dry’ with regards to the actual prevention of dental disease, not just the potential removal of tartar. We have searched for studies, research, and data, and the little we have found is suspect in most cases, they appear to be linked to or funded by commercial influences.
Here's what we have found in the studies:
They point to a larger size of dry food, not the ingredients
They always end with recommendations to do our best to care for our dog's teeth and/or go to our veterinarian for annual cleaning
Now, you may ask, what about the endorsements from respected organizations, professional groups, and veterinarians of these ‘dental hygiene’ products? We can say there will always be well-meaning persons and professional industry groups that endorse specific products. However, we are not privy to the reasoning, the incentives, and who funded the endorsements. Especially in the case of celebrities or 'celebrity veterinarians' who have become professional promoters and influencers online.
It's an unfortunate fact: Pet food and dental product manufacturer's interest in advising veterinary colleges and professional organizations is a double-edged sword. Without commercial funding for research, studies would be absent due to the lack of government and educational institution funding. However, in some cases, at least the studies can assist with more and better research for all, as it provides all researchers with clues for further analysis.
We're going to cover these topics and questions more in Part 2 of this series, but in the meantime...
Who the heck can you trust? What 'product' is the best for your dog's dental care? YOU!
Trust YOURSELF. This is a situation where you want to be more like your dog and trust your instinct, not a super-branded product endorsed by a celebrity in slick packaging or a paid veterinary endorsement.
We all know that if there were a dry dog food or dental bone that magically reversed or completely prevented plaque buildup, tartar or dental disease in dogs, our cupboards would be overflowing! Nary a pooch would have to undergo painful extractions or the loss of teeth after gnawing on a stick at the dog park.
But here in the real world, we know this is not the case. The inconvenient truth is we have to brush our dog’s toofers - every day if possible. The key to the best dental health is caring for our dog's teeth through daily brushing or wiping the teeth and gums with a moist microfibre cloth.
10 Tips to Help Get Started with the brusha, brusha, brusha!*
(*Thank you to Roz of Sparkle Bark for these tips.)
Start young and introduce the concept of tooth brushing as early as possible. But don’t worry, you CAN teach old dogs new tricks.
Only use pet products, never human toothpaste. Human toothpaste contains fluoride, and foaming agents that may cause stomach upset in pets since they swallow the paste rather than spit it out. Warning: Some toothpastes contain Xylitol which is a known toxin to dogs!
Try to get your pets used to have their mouth area and muzzle handled.
Start by gently handling the muzzle area daily. Be sure to provide lots of praise. If your pet starts to show dislike, stop and try again later. For best results with puppies, choose “quiet times” only for handling the mouth area. Each session should end on a positive note.
Do not use so-called ‘pet toothpaste’ (i.e. beef, chicken, cheese, or anything flavoured), as they contain chemicals, dyes, sugars and ingredients that irritate your pet’s gums. We suggest using the Oxyfresh pet gel. (Note: Virchew does not sell this product.)
Use a toothbrush provided by your vet or a canine oral hygiene specialist that has soft to medium bristles or a child’s toothbrush with a small head.
Always wet the brush bristles before placing them in your pet’s mouth.
Gradually build up the pressure and amount of time applied to each tooth.
Be sure to eventually build up to brushing the inside of the teeth, not only the outside (cheek-side) surface.
Remember to give praise continually.
Got A Pooch Without Toofers Or Only A Few Toofs?
With our LOVE Bowl, all pooches, even those without teeth, can enjoy the tasty health benefits of Virchew's wet diet! Check out Merlin Brando's story. He's one of our furry, fun customers who had to undergo tooth surgery:
Hi Hoomans, I am Merlin Brando, and I am ready for my spotlight! I love that my pa maw recognizes me for the superstar that I am and indulges my desire for Virchew - the only meals and treats worthy of my attention - especially when my toofers are less than stellar.
"Gotta say Virchew couldn't be more perfect after his dental surgery! The softness and texture are perfect and he always wants it! And he loves those new cookies! He preferred them to his pill pockets which most dogs love and he usually does!
BTW, he had 10 teeth out plus 2 old roots (from two already fallen out) so this food is a godsend. He still has all his "chewing" teeth left which is great and eventually can go back to chews and stuff but the bad teeth removed were due to being a bulldog and when they are born kind of twisted so easier to get infected regardless of care and diet. So probably helpful for other bulldog owners and anyone post-op!" ~ Elizabeth, Hooman to Merlin
Part 2 Coming Soon!
In Part 2 of this series, Tatiana Victorino, BSc, Food Engineering and Virchew's Lead of Operations & Research will dish up more on dental ingredients, studies and more. Watch our social media or newsletter announcment for that post.
Lastly, we will endeavor to win your trust.
We are a company that makes plant-based, complete and balanced foods for dogs. We strongly believe in the power of animal-free, plant-based nutrition for dogs and its potential impact on our dogs' health and longevity. Therefore, we will be biased. To have bias is to be human. We will endeavor to do our very best to navigate that bias with integrity, care, research and regard in the future as we share our perspective on industry opinions and studies. We commit to win your trust and that means we will be transparent in every way humanly possible.