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Treats or Trouble

December 5, 2019

With the holiday gift season, many pets receive edible or chew treats this time of year.

You may ask yourself, "Which chew treats are acceptable? Which are not?"

Fractured teeth are very much correlated with the type of chewing devices given to pets. Dog jaw strength is 2 to 20 times our own and tooth strength is not always proportionate to jaw strength. Most tooth fractures occur when a hard item, such as an elk antler, nylon bone, cow hoof, meat bone, or other hard bone-type item is chewed in such a way as to torque the rear chewing teeth, resulting in tooth fracture.

Once a tooth is fractured and pulp (nerve) exposure occurs (pink or black spot or hole in tooth), bacteria quickly set up shop, infecting the tooth. This can occur within 4 to 6 hours of a tooth fracture. Over the ensuing weeks to months, a tooth root abscess (pus pocket in the bone) typically follows, placing the pet at risk for infection to spread through the body, potentially affecting the heart, kidneys, and liver.

Surprisingly, only 15% of pets exhibit any signs of tenderness, swelling, or pain when this occurs, so these are truly “silent” infections.

Treatment of a pulp-exposed fractured tooth would include extraction or endodontic (i.e. root canal) therapy in order to help prevent tooth abscessation and resultant complications.

Root canal is 95% effective in preventing tooth abscessation. This should be performed by a dental specialist and is, in most cases, accomplished in one visit.

So, which treats are acceptable?

A full list of approved treats can be obtained by consulting The Veterinary Oral Health Counsel list at Chewing can thus be an enjoyable experience with minimal risk to the dental structures and enhance the oral health of our dear pets.

Dr. Debra A. Fiorito DVM, FAVD, DAVDC obtained her Animal Science degree from Cook College, Rutgers University in 1979. She then attended Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine and received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1983. She also became a Fellow of the Academy of Veterinary Dentistry in 1988, and she was the first in the state of New Jersey to become board-certified as a veterinary dental specialist with the American Veterinary Dental College in 1995.