Just three generations ago, almost every pet owner gave their dog or cat table food and raw bones. Today, the greatest majority of pet owners have forgotten what their grandparents or great-grandparents fed to their dogs or cats. It’s time to remember.
Like so many of you, I don’t have the money for regular dental cleaning for my pets, plus the anesthesia involved for each procedure is something I’m not comfortable with. A video from Dr. Tom Lonsdale of Australia was a wake up call, and it caused me to remember what the pets of my childhood ate on a regular basis – raw bones.
The video that sparked my memories…
My grandparents had dogs and cats. These animals never ate commercial pet food – they ate table scraps and the raw bones cut away from meat. My own dogs as a child were provided with raw bones and a few table scraps on a regular basis along with some commercial pet food.
But for some reason, when I grew up and began to have pets of my own…I forgot about the table scraps and raw bones. From the generation of my grandparents (only table scraps and raw bones) to the generation of my parents (some table scraps/raw bones and some commercial pet food) to my generation – it changed for so many of us. I was a victim of Big Pet Feed programming.
‘They’ told us table scraps were bad. ‘They’ told us raw bones were a no, no. And many of ‘them’ still tell us that.
The FDA website tells consumers that veterinarians say it is “a bad idea to give bones to your dog”. Interesting to note however, that this FDA warning page to consumers against giving bones to dogs mentions “FDA has received about 35 reports of pet illnesses related to bone treats” – linking all complaints to commercially sold bones…no warning of raw bones (such as purchased from a butcher or the meat department in your grocery).
On the flip side of FDA are many veterinarians. Dr. Tom Lonsdale featured in the video above – who firmly believes just as my grandparents (and your grandparents) believed – raw bones can be very healthy as they clean a dog and cat’s teeth.
U.S. veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker is another. She separates bones into two categories…
- Edible bones which “are the hollow, non weight-bearing bones of birds (typically chicken wings and chicken and turkey necks). They are soft, pliable, don’t contain marrow, and can be easily crushed in a meat grinder.”
- Recreation bones “are the big beef or bison femur or hip bones filled with marrow. They don’t supply much nutrition, but they do provide great mental stimulation and oral health benefits.”
She shares a wealth of do’s and don’t with raw bones explaining “When your dog chews on a raw recreational bone, especially a meaty one with cartilage and soft tissue still attached, his teeth get the equivalent of a good brushing and flossing. This helps to break down tartar and reduces the risk of gum disease.”
Dr. Ihor Basko – author of the book ‘Fresh Food & Ancient Wisdom’ tells pet owners that “Giving your dog a bone can be beneficial.” He suggests giving bones to dogs 10 to 15 minutes after meals “removes trapped food particles from the teeth.” However Dr. Basko does warn against feeding bones to certain breeds of dogs and small dogs. He states: “Brachiocephalic breeds such as boxers, bull dogs, pugs, and shitzu are NOT mechanically designed to be able to chew bones effectively and safely. Little dogs and toys with delicate jaw structures and softer teeth should not eat bones.”
For those dogs and cats that aren’t able to chew bones, Dr. Basko recommends a homemade teeth and gum cleaning solution. “Mix the following together and keep in a small glass jar, and use to apply to teeth and gums. This mixture works well for gum disease, and softens the plaque over time, while also controlling the risk of bacteria and gum disease.”
2 ounces of Hydrogen peroxide (3%)
2 ounces Aloe Vera juice
If your pet suffers from bad breath, add one of the following to the above mixture:
Baking soda (one tablespoon)
Liquid chlorophyll (1 teaspoon)
“Application: Apply to teeth and gums, especially the upper molars to control plaque. Use a gauze sponge and soak in the mixed solution, then briskly rub onto stained teeth or plaque. Do this several times a week, and more often if your pet has a lot of plaque build-up. On small dogs and cats, use a Q-tip dipped in the solution, then apply to the gums, teeth, and plaque.”
“After applying the solution every few days to the gums, teeth, and plaque for 2 -3 weeks, you’ll be able to then scrape the plaque right off the affected teeth, using your fingernails, a soft towel, or even a Q-tip.”
In her (wonderful!) new e-book ‘What Cats Should Eat’, Dr. Jean Hofve discusses an interesting concern linked to feeding only commercial pet food… (Note: This e-book is one of the ways Dr. Hofve supports her pet food advocacy work. Please support her work)…
“Animals need more “hassle factor” per mouthful of nutrients. The literature contains hundreds of references to the food habits of feral carnivores and, therefore, the appropriate menu is readily available. Convenient prepared diets, those without sufficient “hassle factor,” are ruining the mouths and compromising the health of our animals.” By ‘hassle factor’ Dr. Hofve is explaining that most commercial pet food is too easy to eat. The hard work of gnawing meat from a bone cleans a pet’s teeth.
She suggests “Cats who have been eating commercial cat food need a gradual introduction to bones to increase their jaw strength and make sure the gut bacteria are prepared.”
From feline-nutrition.org – “When you feed a cat bone-in cuts of meat, such as chicken wings or necks, the cat has to use their side teeth to chew and cut the meat into pieces small enough to swallow. This vigorous use of the side teeth helps to keep the teeth clean, the gums stimulated and the jaws exercised. This is not only beneficial to their dental health, but helps to keep them mentally stimulated.”
Before you go back to what your grandparents did and give your cat or dog raw bones – consult with your veterinarian to make sure your pet’s mouth is in good condition to chew on bones. Read all of the links provided above thoroughly. There are risks to feeding raw bones and everyone should understand the risks, but to me – the benefits outweigh those risks. Today, my pets dine on human grade only food, with a several times a week serving of raw chicken or turkey necks. Very close to what my grandparents did.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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