Do dog bones clean dogs' teeth?
Dog bones can help keep your dog's teeth clean, but not very much.
Commercial dog biscuits and non-osseous dog bones, unfortunately, are more a calorie source than a tooth cleanser. They are crunched into coarse, fibrous pieces by the dog. These pieces remove some of the soft food of the previous meal from the dog's teeth and gums, but dog bones CAN NOT remove existing tartar. Tartar is the brown or tan concrete-like build-up noticeable at the base of the fangs, and over the outside of the major cheek teeth. Tartar causes gum disease, tooth loss, and even heart-valve infection, and should be professionally removed.
What about "real" bones? Responsible dog owners need to be very careful about giving their dogs real bones to chew.
ALL chicken and turkey bones splinter readily, and can lodge in the dog's esophagus or digestive tract, necessitating surgery.
Pork bones are extremely fatty and soft--dogs can easily chew off chunks that can lodge in the small intestine, again requiring surgical intervention. The fat from pork bones commonly causes vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis.
Beef bones that are too large for the dog to put completely in his mouth are generally safe; t-bones, rib bones, and round steak bones are specifically NOT safe! Dogs should not be given large beef knuckle bones to gnaw if they have existing tartar; the gnawing action shears off the tartar and drives it into the gums, causing a painful bloody mess.
An additional note of caution: dogs commonly fracture their major jaw teeth on hard beef bones, ceramic toys, cow hooves and other rigid chew toys. Protect your pet's teeth by being careful on your selection of chew toys.
The doctors of Windmill Animal Hospital recommend plain flat single-layer rawhide strips and rawhide rolls to help keep your dog's teeth clean & sparkling. Avoid rawhide strips and rolls with bastings and flavorings, as they are a needless source of calories and can stain the rug. In addition, do NOT give your dog chopped or rolled rawhide sticks, or compressed multi-layered rawhide bones; the sticks can be swallowed whole, unfurl in the stomach, and cause an obstruction. If your dog bites off a piece of a compressed multi-layered rawhide bone, the bite will expand in the stomach, and also possibly cause an obstruction.