Have you been feeding dry dog food to your dog only because you were told that it prevented tarter and dental disease? Do you feel guilty when you add canned food because of the harm that it may cause? You can relax. Dry food does not prevent dental disease and wet or canned food does not cause dental problems. Which one to feed is a matter of preference, yours and your dog’s.
The Dog’s Unique Feeding Style
The belief that dry food prevents dental disease is derived from the belief that chewing causes abrasion on the tooth surfaces to prevent or shave off tarter. And that is true, but dogs do not chew their food! Anyone who has witnessed or stepped in dog vomit knows that the vomit looks just like the food, just wetter.
As pack animals, dogs killed and feasted in very competitive groups. Individuals tore flesh from the carcass swallowed and then repeatedly dove back into the frenzy for more. Taking the time to chew would have meant less food and possibly starvation.
This feeding habit has not changed in our modern dogs. Examination of a modern dog’s mouth reveals that they share the same sharp, pointed teeth of their flesh eating ancestors. They grab, maybe crunch once, swallow and grab again. No abrasive cleaning action of the teeth takes place during a meal.
What Dental Studies Show
Although dental research is somewhat limited, some interesting facts have been discovered. One study found that dry food eaters did have less tarter than wet food eaters but the incidence of gingivitis and periodontal disease was the same. Two studies in wild dogs and cats that don’t eat any dry food had less dental tarter than pets fed commercial food, wet or dry. Interestingly, these wild animals suffered the same incidence of gingivitis and periodontal disease as pets fed commercial food.
The fact is that dental disease is more complicated than what type of food is eaten. Dental hygiene is less dependent on diet and more dependent on routine care. Regular teeth brushing and availability of hard chew toys (nyla-bones) will impact dental health far greater than the type of food. Owners can be comforted that they can feed how they want without guilt.
Dry Dog Food
Dry food is certainly more convenient than wet food. Open the bag and scoop, no mess. It is also very inexpensive compared to wet food. A 50lb dog can be fed for as low as 13 cents a day. Feeding dry food makes traveling much easier.
A look at the way dry dog food is made will give you insights into the quality of dry food. All ingredients are put in a huge pressure cooker and turned into a liquid at high temperatures. This means any form of protein, carbohydrate or fat can be used. That is why this method is perfect for using meat, grain and processed food scraps as well dead, decayed animals rather than real cuts of meats and whole grains and vegetables. In fact much of the nutrient value is lost due to the high heat.
After the hot slurry reaches the proper time and temperature it is injected through a super-heated extruder. As the liquid leaves the extruder the cold air causes it to “pop” into various shapes depending on the mold of the extruder exit. The dry kibble is then sprayed with oil and vitamins before bagging to replenish some of the nutrients lost in this double heat process.
Dry kibble will not “pop” without sufficient carbohydrates. That is why dry dog food tends to be lower in protein and higher in carbohydrates than wet or canned food.
Although dogs readily eat their kibbled dry food when they are healthy, they often refuse to eat it when they feel ill. This refusal to eat can lower their nutritional status and ability to heal. This downward spiral often leaves these dogs very fragile when they are finally taken to the vet. Would you eat shredded wheat without milk if you were sick?
Canned food is certainly more tasty than dry kibble and is readily eaten by dogs. Only rarely will sick dogs refuse to eat canned food. When mixed with dry food, dogs eat more heartily. The larger variety of flavors of canned foods allows for more diversity in your dog’s diet.
Canned food is more expensive than dry food and always requires much larger meals than dry to meet the nutritional needs of the dog. This is because of the high water content. Canned food is 80% water.
Many owners object to the smell of canned food and the storage of partial cans in the refrigerator. And certainly opening a can is more work that scooping from a bag.
Why Not Feed Both?
Since food is not a culprit in dental disease, why not spice up your dog’s diet with a combination of canned and dry food? Using the wet enhances the flavor and enthusiasm for mealtime. Adding the dry reduces food costs. Everybody wins. Also the wet is always available if your dog falls ill in order to maintain its appetite.
Make sure the combination of foods does not exceed your dog’s daily calorie requirements. Check with your vet or view our next blog on calculating calories for the adult dog and visit our blog “How Much Should I Feed My Puppy” for calculating for puppies.
~Dr. Ken Tudor
The Dog Dietitian