How Dog Food Affects His Mood

Nutrition has an enormous impact on the health of our pets. But have you considered how it may affect their behavior as well? Here are three ways diet can directly impact your pet’s behavior.


It’s no longer considered standard regimen to feed your pet once a day or leave food out all day — also known as free-feeding — unless recommended by your veterinarian due to a medical reason. “Just think about how you would feel (and look) if you were only able to eat once every 24 hours, or kept nibbling on a high-calorie food all day long,” says Nan Arthur, dog behavior expert and owner of Whole Dog Training. Arthur recommends asking your veterinarian if feeding your adult dog 2-3 times per day would be better for his or her regimen. Often combining exercise with slight feeding routine adjustments can help improve the overall demeanor of a dog.


Pet food ingredients can also affect your pet’s behavior in various ways. Take the fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which is sometimes added to puppy and kitten food. DHA has been shown to increase mental acuity in puppies and kittens, says Dr. Lorie Huston. In fact, according to the results of some studies puppies eating dog food which contain DHA have been found to be more trainable. Certain antioxidants are also considered a great “brain food” for senior dogs and cats. For example, a series of studies conducted on dogs1found that older dogs provided with an antioxidant-enriched diet were able to learn complex tasks with more success than those on a control diet. This, researchers hypothesized, was consistent with the assumption that oxidative damage contributes to brain aging in dogs.

Another study2 that used an antioxidant-enriched diet found that older dogs (≥7) were less likely to suffer from age-related behavioral changes associated with cognitive decline, such as excessive licking and patternedpacing. Dogs consuming the antioxidant-enriched diet were also able to recognize their family members and other animals more easily than the control group, as well as display greater attributes of agility.


Health issues that may stem from feeding your pet a poorly balanced diet can lead to a whole host of other behavioral issues you normally wouldn’t encounter. For example, a dog or cat that is suffering from a urinary tract disorder brought on by diet may be unusually irritable and stressed from the pain and discomfort caused by the urinary condition. “The body is a very complex organic place where biochemical reactions are going on,” explains Dr. Kerri Marshall, chief veterinary officer at Trupanion. In fact, dogs and cats require more than 50 key nutrients — and each much be carefully balanced in your pet’s food.


The best way to keep your pet both happy and healthy is to go to your veterinarian for regular examinations and routinely discuss dietary needs with them. Any sudden mood change in your pet may indicate an underlying nutritional, behavioral, or health issue that must be addressed.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

Vegetables Dog Diet

Discover what vegetables dogs can eat for a healthy treat.

Dogs always seem to  be hungry, and they just love “people food.” So when you are looking for a healthy treat to add to your dog’s diet, try vegetables safe for dogs. Not only are vegetables filled with vitamins and minerals, but the non-starchy vegetables are also low in calories and fat and provide fiber that promotes healthy digestion.

As with all dog food items, portion size is important. Keep your dog’s veggie treats small and talk to your vet about adjusting your dog’s food intake if you are supplementing your dog’s diet with vegetables. Vegetables may be low in calories, but they are not zero calories. Also make sure your dog does not choke on the vegetable in the excitement of eating them.

Watch out for any adverse reaction, such as nausea or loose stools. Sometimes vegetables will cause gas in your dog, so don’t overdo the amount you give him. If you are giving your dog the vegetable for the first time, give him just one small piece and observe his reaction before increasing the size or amount.

There are many ways to serve vegetables for your dogs other than raw, such as cooked, steamed, baked, roasted, grilled or dehydrated. Dogs do enjoy vegetables raw as a yummy treat; however, they have short digestive systems and do not get as many nutrients out of eating vegetables raw as we humans. A good way for dogs to get the full nutrients of the vegetables is to break them down in a  pureed form. No matter how you prepare the vegetables for your dogs, do not use salt. Dogs don’t always care for it and it is not good for dogs with heart conditions.

The following are 11 safe, good vegetables for dogs, with suggested cooked preparations and portion sizes for treats.

    1. Potatoes
      • Preparation: Wash thoroughly, and slice into narrow wedges. Don’t peel the potato. Coat with a little olive oil and place on cookie sheet. Roast in oven (425 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least 20 minutes on each side. Roast longer if your dog likes them crispier.

Try Dog-Friendly Potato Skins>>

      • Dog treat portion size: 1 or 2 wedges, depending on dog’s size
      • Benefits: Good source of vitamins C and B6, potassium, manganese and fiber.
    1. Asparagus   
      • Preparation: Remove the fibrous ends from the asparagus spears and wash them thoroughly. Toss them with olive oil and grill 30 to 60 seconds on all sides.
      • Dog treat portion size: Cut into bite size pieces. Feed one to two pieces.
      • Benefits: Great source of Vitamin K. Good source of Vitamins A, B1, B2, C and E, folate, iron copper, fiber, manganese and potassium.
    2. Broccoli florets
      • Preparation: Cut broccoli into small florets and wash thoroughly. Place in a steamer and follow the directions. Using a stove, put florets in an open vegetable steamer in a pot with boiling water and cover. Steam for about 6 to 8 minutes until crisp yet tender and bright green. You can also microwave them by putting 2 cups of broccoli florets in a microwave-safe container along with an inch of water for about 5 minutes.
      • Dog treat portion size: One or two bite size florets
      • Benefits: Great source of Vitamins C and K. Good source of Vitamin A, folate, manganese and fiber.
    3. Brussels sprouts
      • Preparation: Choose Brussels sprouts that are green, feel firm and don’t smell too strong. Wash thoroughly and cut off the stems, leaving enough stem that the leaves are still intact. Some chefs advise cutting a little X to in the stem to help the core to cook. You can then microwave the sprouts with water for up to 8 minutes, steam them for 5 minutes or boil the sprouts for up to 10 minutes – a little less for more crunchiness.
      • Dog treat portion size: 1/2 to 2 sprouts, depending upon the dog’s size
      • Benefits: Great source of vitamins K and C. Good source of manganese, folate, fiber, potassium and vitamins A, B1 and B6.
    4. Carrots
      • Preparation: Remove ends and thoroughly wash. Cut into bite size treats and cook in a pot of boiling water for about 10 minutes or steam for two to six minutes until tender.
      • Dog treat portion size: One or two bite size pieces
      • Benefits: Great source of vitamin A. Good source of vitamins K and C, fiber and potassium.
    5. Cauliflower
      • Preparation: Wash thoroughly. To grill the cauliflower, leave a little stalk intact. Marinate the cauliflower for 30 minutes in olive oil and then grill for 5 to 6 minutes on each side until crisp yet tender.
      • Dog treat portion size: 1 to 2 florets, depending on the dog’s size
      • Benefits: Great source of vitamin C. Good source of vitamins K and B6, folate and choline.
    6. Cucumbers
      • Preparation: Wash thoroughly, peel, cut in half and remove seeds. Cut into bite size pieces. Place pieces into pot with boiling water for about 5 minutes. Empty pot into strainer. If the cucumbers are a bit bland, you can add dog-safe seasoning. (No salt)
      • Dog treat portion size: 1 to 2 bite size pieces
      • Benefits: Good source of vitamin K.
    7. Edamame
      • Preparation: Edamame is conveniently available as a frozen vegetable in your local food store. Steam these boiled green soy beans according to the directions on the bag.
      • Dog treat portion size: One to five unsalted, out-of-shell beans. Note: Always watch your dog eat small food items as he could choke on them in his excitement to gobble them down.
      • Benefits: Great source of protein, iron, fiber, vitamin K, Omega-3 fats, phosphorus, vitamin B2, potassium, copper and magnesium.
    8. Green beans
      • Preparation: Wash thoroughly and cut off ends. Use a covered pot to cook green beans in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Serve when cool. You can also cook green beans, brown rice and chicken in chicken broth to serve dogs with an upset tummy.
      • Dog treat portion size: 1 to 2 bite size pieces
      • Benefits: Good source of vitamins C, K and A, manganese and fiber.
    9. Peas
      • Preparation: Fresh peas are usually available as snow, sugar snap or English peas. English peas must be shelled. Snow and sugar snap peas’ shells are edible. You can grill sugar snap and snow peas for about 3 minutes on each side, first lightly coating with olive oil if you prefer. For English peas, you need to shell them first. Cook the peas (minus their pods) in boiling water only two to four minutes until they turn bright green. Drain in a colander.
      • Dog treat portion size: One or two Sugar snap or snow peas. For English, 1 or 2 tablespoons – depending on the dog’s size
      • Benefits: Great source of vitamin K, and C. Good source of manganese, fiber, folate, phosphorus, protein, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc, potassium and vitamins B1, A, B6, B3 and B2.
    10. Sweet potatoes
      • PreparationSweet potatoes make a great chew if you dehydrate them. Cut them lengthwise, 1/4-inch thick. Just follow the vegetable dehydration instructions included your dehydrator. You can also feed your dog mashed sweet potatoes. To prepare, peel and wash potatoes. Cut into quarters. Put into boiling water in a large pot and simmer for about 20 minutes. Test potatoes with a fork. When they are fully tender, remove from pot, place in a heat-resistant container and mash with a potato masher.
      • Dog treat portion size: Half or one dehydrated chew, depending on size of dog. Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of mashed sweet potato in dog’s dry dog food.
      • Benefits: Great source of vitamin A. Good source of vitamins C, B6 and B5, manganese, potassium and fiber.

Remember, there are some vegetables you should not feed to your dog. Never offer your dog onions or fresh garlic. Talk to your veterinarian if you have questions or concerns regarding vegetables and your dog’s diet.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372



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Can Cancer in Dogs be Prevented?

Evidence is mounting that at least for certain types of cancer in dogs, the answer is yes.

Physicians have known for years that good nutrition and adequate exercise are very important in maintaining our health. Veterinarians are finding that the same advice holds true for our dogs and cats as well.

Early detection is also extremely important. Researchers have proven that finding cancerous lesions before they become malignant or while they are still small and removable can prevent many cancers from becoming life-threatening.

The newest bit of research comes out of the venerable MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. Researchers there concluded that the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, is linked to a significant decrease in the incidence of gastric cancer. Previous research published in one of the leading medical journals, The Lancet,demonstrated that taking low doses of aspirin — once daily for at least five years — decreases the chance of a person getting lung, gastrointestinal, or colon cancer.

Although the research was evaluated in people, dogs and cats respond the same way to NSAIDs. Basically, NSAIDs inhibit a group of enzymes in the body, some of which cause inflammation. Inflammation, especially acute inflammation, is essential for wound healing and other important immune functions. When inflammation becomes chronic in nature, cancer risk increases. Cancer seems to be able to co-opt the cells involved in this process and utilize them to allow malignant cells to proliferate.

Therefore, NSAIDs and other compounds that decrease or stop chronic inflammation may be able to prevent cancer in our pets. Compounds within cruciferous — e.g., kale and broccoli — yellow, orange, and red vegetables decrease inflammation, specifically by blocking the lipid compound Prostaglandin E2. Evidence suggests that feeding dogs these type of vegetables at least three times per week can decrease the risk of bladder cancer in certain breeds.

Vegetables You Can Feed Your Dog>> 

There are risks to the gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, and liver from the chronic administration of NSAIDs to dogs. Consult your veterinarian to assess the benefits of cancer prevention against the possible side effects of these medicines. Giving your dogs vegetables, however, comes with little to no risk — unless of course, your dog feels the way I do about Brussels sprouts.


Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

What Are The Symptoms of Ringworm in Cats?


Despite its creepy-crawly name, ringworm in cats is not caused by nor does it denote a worm in the usual sense of the term. Ringworm in cats is a highly infectious fungal infection whose trademark reddish, circular skin lesions give the affliction its name. While ringworm in cats is among the most common skin conditions in cats, it tends to affect the health of young kittens, senior cats, and those cats with compromised immune systems.

Ringworm in cats is a common skin fungus, most frequently afflicting kittens and senior cats. 

Ringworm can be difficult to diagnose in cats, because the vast majority of healthy adult cats develop an immunity to the primary culprit, a fungus called microsporum canis. Further, in generally healthy cats, a mild infection may go unnoticed, since many cases of ringworm in cats are self-limiting. The major problem presented by ringworm in cats is that, even with an immunity, they can still spread ringworm to other cats, household pets, and even to humans. Here are facts and tips on diagnosing, treating, and preventing ringworm in cats.

Ringworm symptoms in cats

Ringworm in cats may be a common affliction, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to spot. Ringworm is more likely to develop and spread during hot and humid times of the year, and in places where many animals live in close contact or unsanitary conditions prevail. Unless you have a kitten, older cat, or one who has a poor immune system, detecting ringworm in cats generally requires veterinary diagnosis.

 Ringworm is often mistaken for cat dandruff and vice versa. Veterinary diagnosis is necessary. 

The symptoms of ringworm in cats may go unnoticed, since the small, red, circular lesions develop on the top layer of skin, and are easily hidden beneath cat fur. Hair loss may reveal the characteristic lesions, but cases that advanced are typically visible only in neglected stray or street cats.

Since ringworm in cats stays close to the skin, the skin flakes that may drop during a fungal infection may be mistaken for cat dandruff, or vice versa. This is why veterinary diagnosis is key. Your cat’s vet may utilize a couple of diagnostic methods to check for microsporum canis, including black-light inspection, or, more reliably, skin and hair cultures.

 If your cat is diagnosed with ringworm, you may need to dispose of bedding and grooming equipment to prevent spores from lingering. 

Ringworm treatment and prevention for cats

Preventing the development and spread of ringworm in cats is much less intense than treatment. How can you prevent ringworm in cats from affecting your household? First, cleanliness is vital. Ringworm in cats spreads through physical contact, and no surface is exempt, since the spores that yield the fungus can remain viable away from a host for a year or longer.

To prevent ringworm in cats, you should regularly clean and disinfect a cat’s bedding, food and water dishes, and any grooming equipment. If your kitten or cat is diagnosed with ringworm, disinfecting your cat’s home environment — vacuuming carpets or rugs and mopping with a diluted bleach-and-water solution — is a start, but you may also have to dispose of bowls or brushes.

 Treating ringworm in cats, especially longhaired cats, may require a commitment of weeks, possibly months

Treating ringworm in cats is a more time and labor-intensive prospect, especially if you live in a multi-cat or multi-pet home or have small children. Long-haired cats may need to have their hair cut for topical ointments to be applied. Treatment normally involves a combination of topical anti-fungal medications, along with oral medications, and a full course of treatment may last anywhere from several weeks to a few months. Quarantining a cat with a confirmed diagnosis is also recommended.

Is ringworm contagious?

The biggest threat that ringworm in cats presents is its ease of distribution. Ringworm in cats is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it is capable of spreading, not only between cats, but between cats and dogs, and from cats to humans. As with cats, the most susceptible humans will be young children or people with weak immune systems.

 Ringworm in cats is highly contagious and zoonotic. Multi-cat or multi-pet households are at risk, especially during hot and humid times of year. The contagious nature of ringworm is a good reminder to wash your hands after playing with cats, and to keep a respectful distance from strange and stray cats.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

18 things you didn’t know about dog paws

We all swoon for puppy-dog eyes, cocked ears and a wagging tail, but it would be a mistake to give your pup’s paws short shrift.
While the eyes, ears and tails of your dog may get most of the attention for their expressiveness, don’t underestimate the power of dog paws! Aside from just being awfully sweet, the paws are wonderfully designed appendages that enable canines to perform their feats of doggie derring-do. Whether slender and elegant, bold and athletic, or floppy and furry, a dog’s trotters are a fascinating study in anatomy and adaptation.
Consider the following:
1. Of the 319 bones, on average, that comprise a dog’s skeleton, a handful of those (so to speak) are dedicated to the paws. Along with bones, dog feet include skin, tendons, ligaments, blood supply and connective tissue.
2. Paws are made up of the following five components:
3. The digital and metacarpal pads help work as shock absorbers and help protect the bones and joints in the foot. The carpal pads work like brakes, of sorts, and help the dog navigate slippery or steep slopes.
4. Paw pads have a thick layer of fatty tissue that insulates the inner foot tissues from extreme temperatures, as it doesn’t conduct cold as quickly. (Think whales and blubber.) Meanwhile, as the paw gets cold when it hits the ground, arteries transfer the chilled blood back to the body where it warms up again. Because of these traits, scientists believe that domestic dogs first evolved in colder environments before spreading out into other climates.
5. The pads also offer protection when walking on rough terrain. Dogs that are outside a lot and exposed to rough surfaces have thicker, rougher paw skin; dogs that stay in more and walk on smoother surfaces have softer pads. The pads also help the dog distinguish between different types of terrain.
6. The inner layer of skin on the paw has sweat glands that convey perspiration to the outer layer of skin, which helps cool a hot dog and keeps the pads from getting too dry. But paws can also exude moisture when a dog gets nervous or experiences stress; dogs get sweaty hands, just like we do!
7. Dogs are digitigrade animals, meaning that their digits — not their heels — take most of their weight when they walk. Because of this, dogs’ toe bones are very important.
8. Dog’s toes are equivalent to our fingers and toes, although they are unable to wiggle them with the ease that we do.
9. Dewclaws are thought to be vestiges of thumbs. (Imagine if dogs had evolved opposable thumbs? The world might be a very different place!) Dogs almost always have dewclaws on the front legs and occasionally on the back. Front dewclaws have bone and muscle in them, but in many breeds, the back dewclaws have little of either. (Because of this, dewclaws are often removed to prevent them from getting snagged. However, opinions on the necessity of this procedure are mixed.)
10. Although they don’t provide much function for traction and digging, dogs do use their dewclaws; for example, they help the dog get a better grip on bones and other things the dog may like to chew on.
11. That said, Great Pyrenees still use their rear dewclaws for stability on rough, uneven terrain and often have double dewclaws on the hind legs. Among show dogs, the Beauceron breed standard is for double rear dewclaws; the Pyrenean shepherd, briard and Spanish mastiff are other breeds that have double rear dewclaws listed for show standards as well.
12. Breeds from cold climes, like St. Bernards and Newfoundlands, have wonderfully large paws with greater surface areas. Their big, floppy paws are no accident; they help them better tread on snow and ice.
13. Newfoundlands have the longest toes of all breeds, and Labrador retrievers come in second. Both breeds also have webbed feet, which helps make them excellent swimmers. Other breeds with webbed feet include the Chesapeake Bay retriever, Portuguese water dog, field Spaniel and German wirehaired pointer.
14. Some breeds have what are called “cat feet.” These have a short third digital bone, resulting in a compact feline-like foot; this design uses less energy to lift and increases the dog’s endurance. You can tell by the dog’s paw print: cat feet prints are round and compact. Akita, Doberman pinscher, giant schnauzer, kuvasz, Newfoundland, Airedale terrier, bull terrier, keeshond, Finnish spitz, and old English sheepdog all have cat feet. (But don’t tell them that.)
15. On the other hand — er, paw — some breeds have “hare feet,” which are elongated with the two middle toes longer than the outer toes. Breeds that enjoy hare feet include some toy breeds, as well as the Samoyed, Bedlington terrier, Skye terrier, borzoi and greyhound. Their paw prints are more slender and elongated.
16. And then there’s “Frito feet.” If you notice the distinct smell of corn chips emanating from the feet of your dog, resist salivating. Because when you find out that the source of the aroma is due to bacteria and fungi, you may become mightily grossed out. Generally this doesn’t lead to complications for the dog.
17. Do you love having your hands massaged? So does your pup! According to the ASPCA, a paw massage will relax your dog and promote better circulation. They recommend rubbing between the pads on the bottom of the paw, and then rubbing between each toe.
18. Although the exact etymology isn’t known for sure, the word “paw” appears to come from the Gallo-Roman root form “pauta,” which is related to late 14th century Old French “patin,” which means clog, as in the type of shoe.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372


Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

Dogs do some pretty crazy things, several of which fall within the “dog being a dog” realm. Eating poop is one of those things.

While you look on in shock and horror as you watch your dog down a mouthful of poop, you’ll get some solace in the fact that you are not alone. Many dogs perform this tummy-turning habit, called coprophagia.

In fact, a preliminary study out of the University of California, Davis, found that up to 16 percent of dogs eat feces frequently, with 85 percent of the stool eaters consuming the feces of other dogs. Among the eaten stools, 90 percent were chomped within two days — in other words, while they were fresh.

Why do dogs eat poop


But Why?!?! 

“It’s normal for dogs to eat the feces of other species, especially cattle, horses, rabbits, and deer, sometimes even cats and other dogs,” says Pam Reid, Ph.D. Nursing moms, for instance, clean their puppies and their nest, often ingesting poop. Outside of that, there’s little explanation about why dogs include poop in their diets.

Puppies in particular are drawn to feces, perhaps because they put everything in their mouths and feces just add to the intrigue, but they usually grow out of the habit by 6 months of age. As to why some dogs continue the behavior when they’re older, one theory suggests that their diet may be lacking certain nutrients. Reid offers a simpler explanation: “They obviously derive some sort of pleasure from it.”

Dog eating poop,

I Eat Poop, Therefore I am (Really Gross)>> 

Is Eating Poop Bad for My Dog?

Although gross, stool eating is generally considered harmless in a healthy dog free of intestinal parasites, especially if he’s eating his own stools that are less than two to three days old, says Benjamin L. Hart, D.V.M., Ph.D., distinguished professor emeritus at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and co-author of the above study. Eating other species’ stools also carries a low infection risk, since bacteria and intestinal worms that might cause illness are generally species-specific.

Poop Factory

Photo from TurtlesandTails 

However, there is a slight risk your dog could develop an intestinal infection if he already has such an infection and is eating his own stools that are five days or older, which increases the intestinal parasite load. Consuming bacteria-laden feces from other dogs could also pose a risk, Hart adds.

The Scoop on Poop: 6 Dirty Secrets You Need to Know>>

How Do I Stop My Dog From Eating Poop?

To get this behavior under control, if your dog eats poop frequently and isn’t a puppy or nursing mom, don’t yell at him — and certainly don’t rub his nose in feces, which is inhumane — as this could inadvertently cause him to become compulsive about this behavior, Reid says. Instead, confirm that you’re feeding a high-quality food. Then clean feces from your yard frequently, especially if you have multiple dogs, and teach your dog the Leave It command, which you can use if you see him sniffing feces.

Dog Poop Shame

Photo from

You can also add taste deterrents to his diet, as they can make poop less palatable, or apply taste deterrents to feces in your yard, along your walking routes, or even in litterboxes if he’s eating cat poop — better yet, move the litterboxes out of his reach. Consuming litter can potentially cause digestive issues, or in rare cases, an intestinal blockage.

Taste deterrents you can sprinkle on feces include crushed hot pepper, Tabasco sauce, or Grannick’s Bitter Apple spray, according to the ASPCA. Consult with your veterinarian before using a deterrent to determine if it’s safe for your dog.

Yet another strategy is to try distracting your dog — Reid tells of a dog owner who barked at her dog every time she saw her eating feces — and asking him to do something else. If he obeys, reward him with a treat, which he may learn tastes better than poop.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

Dry Food and Dog Dental Health


Daily tooth brushing and professional dental cleanings on an as-needed basis are the best ways to prevent the formation of periodontal disease in dogs, but diet can play an important role. This is especially true when daily tooth brushing is not possible, either because of a dog’s temperament or an owner’s inability to brush regularly.

I commonly hear owners say that one of the reasons that they feed their dogs dry food versus canned food is that they think kibble will help keep their dog’s teeth clean. Scientifically speaking, the effects of “regular” dry food (i.e., diets not specifically designed to promote oral health) appear to be somewhat mixed.

Studies from the 1930s, ’40s, and ’60s showed that dogs who ate dry food had better oral health than did those who ate canned. On the other hand, a large study from 1996 looked at 1,350 client owned dogs in North America and found “few apparent differences” between dogs that ate dry food only versus “other than dry food only” eaters with regards to their levels of dental tartar, gingivitis, and periodontal bone loss.

This 1996 study held sway when I completed veterinary school 15 years ago, but more recent research adds an interesting twist to the debate. A study published in 2007 looked at the effects of the size of the kibble in 40 beagles and found that increasing the kibble size by 50% resulted in a 42% decrease in the accumulation of dental tartar. Also, several recent studies have shown that adding a daily dental chew to the diets of dogs fed “regular” dry dog food results in better oral hygiene than does the dry food alone.

Many food manufacturers make special dental diets as well, but if these are not an appropriate option for your dog it is good to know that “regular” dry food in the form of large kibbles and/or a daily dental chew can help keep your dog’s mouth healthier than it would be otherwise. The Veterinary Oral Health Council’swebsite is a good place to find foods, chews, and other products that have been undergone testing to ensure they truly do help to reduce the build-up of dental plaque and/or tartar.

But keep in mind that no food — dry, canned, homemade, prescription, or over the counter — will eliminate the need for regular dental evaluations and cleanings performed by a veterinarian. After all, we brush our teeth twice a day and still see our dentists twice a year … or at least we should.

Dr. Jennifer Coates