Be Selective about the Toys You Give Your Dog
Dogs are tremendously "oral" creatures and they experience much of the world through their mouths. Depending upon the breed, some dogs can exert 150 to 450 pounds per square inch with their jaws.
As a result, we need to safeguard our dogs from chewing excessively (with their overdeveloped masseter muscles of the jaw) upon objects that can damage the gums and teeth. Neglected and bored animals can also perform destructive chewing that can damage oral structures and teeth.
Objects that can hurt your dog's teeth include rocks, bricks, large branches, cage wires, some rawhide chews, and even toys, depending upon their composition.
Many chew toys or treats can fracture teeth, resulting in the need for endodontic therapy, restorative procedures, or extraction. Rawhide chews can damage teeth in anxious, aggressively chewing dogs or if manic chewing begins before the rawhide has a chance to soften.
Ask your veterinarian about which toy she recommends for your dog. It will depend upon your dog's breed, age, and size, but chew toys with some flexibility are generally recommended. To prevent teeth-damaging chewing resulting from boredom, make sure you provide good psychological stimulation for your dog as well as safe toys.
Dental wear and tooth flattening is also a normal function of age and has been reported in prehistoric fossil wolf skulls, modern-day wolves, coyotes, and foxes. Let's just ensure that we do not speed up the process by providing objects that are too hard and potentially dangerous to dental health.
The original version of this article appeared in AKC Family Dog’s “Ask Dr. Kevin” column.