These 11 foods can help support strong teeth and gums for your dog or cat.
Maggie was just shy of her 13th birthday when she walked into our home and straight into our hearts. She was a much loved dog, but her person had to give her up because of her own significant health issues. We noticed that a few of Maggie’s teeth were caked with tartar, but a visit to a veterinary dentist would have been very difficult for this “old lady”. So we began feeding her an organic whole foods cooked diet, special treats, and a few supplements including coenzyme Q10. Within one month, we saw a dramatic change. Maggie’s teeth looked so good! She was obviously feeling better and would happily trot around our pond carrying her own pink purse filled with her special “dental delights”.
Strong teeth reflect a robust immune system and a well nourished body. As we did with Maggie, start by feeding your dog a high quality diet made from whole meats and other natural ingredients. Then try adding these other foods, supplements and herbs to further enhance his dental health. (It’s always a good idea to talk to your vet before giving your dog a new supplement or herb.)
1. Bee propolis has significant anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial benefits. It’s excellent for infected gums and mouth ulcers. Use one drop per pound of body weight.
2. Bones (raw, not cooked) provide the calcium necessary for strong teeth and bones. Chewing on raw meaty bones does a great job of cleaning a dog’s teeth and helping to prevent the tartar formation that leads to gum inflammation. Raw bones also contain probiotic bacteria and enzymes that help maintain healthy bacterial flora in the dog’s mouth. These healthy bacteria act like soldiers, fighting and killing the harmful bacteria such as Streptococci sctinomyces before they take hold and multiply, causing gingivitis and other infections. Supervised chewing sessions are like a visit to the dentist without the anxiety. Choose big organic marrow bones and knuckle bones for dogs.
3. Coenzyme Q10 is a powerful antioxidant that not only supports cardiovascular health but also helps keep gums healthy. Consider adding it to your dog’s diet for long term dental support. CoQ10 is best absorbed in oil – first pressed olive oil makes a great partner. The suggested dosage is 0.25 to 1.0 mg per pound of body weight every day.
4. Cranberries contain numerous biologically active compounds, including flavonoids, phenolic acids, anthocyanins and condensed tannins. Research has shown that pure cranberry juice may be just as powerful for fighting cavities as it is for bladder infections. A team of researchers from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and New York’s Rutger’s University, found that many of the special substances found in cranberries may not only inhibit the enzymes associated with the formation of dental plaque, but can also stop the bacteria sticking to surfaces. These compounds also prevent acid formation and reduce the acid tolerance of the bacteria that cause decay.
A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association reported that a unique component in cranberry juice – a high molecular weight nondialysable material (NDM) – has the ability to reverse and inhibit the coaggredation of certain oral bacteria responsible for dental plaque and periodontal disease. NDM has also been isolated in blueberries, raspberries, mangos, peaches, and plums.
5. Dill has long been recognized for both its culinary and medicinal properties. Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, used dill seeds and leaves in a recipe for cleaning the mouth and freshening the breath. Along with being a carminative healing herb, dill also has potent antimicrobial properties and helps to fight infections. Dill is a delicate herb, so always store it in the refrigerator, wrapped in a damp paper towel; better yet, keep it in a glass of filtered water, ready to be snipped and added to your dog’s daily diet.
6. Fennel is a close relative of parsley, carrots, dill and coriander, all of which have beneficial dental properties. Fennel’s phytonutrients include flavonoids like rutin, quercetin and kaempferol glycosides. It’s packed with vitamin C, has anti-inflammatory effects, and will also help freshen breath and fight gingivitis as well as protect the liver.
7. Grapefruit seed extract is one of nature’s antiseptics. It can be used both topically and internally. GSE came on the scene back in the 1970s, when immunologist Dr. Jacob Harich was looking for a natural non-toxic alternative to antibiotics that would help the body resist bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi. He found what he was looking for in the seeds and connecting tissue of the grapefruit. GSE exhibits significant antimicrobial activity at low concentration. Always dilute GSE before use. Place one to six drops in five ounces of water, then use a Q-tip or a gauze-covered finger to gently clean your dog’s teeth and gums.
8. Green tea is a rich source of flavonols. It’s made from tea leaves that have been dried in a special way to avoid oxidation of the phenolic compounds. The principal flavanol compounds in green tea are called catechins and include eipgallo catechin gallate (EGCG), which is thought to be the tea’s primary anti-cancer agent. Green tea is recognized as being beneficial to oral health. In humans, it has been shown to help prevent cavities. Check out decaffeinated freeze-dried green tea solids, commonly called green tea extract.
9. Oats are a strength-giving cereal. They are low in starch and high in minerals, especially potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium. Oats are also rich in vitamins B, E and G. They are a nutritive food and support strong teeth while also serving as a nerve, blood, and hair tonic.
10. Parsley is one of the world’s most concentrated food sources. It has potent antimicrobial properties that make it the perfect breath freshener. Parsley can be fed as a whole food or as a tincture or cool tea, as described in Mary L. Wulff-Tilford and Gregory L. Tilford’s All You Ever Wanted to Know About Herbs for Pets. When mixed into your dog’s food, an herbal tea provides most of what a dried or fresh herb offers. It can be added to his regular diet, where it is quickly and easily absorbed.
11. Wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca) has a colorful history and has long been revered for its healing properties. The fruit acid cleans the teeth while the seeds act as an abrasive. Native Americans mashed wild strawberries into a paste and used it to remove tartar, clean the teeth, and alleviate toothaches.
It does not seem possible, but it has been over a decade since I first created this recipe and entered it in a magazine contest. It then went on to appear in Dr. John Heinerman’s Natural Pet Cures with the following comments: “It is possible, believe it or not, to prevent, or, at the least, slow down gum erosion with a hard type of biscuit that contains antibacterial herbs known to prevent the occurrence of infection.” These biscuits contain parsley and cranberry for dental health and are also crunchy enough to give your dog’s teeth a good workout! Choose organic ingredients wherever possible.
2 cups cooked chicken giblets (hearts, liver, gizzards)
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
1 tablespoon cold pressed oil, e.g., olive, hemp, cranberry, blueberry
1 whole egg
1½ cups stone ground whole grain flour, e.g., oat and spelt, or choose alternative flours, like hemp or quinoa, an ancient gluten free grain that contains more calcium than milk
1/4 cup cranberry essence or finely minced sun-dried unsulphured cranberries
1 egg white
Place chicken giblets in a pot and cover with filtered water. Bring the water to a boil, then turn down to simmer for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper for easy clean-up. In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients except the flour.
Blend until you have a thick paste. Add the flour slowly, so it’s well incorporated into the “paste.” Add a bit more oil or filtered water if your dough is too dry, or add a bit more flour if you find it’s too wet.
Dust your hands with flour and sprinkle it on a board or counter top. You can use oatmeal in place of flour. Knead the dough well, and then roll it out to about ¼” in thickness. This part is particularly easy if you roll out the dough on a piece of floured wax paper or parchment paper. Cut the dough into desired shapes and sizes, or take small pieces of dough, roll out to the thickness of a pencil, and cut into small treats, like biscotti that make a great training treat.
Place cookie sheets in preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 200ºF and remove the cookie sheets from the oven. Beat or whisk the egg white until soft peaks begin to form. Baste the biscuits with the egg white, then liberally sprinkle them with Parmesan cheese. Return the biscuits to the oven and bake for another 45 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the biscuits until they are completely cooled.
This recipe yields more than 50 medium sized biscuits. It can easily be doubled. The biscuits store well in the refrigerator and also freeze well.
A homeopathic approach
Frageria Vesca 6C is a homeopathic remedy that can help prevent tartar buildup on your dog’s teeth. It seems to work by softening tartar, and can be whisked away with a soft toothbrush. The tincture is very easy to use. The dosage is 1/2 to 1 dropperful once a week, or simply add 20 drops to a water dish once each week, if you have multiple dogs. You should see results in about a month. Be sure to check with a vet or animal homeopath before trying any remedy.