Charlotte Peltz Living with Your Dog "Food Plus 20 Minutes" brought to you by Joy Beckner Artist/ Bronze Sculptor

Living with Your Dog

Food Plus 20 Minutes

By Charlotte Peltz

Twenty minutes after Pearl eats her food, plaque begins to form on her teeth. Only TWENTY minutes! Plaque is composed of 80% bacteria and, as that plaque forms on the teeth, it lifts the gum margin offering an ideal location for infection to begin its very efficient job of destroying gums and teeth. "Diet and plaque formation are directly related:" says Dr. Bruce Fogle, who is surely the world's best selling author/practicing vet.

Dogs on a natural diet do not have this problem because they use their teeth as those teeth are meant to be used, ripping and tearing flesh and bones and chomping them into pieces small enough to swallow. A valuable caution with raw bones is to avoid the weight bearing bones that are often called marrow bones. They are tough and strong and can crack the teeth of aggressive chewers.

While dog food companies say on the one hand that kibble, and especially "their" kibble, is the best possible food for your dog and all dogs, it is interesting to note that vets working for those companies are constantly "improving" their products. If the products are 100% perfect to begin with I find that difficult to understand but it is nevertheless the way things work. Hills, makers of Science Diet, did a test on "regular" pieces of kibble and showed (in a Scientific Frontiers program) how only the very tip of the tooth even touched some of the food as it was "inhaled". So - voila!!! Along comes a new "prescription" diet food for dogs with tooth and gums problems that consists of big pieces of kibble with a different vegetable fiber interior. Of course, to get the dogs to eat these things oils and flavors have to be sprayed on them but that is standard procedure with all the so-called food in packages. It is estimated that 85% of dogs over two years of age have gum disease but Hills is making a "special" product. Why isn't all of its food made to reduce tooth and gum problems? Hmmm. Money is the word that comes to mind. Make it "special," charge more and get even more profit from corn!

What was interesting is that the dogs, when given the chance to decide on regular shape or large shape food, really didn't seem to care one way or the other so they do not always know what is best for them. They need you to make wise decisions.

To give credit to Dr. Fogle, a primarily conservative, conventional veterinarian, his book, Natural Dog Care is filled with "Complementary Treatments" suggestions. He is frank about the lack of interest (read money) to study alternative approaches to treating our animal friends, but he is equally clear about the pitfalls of simply treating animals by breaking everything down into biochemical components.

When it comes to dental and mouth issues, conventional vets suggest that you brush your dogs' teeth and have at least an annual thorough cleaning which requires a general anesthetic. That method is invasive and can be dangerous because of the problems many dogs have with general anesthetics. As dogs age, and their teeth problems begin to seriously affect their health (liver, kidneys, heart, etc., as well as their gums and teeth) they are poorer candidates for the invasive treatment. Few people -- VERY FEW! -- will take the time to teach their dogs to accept brushing, and do keep in mind the title of this article, "Food Plus 20 Minutes!" The process of building plaque often begins minutes after eating.

Complementary treatments attempt to address the whole dog and aim to prevent the problem rather than address cures. Treatments may include digestive herbs, caution about overfeeding, attention to the specific diet, massage of the gums (easier to achieve for many than brushing), attention to nutritional deficiencies (such as B vitamins) and supplements with natural enzymes to reduce gum inflammation.

Enzymes, found in fruits and vegetables, are essential catalysts for all metabolic processes and may act as antioxidants protecting the gums from damage by free radicals.
Herbs that are helpful include cardamom seed, fennel seed, small amounts of ginger root, and Marsh mallow root. For detailed information on how to use these and other herbs read Natural Dog Care by Dr. Fogle and Herbs for Pets by Mary L. Wulff Tilford and Gregory L. Tilford, or work with a doctor well-versed in the use of herbs and supplements.

Of course, you could simply give your dogs a regular supply of raw meaty bones and never have tooth or gum problems!

"Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things man will not himself find peace." Albert Schweitzer.

"One can measure the size and moral progress of a nation to how she treats her animals." Mahatma Gandhi.

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