do you really believe it? – In the Name of the Dog

vous y croyez vraiment? – Au Nom du Chien


Imagine going to the dentist for your annual visit and being told that you no longer need to brush your teeth. All you have to do from now on is eat these crispy cookies every day and your teeth will magically be white!

Do you find that absurd? Yet this is exactly what many people believe for their dog’s dental health! You were taught the magical teeth-cleaning effectiveness of so-called “dental” croquettes…and you believed it.

So let me tell you a little more about these famous croquettes (which you buy at a high price) and perhaps even break an urban legend that has already lasted too long, to the detriment of the health of our dogs.

Some statistics:

Did you know that:

90% of dogs (and cats) over the age of 2 have significant dental disease and of that 90%, 50% require immediate attention .” – Ontario Veterinary Medical Association

“Dental health is currently the most important cause of disease in dogs” – Dr. Brooke Niemiec – American Veterinary Dental College

However, 96% of dogs in the world eat kibble. As you can see, kibble (in general) really doesn’t seem to help keep teeth clean, so almost all dogs eat it and 90% of them have dental problems! But let’s stay open, maybe “dental” croquettes are different, you might say.

Why do kibbles cause so many dental problems?

First, you should know that a kibble cannot be made without starch (carbohydrates). The vast majority of kibbles on the market contain between 40 and 50% starch which, in contact with the dog’s saliva, turns into sugars. Do I need to tell you that sugar is bad for your teeth? So it’s not hard to understand that 90% of dogs have dental problems once you know that about half of each kibble is made up of sugar. Take your dog’s food bag and visualize half of it filled with sugar: that’s what your dog eats.

Historically, did wolves and other wild animals die with tartar-filled teeth and other dental problems? No…they died with beautiful teeth, although none of them ate kibble, veterinarians or not. The difference is that their diet contained no starch, so no sugars.

But how to determine the sugar level in a bag of croquettes?

Have you ever noticed that if you add the percentages on a bag of kibble, the total does NOT add up to 100%? What is missing is the portion of carbohydrates (sugars) and the law does not require manufacturers to write it on the bag. It’s well done (for them) anyway!

So to find the rate of carbohydrates (sugars), you must add:

Protein + Fat + Moisture + Ash

The first three data are easy to get on the bag. For the ashes (this is the percentage that remains once a material is burned; as for a human body, there remains a percentage of ashes after cremation), if the percentage is not written, calculate 8% which is the average regardless of the brand or quality of the kibble.

Let’s do the exercise:

RC analysis

Protein (23%) + Fat (12%) + Moisture (10%) + Ash (8%) = 53%

100% – 53% = 47% carbohydrates (sugars). It is therefore almost half of each kibble that is transformed into sugars by the dog’s body!

What dental disorders are possible in dogs?

Three types of debris can land on your dog’s teeth:

  1. food particles
  2. Plaque
  3. Tartar

The food particles are easy to remove and the dog will take care of this part on its own. Plaque and tartar, on the other hand, are much more stubborn!

Plaque is the thin, sticky layer (also called biofilm) that forms over the entire surface of the tooth. It is actually a film covering the tooth that is made up of bacteria. What do these bacteria feed on? Sugars! This is why kibble is so bad for your teeth. Plaque is removed by an abrasive action, such as brushing your teeth. On the other hand, it comes back quickly once cleaned, in as little as 24 hours.

If the plaque is left long enough along the gumline, it will slowly turn into tartar, which is the very hard crust, also called dental calculus.

Plaque is what you remove every day by brushing your teeth, while tartar is what your dentist removes during your regular office cleanings.

But the “dental” croquettes that you buy at the veterinarian, they have to be different?

If you use so-called “dental” kibbles, it is probably because your veterinarian told you that these kibbles were specially formulated to fight plaque and tartar and that many studies had been done on these kibbles by the company manufacturing them. .

dental kibbles

Let’s first see what the science behind kibble is (according to these companies):

dental kibble science dental kibble

  1. Works like a toothbrush to clean and freshen breath when the dog crunches ”. So they believe that a kibble that has the texture of a cookie acts like a toothbrush? It would exist for dogs but not for humans?
  2. A “ patented alignment of the fibers contained in each kibble which means that it will remain in contact with the tooth (thus cleaning it) ”.
  3. Gently removes bacteria from the surface of the tooth for better oral health ”. By feeding bacteria sugar, do we remove it? No, we feed them and they increase!

That said, the wackiest argument is definitely #2, the one that talks about fiber alignment. Have you ever seen your dog eat? Does each kibble enter his mouth in the same position? How to be sure that the direction with which he will bite the kibble will be the one desired? I don’t know about you, but I find it unconvincing as a science. At the limit, they take me for a fool!

Then the companies will tell you that because the kibble is bigger, it will stay in contact with the tooth longer. To this argument I would say: you when you eat bigger cookies, are your teeth cleaner afterwards? If so, I’m going to make sure to always have bigger bites at every meal from now on. If it helps the dog’s teeth, it will surely help mine!

And the ingredients?

Let’s analyze the (main) ingredients of two popular dental formulas: Hill’s Dental Care t/d and Royal Canin Dentaire .

Hill’s Prescription diet t/d

t/d dental

  • cracked rice
  • whole grain corn (great allergen and very economical, in addition to being genetically modified)
  • chicken by-product meal
  • powdered cellulose (you know it’s made with wood fiber?)
  • pork fat

All this for a protein rate of 17.2% (dangerously low) against 51.7% carbohydrates (sugars).

Royal Canin Dental

Royal Canin Dental

  • broken rice (contains 810g of starch/kg…which the dog’s body converts into sugars)
  • chicken by-product meal
  • Brown rice
  • corn
  • chicken fat
  • wheat gluten

Total of a low 20% protein versus 48% carbs.

Let’s say that in terms of quality of ingredients and nutritional value, we will come back. But it is certain that when you put wood in your recipe (as Hill’s does here while Royal Canin puts it in many of its products), you should not expect too much nutritionally!

But do veterinary “dental” kibbles still have a stamp of approval that they’ve been scientifically proven to help dental health?

Indeed, you will see on the bag of veterinary “dental” kibbles the seal of approval of the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC).

VOHC seal dental kibbles

Where it gets really interesting is when you start looking at what it takes as a result to “earn” that seal of approval.

First, there is no minimum requirement for the number of dogs participating in the study. You read that right: companies have the right to conduct a study…with two dogs.

Then, each dog in the study must come from being scaled in order to start the study with teeth in perfect condition.

What is the minimum duration of the study?

  • For the plate, the study must last at least… 7 days .
  • For tartar, the study must last at least… 21 days .

I don’t know about you, but when I leave the dentist after a cleaning, my teeth are still beautiful after 21 days…even if I eat McDonald’s every night! Following the same logic as veterinary kibble companies, McDo could also be awarded the VOHC seal!

Finally, what is the improvement that needs to take place to earn the stamp of approval? First of all, you should know that two studies (with different dogs, but still without any minimum number) must take place, per product. A group eating the veterinary “dental” food must obtain an improvement of at least 15% compared to the other group, that is to say the one eating a “regular” food. Also, the group put on NON “dental” food can eat any food on the market . If I were in charge of the study for a veterinary kibble company, I would choose the worst kibble (containing the most starch (sugars) possible) and then it would be extremely easy to obtain 15% (or better) d ‘improvement!

I almost forgot: for products that got the stamp of approval before 2011, the improvement needed was only 10% then . In your opinion, were the “dental” kibbles currently on the market approved before 2011? And yes…

As you can see, veterinarians are often quick to tell us about studies carried out by the company of which they are custodians (or partners?), that other kibble companies are less serious…but can we really cling to that when the conditions under which these studies are carried out are so ridiculous? 10 or 15% improvement, compared to any food, in 7 to 21 days in a study with no minimum number of dogs! And after that, this environment calls itself scientific…

Speaking of studies, let me show you an interesting one!

An Australian veterinarian, Dr Tom Lonsdale had the opposite idea: he did a study on dogs in perfect dental health to determine how long their teeth would deteriorate if they were taken off a healthy diet and put on a so-called junk food diet (poor quality kibble): Diet Science (formula recommended by veterinarians) to be exact. The results are impressive:

Dr Lonsdale experiments with 2 dental kibbles

Dr Lonsdale experiment 1 - dental kibbles

For each photo, you see at the top the dog before starting the study while he was eating a diet of raw meat. Notice the pristine whiteness of the teeth and the lack of color change near the gums.

At the bottom, you see the teeth of the same dog after he started eating kibble. How long after? A year? 6 months? No… 17 days ! In just 17 days, the dog’s teeth went from the top photo to the bottom. And then we wonder why 90% of dogs have dental problems these days… All that is without mentioning the changes observed in the breath, skin, vitality and even behavior of dogs.

This study is certainly small (only 4 dogs), but I appreciate the transparency of having before/after and during photos (in the following video). This is what I deplore with the famous “studies” that veterinarians tell us about…where can we read them? We hear about them…but we don’t see them! Still, they should be proud to show us their results, unless they have something to hide?

I confess to being the first surprised to see the deterioration of teeth in as little as 17 days in Dr. Lonsdale’s study. To see the photos, I would have bet on several months of malnutrition to achieve this result. Now, let’s say that this (bad) kibble is used as the “normal” kibble in the comparative study to obtain the VOHC seal. Do you believe then that it will be easy to get a measly 15% (or 10%, if before 2011) improvement in 21 days? Yes, because when you compare a very bad product with a bad product, you will still end up with two bad products .

Then let’s say I’m playing devil’s advocate and would agree that some kibbles may be better for dental health than others. The real question we would be left with would be: am I willing to have my dog ​​malnourished for the sole (possible) improvement in his dental health?

Personally, I will always put his overall health first. It’s not true that I’m going to feed kibble that contains wood, corn and chicken waste (by-products) for the sole purpose of MAYBE cause less tartar.

The day that companies release a so-called “dental” kibble made with good ingredients for my dog’s health, then I will be interested in this product. Until then, I will refuse to nutritionally abuse my dog ​​in hopes of maybe helping his teeth. Eating McDonald’s every day for the rest of my life because Mcdo compared to Burger King over a 21 day period? No thank you…because it’s still Mcdo and I know the consequences of poor nutrition in general on my overall health!

How to put the odds on your side?

The best way to reduce plaque will always be brushing. On the other hand, many dogs have difficulty supporting this procedure.

If you have a young puppy, get him used to having his teeth brushed as soon as possible. The use of a toothpaste specially formulated for dogs is essential. With a little luck and technique, you will manage to turn this session into a treat for your dog if he loves the taste of toothpaste!

What can you do to help reduce tartar and plaque?

The purpose of this article is not to discourage you from feeding your dog kibble, but to make you aware of the disadvantages of using this type of animal nutrition and above all, to break the urban legend that kibble is what there is better for the teeth of our dogs (think back to my example: how are your teeth after eating cookies?). That said, some people will still want to feed kibble and want to know what to do to help their dog’s dental health as much as possible.

The answer to this question is to use good chews, especially  meaty bones .

Because of their abrasive texture and their ability to come into contact with all the teeth, these raw bones will help loosen plaque and prevent the formation of tartar. At equal comparison, we agree that a dog will “work” longer after a bone than eating a kibble . The longer the abrasive material is in contact with the teeth and gums, the more abrasive action there will be and therefore, less tartar and plaque.

These raw bones are perfectly digestible and safe provided you choose a product in the appropriate format for your dog’s size. For those worried about digestibility, a dog’s stomach has an acidity level similar to that of vinegar. Do the test: take a raw chicken bone and let it soak in vinegar. After a while, you will be able to twist it as if it were made of rubber.

**Important: NEVER give cooked bones to your dog. Cooking changes the structure of the bone and makes it prone to fracture. The rest of your t-bone (steak) is good for the trash, not for your dog!

Finally, since they are raw, meaty bones require basic food safety procedures. In summer, the easiest way is to give them outside the house. In winter, I recommend giving them always in the same place and washing the surface after use. Using a towel that the dog will eat his bone on and putting it in the laundry after use is also a great method. In short, there’s no need to quarantine your home since your dog is eating a raw bone, but common sense applies!

Is it possible to completely eliminate sugars from my dog’s diet?

  • If you want to continue feeding with kibble: no. You can, however, choose a product that is lower in carbohydrates, which will greatly help. There are great kibbles on the market, made with healthy ingredients and as I always say, I’d rather someone who feeds their dog quality kibble than poor quality raw.
  • If you are open to trying a different type of animal nutrition: absolutely! As veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker mentions:

Diet plays a significant role in the development of tartar in our animals. Wild dogs have strong and healthy teeth especially because they eat fleshy bones (from carcasses). A raw diet helps control tartar (because it has no sugars) .”

The ground bones in commercial raw diets act on the teeth like fine sandpaper and help reduce plaque so that it never has a chance to turn into tartar. Raw meat contains natural enzymes and does not stick to the walls of the teeth, unlike the starch (sugar) contained in kibble. Take the test and look at the teeth of dogs eating a raw diet: you will not see any tartar there. Whether one is personally in favor of it or not is one thing, but its effectiveness for dental health is beyond doubt.


The purpose of this article is not to discourage the use of kibble. On the other hand, it is necessary to know what are the disadvantages of using such a product. Its consequences on dental health is unfortunately a problem of the kibble. It’s up to you whether you want to live with the inconveniences it brings or whether you want to turn to another type of animal nutrition. Know that nothing is perfect and any type of animal nutrition has advantages and disadvantages. We just have to choose what goes best with our way of life by being well informed!

Your dog deserves better than what the industry too often wants to give him!


Dry Dog Food and the Myth of Cleaner Teeth – Dog Food Advisor

Can kibble or dry food brush or clean your pet’s teeth for real? – Rodney Habib

Does dry, crunchy commercial pet food actually keep your pet’s teeth clean? – Rodney Habib

The disturbing cause of dental disease in dogs – Dana Scott

Do kibble clean your pet’s teeth?

Veterinary oral health council – study protocol

Science death experiment – Dr. Tom Lonsdale (2015)

How to estimate the carbohydrate content of any dog food – Dog food advisor

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