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Impact of Raw Feeding on dogs dental health

by Scott Marshall June 19, 2024 11 min read

Impact of Raw Feeding on dogs dental health

Raw feeding for dogs, often viewed as the underdog among conventional feeding practices, carves out its niche with undeniable benefits for dental health. This natural approach to canine nutrition, emphasizing uncooked meats, bones, and select fruits and vegetables, sets it apart in the vast world of dog diets. Offering a distinct experience that distinguishes raw feeding as a category in its own right, it caters to the primal dietary needs of our four-legged friends in a way that commercial kibbles simply cannot match.

Key components of a raw diet include Raw Meaty Bones (RMBs), Muscle Meat, and Organ Meats, each known for their distinct advantages. Raw Meaty Bones, for instance, are celebrated for stimulating chewing, which in turn aids in cleaning teeth and massaging gums. Muscle Meat provides the essential proteins and fats necessary for overall health, while Organ Meats are rich in vitamins and minerals crucial for bodily functions.

Delving deeper, each element of the raw diet plays a pivotal role in promoting dental health, from reducing plaque and tartar buildup to improving breath quality and strengthening the teeth and gums. The following sections will explore these benefits in detail, providing a comprehensive understanding of how raw feeding fosters a healthier, happier life for dogs, making it a cherished choice among informed dog parents worldwide.

Table of Contents

What is raw feeding?

Raw feeding is a dietary strategy that focuses on providing dogs with a diet that consists mainly of uncooked meats, bones, fruits, and vegetables. This approach, often encapsulated by the acronym BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or Bones and Raw Food), seeks to closely replicate the natural diet of wild canines, thereby offering domestic dogs a more nutrient-rich and species-appropriate eating experience. Central to the raw feeding philosophy are raw meaty bones (RMBs), which are crucial for dental health, muscle meat, which provides essential proteins and fats, and organ meats, rich in vital vitamins and minerals.

By mimicking the diet of dogs' wild ancestors, raw feeding aims to fulfill the modern pet owner's desire for a holistic and healthful diet option for their canine companions, emphasizing a return to nature's intended nutritional path.

How a Raw Diet Is Better for Dog Dental Care

A raw diet stands out in promoting dog dental care through its emphasis on natural composition and the physical act of chewing. Central to this diet, raw meaty bones play a crucial role; they not only mechanically clean the teeth by removing plaque and tartar but also massage the gums to help prevent disease. The rigorous chewing required to break down these bones strengthens the teeth and jaw muscles, offering a robust workout that commercial diets lack.

Moreover, the raw diet's focus on fresh, unprocessed foods reduces the intake of carbohydrates and sugars, which are often linked to dental decay in dogs on more conventional diets. This natural approach leads to fresher breath, fewer dental problems, and a healthier mouth overall, making it a superior choice for canine dental health.

  • Specific examples of how raw diets have improved dental health include observations from veterinarians who note a significant decrease in dental issues among dogs switched to raw diets. Anecdotal evidence from dog owners often highlights the transformation in their pets' oral health, with many reporting less plaque, brighter teeth, and improved breath.

  • Comparative data showing dental health in dogs on raw diets versus those on commercial diets can be compelling. Studies have indicated that dogs on raw diets tend to have fewer dental problems, attributed to the natural tooth-cleaning action of chewing raw bones and the lower carbohydrate content in raw food. For instance, a research study published in the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry found that dogs fed a raw diet had significantly less plaque and tartar buildup compared to dogs on a traditional commercial diet.

Incorporating these specifics into the discussion on how a raw diet benefits dog dental care provides a more comprehensive understanding of its advantages. It not only reinforces the argument with real-world examples and research findings but also helps readers make informed decisions about their pets' nutrition and dental health.

How does raw feeding impact dental health?

Raw feeding significantly benefits canine dental health by reducing plaque and tartar build-up, improving breath quality, and strengthening teeth and gums. The act of chewing on raw meaty bones serves as a natural toothbrush, effectively cleaning the teeth and minimizing the risk of dental issues. Furthermore, the low carbohydrate content inherent in a raw diet decreases the likelihood of plaque formation, a common problem associated with high-carb, commercial dog foods.

This natural feeding approach also leads to fresher breath by eliminating processed ingredients and additives that can contribute to foul odors. Additionally, the physical effort required to gnaw on bones reinforces the structural integrity of the dental and gum tissues, promoting a healthier mouth overall. Through these mechanisms, raw feeding plays a pivotal role in maintaining optimal dental health in dogs.

Reduces plaque and tartar

Raw feeding plays a crucial role in reducing plaque and tartar buildup in dogs. The act of gnawing on raw meaty bones naturally scrapes away plaque, preventing it from hardening into tartar. This mechanical action mimics brushing and flossing, a benefit largely absent in soft, processed diets, positioning raw feeding as a superior option for oral hygiene.

Improves breath quality

One of the most appreciated benefits of a raw diet is the improvement in breath quality. By eliminating processed sugars and carbohydrates, which can ferment and lead to bad odors, dogs on a raw diet often enjoy fresher breath. The diet's focus on natural, unprocessed ingredients supports a healthier oral microbiome, directly influencing breath freshness.

Strengthens teeth and gums

Engaging in the natural behavior of chewing raw bones and consuming fibrous foods not only aids in cleaning the teeth but also significantly strengthens the teeth and gums. This exercise for the mouth is vital for maintaining robust dental structures and preventing conditions like gum disease. Moreover, the rich nutrients provided by a balanced raw diet fortify oral health, enhancing the resilience of dental tissues.

Beneficial raw foods for dental health

Incorporating specific raw foods into a dog's diet significantly benefits their dental health. These foods not only meet the dog's nutritional requirements but also actively promote a healthier mouth. Below is a detailed breakdown of these foods, their nutritional content, and how they contribute to dental health.

Raw meaty bones for chewing stimulation

Raw meaty bones (RMBs) are essential for dental health, providing necessary chewing exercise that cleans the teeth and strengthens the gums.

Type of Bone

Benefits for Dental Health

Safety Considerations

Chicken necks

Soft enough for beginners, helps reduce plaque and tartar

Ensure size appropriate for the dog to prevent choking

Turkey necks

Larger, suitable for bigger dogs, excellent for jaw exercise

Monitor to prevent splintering

Beef ribs

Tough for a thorough chew, massages gums effectively

Choose ribs with meat on them to provide additional nutrients

Muscle meat for essential nutrients

Muscle meat is rich in proteins and fats, crucial for the structural integrity of dental tissues.

Muscle Meat

Nutritional Benefits

Specific Benefits for Dental Health

Beef heart

High in protein and essential fatty acids

Supports overall health, indirectly benefiting dental strength

Chicken breast

Lean protein source

Promotes gum health and reduces plaque buildup


Rich in omega fatty acids

Enhances immune system, supporting healthy teeth and gums

Organ meats for vitamins and minerals

Organ meats offer a dense source of vitamins and minerals vital for oral health.

Organ Meat


Benefits for Dental Health

Liver (beef, chicken)

High in Vitamin A, B Vitamins

Supports gum health and fortifies teeth

Kidneys (beef, lamb)

Rich in Selenium, Iron

Boosts immune response, aiding in oral health maintenance

Heart (beef, chicken)

CoQ10, Zinc

Promotes gum health and healing of oral tissues

By integrating these raw foods into a dog's diet, owners can provide a balanced, nutrient-rich feeding regimen that not only caters to their pet's overall health but also specifically benefits their dental health.

Risks of raw feeding for dental health

While the benefits of raw feeding for a dog's dental health are significant, it's crucial to be aware of the potential risks involved. One such risk is the possibility of broken teeth, which can occur when dogs chew on bones that are too hard, leading to dental fractures. There's also the choking hazard associated with bones of inappropriate sizes or shapes, which poses a direct risk to a dog's safety.

Furthermore, dietary imbalances may arise if the raw diet is not carefully formulated, affecting not only dental health but overall well-being. These risks highlight the necessity of meticulous planning and vigilant monitoring in the implementation of a raw feeding regimen, ensuring it serves to enhance, rather than compromise, a dog's dental and general health.

Risk Factor



Broken Teeth from Hard Bones

Dogs can suffer fractures or chips in their teeth when chewing on bones that are excessively hard.

Provide bones that are appropriate for the dog's size and chewing strength. Avoid weight-bearing bones of large animals, such as cow femurs.

Choking Hazards with Inappropriate Sizes

Bones of inappropriate sizes or shapes can become lodged in the throat or gastrointestinal tract, posing a significant choking risk.

Select bones that are large enough to prevent swallowing whole but not so large that the dog cannot handle them comfortably. Consider the dog's size, breed, and chewing habits when choosing bones.

Dietary Imbalances Affecting Overall Health

A raw diet lacking in the proper balance of meat, bones, and organs can lead to nutritional deficiencies or excesses, impacting the dog's dental health and overall vitality.

Consult with a veterinarian or a canine nutritionist to ensure the raw diet is well-balanced. Regularly review the diet's composition and adjust as necessary to meet the dog's nutritional needs. Include a variety of meats and organs.

Risk of broken teeth from hard bones

The risk of broken teeth escalates when dogs are given bones that are excessively hard. Such bones can lead to fractures or chips in the teeth, potentially necessitating veterinary intervention for more severe dental complications.

Choking hazards with inappropriate sizes

Choking hazards emerge as a significant concern when dogs encounter bones of inappropriate sizes or shapes. Bones that are too small, or those prone to splintering, can become lodged in the throat or gastrointestinal tract, posing a grave risk to a dog's health and safety.

Dietary imbalances affecting overall health

Dietary imbalances are a potential issue in raw feeding if the diet lacks the proper balance of meat, bones, and organs. Such imbalances can lead to nutritional deficiencies or excesses, impacting not only the dental health of the dog but its overall health and vitality. For help with this, please message us here on the website. 

Safely introducing raw feeding

Transitioning to raw feeding requires a thoughtful approach to ensure the safety and health of dogs. Begin with softer, smaller bones to ease into the diet, reducing the risk of dental injuries and choking hazards. It's essential to monitor chewing closely, ensuring dogs do not gulp down large pieces that could cause obstructions.

Consulting a veterinarian for balanced diet advice is critical to prevent nutritional imbalances. By adhering to these guidelines, dog owners can smoothly and safely introduce their pets to a raw diet, leveraging its health benefits while safeguarding against potential risks.






Start with softer, smaller bones

Begin with bones that are easy to chew and digest, such as chicken wings or necks.

Ideal for beginners to reduce the risk of dental damage and choking.


Monitor chewing

Observe your dog's chewing to ensure they are not swallowing large pieces whole.

Prevents choking and ensures bones are properly chewed.


Gradual introduction

Slowly introduce raw meaty bones, muscle meat, and organ meats over several weeks.

Allows the dog's digestive system to adjust.


Balance the diet

Incorporate a variety of meats, bones, and organs to ensure a balanced diet.

Consult with a veterinarian for guidance.


Consult a professional

Seek professional advice to ensure the diet meets your dog's nutritional needs.

Important for preventing nutritional imbalances.

Start with softer, smaller bones for beginners

For those new to raw feeding, beginning with softer, smaller bones is recommended. This strategy helps in reducing the risks associated with dental damage and choking, making it a safer entry point into raw feeding practices.

  • Chicken wings or necks: Soft and small, suitable for beginners.
  • Rabbit parts: Generally softer and an appropriate size for smaller dogs.

Monitor chewing to prevent gulping

Closely monitoring chewing is essential to ensure that dogs properly chew their food rather than gulping it down. This careful observation can help in preventing potential risks like choking or intestinal blockages from large, unchewed pieces.

  • Technique: Encourage slow feeding by holding one end of the bone while your dog chews.
  • Supervision: Always supervise your dog during meal times to intervene if necessary.

Consult an experienced professional for balanced diet advice

Consulting an experienced professional for advice on a balanced diet is a critical step in the transition to raw feeding. A professional can provide valuable insights into achieving nutritional balance, helping to avoid any deficiencies or excesses that could impact the dog's health.

  • Questions to ask:
    • What specific raw foods are recommended for my dog's breed and size?
    • How can I ensure the diet is nutritionally balanced?
    • Are there any supplements needed to complement the raw diet?

Alternative dental health maintenance methods

Beyond raw feeding, several alternative methods exist to uphold a dog's dental health. Regular dental check-ups, dental chews and toys, and tooth brushing with pet-safe toothpaste offer practical approaches to maintaining oral hygiene. Each method has its unique benefits and can be used in conjunction with a raw diet or as standalone dental care strategies.




Frequency Recommendations

Specific Products/Techniques

Regular Dental Check-ups

Veterinary examinations to assess dental health.

Early detection and prevention of dental issues.

At least once a year, but more frequently for breeds prone to dental problems.


Dental Chews and Toys

Products designed to promote chewing, which naturally cleans the teeth and stimulates the gums.

Reduces tartar buildup and massages gums.

Daily use is recommended.

Look for products approved by veterinary dental organizations, such as VOHC-approved chews.

Tooth Brushing

Using pet-safe toothpaste to clean a dog's teeth.

Controls plaque buildup and removes food particles and bacteria.

Daily brushing is ideal.

Use a soft-bristled toothbrush designed for dogs and pet-safe toothpaste. Introduce slowly, starting with letting the dog taste the toothpaste, then gradually progress to brushing.

Regular dental check-ups for early problem detection

Regular dental check-ups are crucial for maintaining dental health, allowing for the early detection of potential issues. Timely identification and treatment can prevent the progression of dental diseases. Veterinarians can provide tailored advice based on the dog's age, breed, and dental condition.

Dental chews and toys to reduce tartar

Incorporating dental chews and toys into a dog's routine can significantly reduce tartar buildup. These products are designed to promote chewing, which naturally cleans the teeth and stimulates the gums, contributing to overall dental health. It's important to select size-appropriate chews to avoid choking hazards and ensure the product is durable enough to withstand heavy chewing without breaking apart.

Tooth brushing with pet-safe toothpaste for plaque control

Tooth brushing with pet-safe toothpaste is an effective strategy for plaque control. Regular brushing helps to remove food debris and bacteria, ensuring a clean mouth and contributing to the prevention of dental problems. Introducing tooth brushing gradually can help dogs become comfortable with the process, making it a positive experience for both the pet and the owner.

By employing these alternative dental health maintenance methods, dog owners can ensure their pets maintain optimal oral health, whether they are on a raw diet or not.

Scott Marshall
Scott Marshall

Scott has been feeding a raw dog food diet for over 13 years. He lives in Utah with his wife Arianne, his 11.5 year old german shepherd Wolken, and his 2.5 year old labradoodle Montu. Scott has been teaching others about raw feeding since 2013, started Raw Feeding 101 in 2017, and has been solely focused on simplifying the process of pet parents meeting their dogs’ daily nutrient requirements since 2018.

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