Monday, February 22, 2016

The Best Raw Meats for Cleaning Your Dog's Teeth

February is National Pet Dental Health Month.  I am fortunate that my dogs all have excellent dental health, without any intervention from me, other than feeding a raw diet.

One of the most widely-touted benefits of feeding a raw diet is improving or maintaining a dog's dental health.  In my opinion, any form of a raw diet is better for a dog's dental health than kibble, but some meat items are renowned for their teeth cleaning abilities.

Photo via Flickr creative commons.
Many people, even those that don't feed raw, know to give a dog a bone to clean it's teeth.  Large, weight-bearing bones are not considered edible, and not appropriate for all dogs, including my dogs.  My dogs, and others, might try to eat these bones, resulting in tooth injury, and sharp shards of bone that can potentially injure the mouth or digestive tract.

However, many bones are considered "soft" and edible.  Most of these are ideal for teeth cleaning.  I do not believe in offering any "naked" bones.  Bones should be surrounded by meat if a dog is going to consume them.

Many boneless cuts of meat are great at improving or maintaining a dog's dental health. 

The ideal cut of meat (bone-in or boneless) for cleaning a dog's teeth is thick and requires multiple chomps or gnawing to get it down to a size that a dog can swallow it.

If you're interested in photos of raw meals for dogs, click HERE.

Meats that Clean a Dog's Teeth

Large chicken leg quarters.  These are a staple in my dogs diet.  The quarters I feed are large, typically weighing 16-24 ounces.  They require multiple chomps, and the shearing force against the teeth keeps them clean.  Duck quarters can also be effective.

Pork butt or shoulder with skin.  Raw pork skin is an awesome toothbrush for dogs.  It is tough, and attached to a thick chunk of meat that the dog must also work to get through.  Some raw feeders refer to pork skin as "nature's toothbrush."

Turkey necks.  Or duck or chicken necks, depending on the size of the dog.  Turkey necks are full of soft, edible bone and cartilage, and with each bite or chomp, this bone and cartilage scrapes the teeth, cleaning them or keeping them clean.

Beef tongue.  Beef tongue is large, thick, and tough. Three necessary components for a good teeth cleaning meat. It can be cut into smaller portions. My advice is to use a serrated knife to do this.

Pork, venison, goat, or lamb ribs.  Ribs should be fed in at least two to three bone slabs, with the meat on them.  Some dogs cannot safely consume ribs.  If the dog is a smart eater, and will not try to consume ribs that are too hard/large for them, they still make good teeth cleaners, as the dog will have to work to get the meat off of and from in between the bones.

Chicken and duck feet.  While these can be given to large dogs, they offer more dental benefits for smaller dogs.

Any large, thick cut of meat.  Feeding a large cut of meat partially frozen, even if it is a tender meat, can increase it's dental health benefits. Examples include beef hearts, beef roasts, pork loin, pork roast, turkey breast, venison hams.

Tripe.  Some feel that feeding tripe, even ground tripe, is good for a dog's teeth due to it's acidity.  Even though I am a huge fan of feeding tripe to dogs, I am still somewhat skeptical of this claim.

This is far from a conclusive list of raw meats that are good for a dog's teeth and dental health.  These are just some that I regularly or semi-regularly feed my dogs.  If you have any others to add to the list, please let me know in the comments!

Do you ever "throw your dog a bone" for their dental health?


  1. I've given chicken, duck and turkey wings and necks to the small dogs. Never thought about tongue, but that's a good idea!

  2. Our pups get chicken leg quarters, duck necks & turkey necks (& ground tripe every now & then). I also treat them with dehydrated duck feet, but mainly for their natural glucosamine & chondroitin content.

    Thank you for the pork butt & beef tongue ideas! We haven't tried those yet.

  3. Fantastic list!

    Our dogs get duck necks, turkey necks, lamb necks, beef kneecaps, and beef knuckle bones for teeth cleaning.

    The tripe I buy is ground so I didn't think it was helpful for teeth cleaning; I didn't know about the acidity.


  4. I heard brisket is meant to be a good bone whole for larger dogs or chopped into 2-3 pieces for smaller dogs. They are highly flexible

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