Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
May 14, 2018
We love our pets. But, our cats and dogs are prone to a common disease that we as humans also must deal with. Our pets often develop dental diseases (tooth decay and gum disease). Dental diseases can cause loss of teeth and can contribute to other chronic diseases. Interestingly, animals in the wild rarely have dental diseases. Why are our pets suffering from these life-threatening diseases while animals living in their natural, wild environments mainly avoid these devasting dental problems?
Imagine for a moment an animal who lived 200,000 years ago. I’ll call her “Fluffy”. Fluffy was a cuddly little creature who used her teeth to chew her food to gain the nutrition she required to survive. But, something happened to Fluffy and all of her brothers and sisters. They all began to develop tooth decay, pain in the mouth, and bleeding gums. Their teeth began to rot, get loose, and eventually fall out. Can you imagine what would happen to Fluffy and all her kind?
Sadly, they would become weak because of pain, infection, and lack of nutrients. Predators would take advantage of their weakness and eat them for lunch. Eventually, this species would be wiped out from the evolutionary line because of natural selection. Fluffy and her species would have died off and not be alive today.
Animals alive today who require teeth to chew their food were not designed to develop tooth decay or gum disease as a natural sequence of life. If so, they could not survive. It is no surprise that animals in the wild today rarely have dental diseases. So, why do our cherished cats and dogs have rampant tooth decay and gum disease?
Food is medicine. But, food can be poison, too!
Take a look at the ingredients in most commercial cat and dog food. The first several ingredients usually are a collection of grains, fillers, and other processed products. Then down the line in the ingredients’ list, you’ll find added chemicals, preservatives, unhealthy fats, and emulsifiers. This “food” is what we are feeding our beloved pets.
A cats’ digestive system is designed to eat meat. They are obligate carnivores. Dogs have a digestive system that wants to eat mostly meat. When we feed our much-loved pets products that their body cannot digest and does not need, then their immune system will become compromised. A compromised immune system is more susceptible to infections in addition to the manifestation of chronic diseases. Dental disease is one of many infectious, chronic diseases.
Humans have experienced the same scenario as our favorite pets. Our primal ancestors rarely had tooth decay or gum disease. However, today the prevalence of some form of gum disease or gum inflammation in US adults approaches 94% , and the prevalence of those who have had tooth decay approaches 92% .
Some foods like grains can damage the gut microbiome and the gut lining . When these foods are combined with a slew of chemicals and are eaten several times a day, the gut never can get over the constant insult to begin healing from the previous meal. Over time, chronic systemic inflammation can become the norm and not the exception. The ultimate result is the manifestation of chronic diseases.
In addition, added sugars in our foods will damage the gut, provide food for pathogenic bacteria, and initiate various forms of injury to other organ systems .
Cats and dogs prefer a raw diet – cats require meat, and dogs require mostly meat. This is what their digestive systems were optimized to eat. In contrast, humans are adaptive and true omnivores.
Our body requires an organic diet including a variety of foods – nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and wild caught or pastured animal products from nose to tail.
No animals, including humans, benefit from chemicals, preservatives, genetically modified organisms, emulsifiers, or any artificial ingredients added to food.
So, why do our pets have dental diseases? Because the foods most domesticated animals eat are not healthy for their mouth as well as their entire body. Remove the junk and put it the good stuff! These steps will go a long way in avoiding dental diseases.