On Chewing Bones for Older Dogs, Dental Health, Essential Oils to Avoid + Dangers of Raw Tubers

The below exchange generated a lot of interest recently on our Yahoo Group and I am sharing here just in case it might be of help to others.

Q: What are good Chewing Bones for an old guy?

Our dear Francisco turned 13 this year! He has been enjoying the beef knuckle bones and the occasional calf foot for recreational chewing and to keep his teeth and gums clean. I stopped giving him any bones that had been cut a long time ago, because he would try to break off pieces and then chipped 2 of his large back teeth.

I recently learned that the Green Tripe knuckle bones are not being stocked any longer, so I am looking for suggestions for other bones that might be safe for him to chew – rounded edges are important. He gets tired of gnawing on bones more quickly than he used to, so I am concerned about his dental health. (except at Christmas when he got his last calf foot he took it outside for quite a while over 2 days and kept himself very busy!)

Alternately, I am thinking I should start brushing his teeth, but don’t like any of the canine toothpaste products in the store. they all have glycerine in them which prevents remineralization. I wonder if it would be safe to use the toothsoap made for humans? Are there any essential oils that we should avoid for oral use? The toothsoap has things like clove, cinnamon, fennel, wintergreen, etc. depending on the flavor. Rupam said she could make an unflavored version.

His gums and teeth look ok, but I think they could look better with regular chewing. He pulled a parsnip out of the grocery bag yesterday to chew on (he hardly ever does that, haha!) and it was a bit bloodied, so I am concerned his gums need some attention.

Looking forward to feedback!



A: Hi Deborah!  Congratulations on Francisco turning 13!!!  What an achievement – from the last time I saw him, he’s doing wonderfully! He looks and feels great — a very youthful 13, indeed, thanks to all your loving and exceptionally attentive, good care.

Francisco just before his 13th Birthday — volunteering at SFRAW!

We sell knuckle bones, but they are not necessarily as round/uniform in size and small as the ones GT had. They are inexpensive, just $1.83/lb from BN Ranch (“regular beef bones” from great truly pastured source). We also have gelatinous beef bones from Marin Sun Farms ($4.37/lb) which have a good amount of cartilage attached (some people may refer to them as “kneecaps”) — these are softer for a recreational choice, and work well for many older dogs with the extra cartilage (joint supporting); so long as they can tolerate the fat content of these bones, and do not bite down hard to chew (being the weight bearing bones of large herbivores, they may break teeth).


Have you tried the whole raw trachea from GreenTripe.com? We’ve been getting these again recently and they are good (a lot of people stuff them but they can be fed as is as a pretty easy chew that is not a risk for their teeth at all); their raw hooves are also excellent and very safe to feed. Indeed, their raw hooves are the only chew type product that I feel is actually safe to leave unattended. They are an excellent choice.


We love the raw hooves from GreenTripe.com! Great for stuffing, we often refer to them as “Nature’s Kong”.

I don’t know if you’ve considered it before, but for dental health/teeth cleaning, I have come to use the following cuts of meats because they are tough/chewy and/or gritty, yet boneless. They can really help clean teeth because of the texture of these muscle fibers, and make for a great chewing option for individuals that are not great candidates for eating whole bones, especially when you feed these cuts in big pieces and frozen:

– Tongue (beef, lamb)

– Cheeks (beef)

– Gizzards (turkey, chicken or duck)

– Beef tendons (special order)

Larger, more complicated bones such as whole duck carcass, whole turkey carcass, lamb heads, and even the lamb breasts or whole lamb necks — all make for nice recreational chewing options for medium/lg sized dogs while also being soft enough to not do damage to the teeth. Feeding these cuts whole/big (and frozen) is an extra trick to making them last longer, and have the animal spend more time on chewing, if needed.

You may also want to look at the oxtails (when available – they can be hard to come by) and bison tails — when whole and not cut into small rounds.  They are a nice option for older dogs, too.

Have you tried the Himalayan dog chews (it is a super hard cheese product made from yak milk)? None of my own dogs have liked them and they are expensive, but they are very popular with some dogs.  I like that they are clean and non-smelly/non-staining — it’s nice to just leave out and so they can chew when they feel the need.  Same goes for the antler chews — there are a number of options for these (deer, elk, etc.) and they have many of the same benefits for stability, being clean and non-staining/non-smelly.  (We don’t have them in stock, but we can order them for you, if you’d like.)

Lastly, our list of RMB feeding suggestions can be found here (it has lists for different circumstances for different dogs/cats — you may see something here that sounds good).

Regarding the tooth powder/dentifrice: Below please find my “go to” list of “Essential Oils to Avoid” that can be found in my favorite book on this topic, Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals by Kristen Leigh Bell. (Remember: ALL essential oils are unsafe for felines and should be avoided entirely)



Bitter Almond






Clove (although I make exceptions for very pure/exceptionally high quality, very diluted, for topical use in small amounts)

Crested Lavender




Hyssop (use decumbens variety only – OK)

Juniper (use Juniper Berry only – OK)





Red or White Thyme





Tea Tree






Her list is fairly conservative but I appreciate a cautionary approach when working with these substances because they are so concentrated and powerful. The risk of toxicity and how dramatically they can act upon the body is not something to be taken casually. She does not recommend EOs for internal use, so I’ll let you decide if you’d feel comfortable with EOs in a dentifrice.

Your question came at a good time as I JUST posted my recipe for tooth powder on our blog here.  As you can see, I use herbs rather than essential oils in my recipe; I think this is much safer while providing excellent benefits.

Lastly, the mention of the parsnip prompts me to just gently remind all readers to be very careful of dogs ingesting large pieces of hard root vegetables (sweet potato, for example – a common culprit in bowl obstructions that require surgical intervention to remove) as they can and do cause very serious obstructions. These foods are not digestible for dogs when raw and whole; they need to be cooked/mashed or ground finely/juiced in order to be digested by a dog’s system.  On this thread — I hope people reading also know that corn cobs are seriously deadly (if ingested); as are any large pits (like avocado seeds) – these pose a risk for possible obstruction.

Few Helpful Links: Here’s a pretty cool article about how to best proceed when faced with a foreign body ingestion situation with your dog and a blog post of someone sharing their story about their dog eating a corn cob (warning: it’s a very relevant story which I think would resonate with many readers, but unfortunately, she uses a lot of swear words throughout, which may offend some people. Fair warning made here, so you are aware of the language used before clicking though.

Hope this helps!  Here’s to gleaming fresh and healthy teeth/gums for Francisco!




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