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  The Bite Stuff

Photo of Alan with dog
Alan prepares Penny for some doggie oral hygiene.

While American dog owners certainly pamper their pets, there is one aspect of doggy healthcare that's often overlooked: oral hygiene. In nature, wolves and coyotes keep their teeth sharp and clean thanks to the tearing and chewing associated with a wild diet. But dining on canned meat and dry kibble can lead to a phenomenon all too familiar to domestic dog owners - "doggy breath."

In "The Bite Stuff," Alan visits a commercial pet food laboratory where scientists like Dan Richardson have developed a kibble that doubles as an edible toothbrush, by scraping food and plaque off dogs' teeth. Conventional dry dog food comes in tiny pieces, so dogs can swallow it without any chewing at all. But scientists at Hill's have designed a bigger, chewier kibble that forces dogs to sink their teeth into each piece, allowing the food to wipe each tooth clean.

Photo of researcher smelling dog
A lucky researcher takes a sniff of after-dinner dog breath.

In one of his most daring acts yet on SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN FRONTIERS, Alan joins an intrepid panel of judges to rate the food's effectiveness. To do so, they head right to the source, getting up close to their canine subjects and rating each dog's breath on a scale from 0: no detectable smell, to 9: "knock 'em dead." Alan grades Blackjack, who's been eating regular food, a six. But the dog who's been munching the hi-tech kibbles? Success! Alan gives that pooch a one.

For more on this topic, see the web feature:
What the Nose Knows

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