Your Dog's Dental Health: How To Know If Dog Dental Chews Are Good For Your Dog
Step 4 of 4 in the Dogly Dental Health Channel
with Allison Shalla of homeoPAWthic, Wellness Advocate

Can dental chews help keep your dog's teeth clean? Are they actually good for your dog's dental health and their overall health as well?

For dog parents looking for ways to keep your dog's teeth clean, fight tartar buildup, reduce plaque, and eliminate bad breath in a simple, everyday way (and preempt professional cleanings and anesthesia), dog chews can be a great tool.

Most dogs LOVE chewing. The act of chewing has a natural calming and comforting effect in our dogs' brains - it triggers the release of endorphins and gives our dogs a way to relieve stress and entertain themselves.

But dog dental chews can also be dangerous and unhealthy.

Here are the pros, cons, and important watch-outs on dog chews for your dog...

Tip 1: Check for these ingredients carefully

Marketing for most of the leading dental dog chew brands describe their ingredients as healthy and "natural" but those descriptors don't always hold up under careful reading of the actual ingredients list.

Here are some of the ingredients to be aware of in a few of the leading dog dental chew brands.

  • Glycerin - a sugar alcohol which can be harmful to dogs' teeth and contribute to tooth decay
  • BHA and BHT - preservatives which have been linked with cancer in dogs
  • Corn gluten meal - a cheap filler ingredient
  • Powdered cellulose - powdered cellulose=wood pulp!
  • Wheat gluten - not good for any dog with wheat sensitivities like mine
  • Color - artificial & unnecessary
  • Anything rawhide - Rawhide is a choking and intestinal obstruction hazard and should be avoided in any form

Dental dog treats and chews may clean your pet's teeth but if it comes with a stomach full of poor quality and potentially harmful ingredients is it worth it? Not in my opinion!

Tip 2: Choose honestly natural, healthful dental chews & dental treats like these

Good news! It is possible to choose dental chews & treats for your dog's oral health that are entirely natural and made with high quality ingredients.

The best dog dental chews are not only natural but digestible as well.

Here are my top picks for natural, healthy dog dental chews that may help to promote clean teeth, gum health, reduce plaque and tartar, and freshen your dog's breath:

  • Raw or frozen raw bones - if these are appropriate for your dog, make sure you are choosing the right size bone for your dog's mouth to avoid any type of choking hazard. Small dogs should have smaller bones whereas large dogs should have larger bones. Also, never give your dog cooked bones which become too fragile and splinter into small pieces.
  • Bully sticks - in addition to cleaning your dog's teeth, bully sticks are also a great source of amino acids/protein.
  • Raw carrot sticks - while raw carrots are not easily digested by dogs, most dogs love chewing on them and they are great for cleaning teeth.

No matter which dental bones or chews you choose for your dog, always remember to supervise your dog while they enjoy. If dental chews become too small or start to break into pieces, give your dog something else to chew on and remove the chew in question.

Tip 3: Learn your dog's chewing style

Different dogs have different chewing styles and some are more prone to oral health problems than others.

Determining which dental chews are a good fit for your pup may require a bit of detective work on your part.

Here are 4 things to pay attention to when choosing dog dental treats for your dog:

  1. If your dog is a gulper - some dogs swallow dental chew treats whole which defeats the purpose of cleaning their teeth. If your dog is a gulper, try smaller or softer dental chews.
  2. If your dog has sensitive teeth or gums - if your dog experiences pain or discomfort when chewing, it is likely they have sensitive teeth or gums and should stick to softer dental chews.
  3. If your dog has a lot of plaque or tartar build-up - if your dog already has a lot of plaque or tartar build-up, then choosing a dental chew that helps to reduce plaque and tartar may be a better fit for them.
  4. If your dog has bad breath - one of the key benefits of dental chews is they help to freshen your dog's breath. If your dog's bad breath persists even after chewing on a dental chew, then you should consult with your vet about the cause of the bad breath.

Try this

A big part of choosing the right dental treats comes down to knowing your dog! Test out a few dental chew options and supervise what's best for your specific dog.

Tip 4: For commercial dog dental chews, think fewer ingredients, recognizable, real, & digestible

If you prefer to give your dog commercial dental chews, there are a few things you should look for. Ideally, you want to find dental chews with fewer ingredients, all of which are recognizable and real. You also want to make sure the ingredients listed are easily digestible by dogs.

Here are a few commercial dental chew brands that fit these criteria:

  • Get Naked Dental Sticks - these dental chews have clean ingredients and I use them with my own dogs.
  • ProDen Plaque Off Bones - These somewhat abrasive-texture, dental "bones" chews are made of very limited number of quality, natural ingredients, including sea kelp. Recent studies have shown sea kelp to have natural enzymatic oral hygiene effects, reducing plaque and tartar with even a small amount daily. These dental chews are also well digested by my dogs.

The bottom line for dog dental chews: Read, supervise - and still brush!

When choosing dog dental chews, here's what it comes down to:

  1. Read the ingredients on the labels of dental treats and avoid those with low quality ingredients.
  2. Always supervise your dog with any dental dog treats.
  3. Daily brushing with a soft toothbrush or finger brush and dog toothpaste is still the best line of defense to maintain your dog's oral hygiene and dental health! (For my how-to on brushing your dog's teeth, see here.)

And if you're ever unsure about an ingredient or the safety of dog dental chews, ask the Advocate Community here on Dogly or consult your veterinarian.

The best way to keep your dog's teeth clean is to brush them regularly but using dental chews as an adjunct to brushing can be a great way to help reduce plaque, tartar, and bad breath. So, choose the right dental chews for your dog, read the labels, and supervise while they enjoy!

See All The Advocates Have Shared in the Dental Health Channel