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Can a dog dental chew help keep your dog's teeth clean? Are dental chews actually good for your dog's dental health and 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 some dog dental chews can also be dangerous and unhealthy.
Here are the pros, cons, and important steps to take when considering dog chews for your dog...
Step 1: Check for these ingredients carefully
Marketing for most of the leading dental dog chew brands describes 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!
Step 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, but bigger-than-their-mouths 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.
Step 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:
- 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.
- If your dog has sensitive teeth or gums - if your dog experiences pain or discomfort when chewing, it is likely your dog has sensitive teeth or gums and should stick to softer dental chews.
- 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.
- 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.
A big part of choosing the right dental treats comes down to knowing your dog! Test a few dental chew options and supervise what's best for your specific dog.
Step 4: For commercial dog dental chews, look for 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.
The bottom line for dog dental chews: Read, supervise - and still brush!
When choosing dog dental chews, here's what it comes down to:
- Read the ingredients on the labels of dental treats and avoid those with low quality ingredients.
- Always supervise your dog with any dental dog treats.
- 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 step-by-step guide on how to brush your dog's teeth, go here.)
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 your dog enjoys!
Next up in the Dental Health Channel on Dogly
Now that you've learned how to brush your dog's teeth, make your own dog toothpaste, and choose the best dental chews for your dog, your dog hopefully has pearly white teeth and fresh breath! If not, that's ok! You can start from the beginning of any of the step-by-step guides in the Dental Health Channel on Dogly here.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the Community discussion in the Dental Health Channel or jump over to any of the other channels like Manners to improve your dog's Basic, Leash, and Food Manners or Home-cooking to learn how to make your dog's food at home. Or, if you need more personalized overall wellness help, the Dogly Advocates are here to help work with you 1-1 if needed!