From chewies to dental bones to dental diets, what makes the biggest difference for your dog’s teeth, gums, and breath? Should you even be concerned about your dog’s oral health?
Yes. Dogs can suffer from gum (periodontal) disease just like people, and it’s not something to ignore. Dental problems in dogs can lead to loss of appetite and broken or lost teeth, and it may even damage other organs if bacteria get into the bloodstream through diseased gums.
Young puppies are highly susceptible to certain infectious diseases and
should be vaccinated against them as soon as they are old enough to build
immunity. These diseases are distemper, infectious
hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza, and
rabies. Leptospirosis, giardia, coronavirus, bordetella,
bronchiseptica, and Lyme diseasevaccinations are optional,
depending on the occurrence of these diseases in your area and your dog’s individual risk factors.
The American Animal Hospital Association...
Professional cleanings and brushing your dog's teeth are great ways to maintain oral health. Dog dental treats or special diets also may provide some oral benefits, but using them comes with precautions.
The Benefits of Dog Dental Treats
Just as with humans, dogs can suffer from oral problems like:
Build-up of saliva, bacteria, and food on teeth (plaque)
A hard yellow or brown residue on teeth (tartar)
Swollen, bleeding, or irritated gums
Improving teeth and gum health. Dogs that chew actively have less plaque build-up. And some types of dog dental treats and diets can reduce plaque by nearly 70%. How do they do this? Simply the mechanical action of chewing can make a difference. In one study, increasing the diameter of kibble by 50% led to a 42% reduction in tartar. In the same study, coating the products with a substance called polyphosphate further reduced tartar by 55%. It prevents plaque from turning into tartar by isolating calcium on teeth.
The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) is an organization that evaluates pet products to see if they meet standards for reducing plaque or tartar. Approved foods, treats, and chews must reduce plaque or tartar by at least 10% to achieve the VOHC seal of approval. If a chemical anti-plaque agent is used, it needs to reduce plaque or tartar by at least 20%. Go to http://www.vohc.org/accepted_products.htm to see which products have received the VOHC seal of approval.
Reducing bad breath in dogs. It is not uncommon for a dog’s breath to be slightly unpleasant. This is often the result of bacteria build-up in the mouth and can be a sign that your dog needs better dental or gum care. However, it’s not a bad idea to check with your vet to make sure bad breath is not a sign of an underlying medical problem.
In addition to professional cleaning and regular tooth brushing, certain dog treats are also formulated to help improve breath. Hard chew toys may also help. See what your vet recommends.
Types of Dog Dental Treats and Diets
A wide variety of dog dental treats and diets make claims of reducing plaque and tartar or improving breath. Some have voluntarily been tested and received the VOHC seal of approval. Most are available in stores, but some you can only purchase through veterinarians. Here are the main types:
Rawhide chews. Made from the hides of cows or horses, rawhide chews can reduce plaque and tartar. They come in different sizes and shapes.
Dental chews, bones, and biscuits. Greenies®, Del Monte Tartar Check® Dog Biscuits, Bright Bites, and Vetradent Dog Chews are examples of edible products approved by the VOHC.
Dog dental diets. Some dog food formulations help reduce plaque and tartar. They do this in a variety of ways. Some are made into larger kibble or a texture that resists crumbling, which creates a scrubbing action. Others have a special coating that helps prevent bacteria, reduce plaque, or discourage the formation of tartar. Ask your vet about these and special dental diets available only through the veterinary market.
Dog chew toys. Although not edible, chew toys such as Kong® toys, Plaque Attackers®, or Gumabones® may be a good choice, especially for dogs that chew through edible treats too quickly.