Dog Dental Treats and Chews, What You Need to Know About Your Dog’s Oral Health

One of the most important and most preventable diseases that your dog (or pet) will undoubtedly face in his lifetime is dental disease.  The Royal Veterinary College of London (RVC) published a PDF in 2002 that stated periodontal disease is the most common infectious disease of adult dogs.  Did you know that it affect over 87% of dogs that are over the age of three?  That is a lot of dogs, living with a preventable disease!

The truth is that your dog’s oral hygiene and care of his teeth and mouth is just as importance as your oral hygiene and the care of your teeth and mouth!  Not only will good oral hygiene play a major role in freshening breath; it will give your pet healthier teeth and reduce plaque and tartar

Could you imagine what your teeth would look like if you only brushed them once a month, once every 6 weeks, or perhaps never at all?

I often hear pet owners tell me that the groomer brushes their pet’s teeth every 6 weeks or so when they take them in for a haircut or bath.  But, let me tell you that only caring about your dog’s breath or pet’s breath and oral hygiene every 6 weeks is not nearly enough for his teeth, mouth and all over body to remain healthy.

You see, pretty much immediately after your dog eats his dog food or even a treat, bacteria, combines with saliva, food and other substances (that were already in his mouth) to form an adhesive or gooey film; also known as plaque.  This plaque then sits on top of his teeth and gums.  Interestingly dogs have a more alkaline or acidic mouths than his human counterparts, which promotes more plaque formation.  If this plaque is not brushed off or dealt with using dog dental treats or dog dental chews; it forms a hard calcified deposit known as tartar or dental calculus.

Plaque which leads to dental calculus and dental tartar can cause serious infections and gum disease.


Once plaque begins to form, long term, your dog’s body (or your body if we are talking human periodontal disease) sends white blood cells to defend or attack the foreign matter that it does not recognize.  Due to the bacteria which is located in the sticky plaque causes the white blood cells to release enzymes that in turn also break down even healthy gum tissue.

This bacteria and addition of white blood cells can lead to severe infections that can even affect your dog’s heart, kidneys, and liver.

This break down and infection leads to destroyed tissue both healthy and infected, inflamed gums, and loss of bone.  Infections can spiral out of control quickly and cause swelling around the jaw and even up underneath the eye socket causing severe pain in and around the ocular nerve and around  surrounding tissue.  This often leads to refusal to eat and lethargy.  The swelling can even get to the point that it ruptures and oozes either outside the face and eye or inside the mouth.  The veterinary oral health council can also provide more information for those pet owners who want to stay in the “know”.   The veterinary oral health council has a lot of great information.

At this point, a canine dental cleaning and the extraction of teeth is required to relieve the pain and the promotion of healthy and regular eating habits to reemerge.

Effective dental cleanings require anesthesia and often dental x-rays.  These will help your veterinarian to locate problems and clean up under the gumline.  Awake canine dental cleaning (dentals without sedation or anesthesia; often offered by non-veterinarians) are unsafe and can be dangerous if your dog swallows, breathes or ingests a lot of paste or water.  Your vet will be happy to speak to you about the risks and advantages for your specific dog.

Did you know that canine dental disease can even lead to a change in behavior and increase the likelihood of bites and aggression?  When we or your furry friend are in pain, it often causes a change in behavior which can lead to a shorter fuse and more signs of aggression.

Common Signs of Dental Disease

  • Bad breath
  • Build up of yellow deposits on the teeth by the gums
  • Red swollen or bleeding gums
  • Blood in drinking water
  • Pawing at face
  • Head shyness or not wanting to be touched on the head or snout
  • Trouble eating and obvious pain when chewing
  • Increased salivation (sometimes bloody discharge)
  • Sneezing or nasal discharge (sometimes bloody) because advanced gum disease can destroy the bone between the nasal and oral cavity.

The good news?

Advanced dental disease is almost completely preventable and avoidable!

There was a veterinary study done on 53 Labrador Retrievers that discovered some very interesting information!  Essentially age, breed, diet and nonregular veterinary canine dental cleanings largely contributed to periodontitis and lasting effects as well as loss of teeth.   It also stated that some areas were difficult to assess by dog owners and recommended regular assessment by a qualified veterinarian (which sometimes might include sedation).

What Can You Do?

  • Daily tooth brushing for your pet is best! Most people brush twice a day!
  • Provide a nutritious hard (also known as dry) dog food. Some veterinary diets or dog foods are even formulated to help scrub your pet’s teeth and prevent plaque and decay.
  • Dog dental treats
  • Dog dental or oral care chews
  • Oral rinses
  • Water additives
  • Gels
  • Yearly and sometimes biannual (especially older at risk dogs) dental checkups with your vet

Not only will these things assist your pet with good oral health and the reduction of bacteria, it will help keep his heart, kidneys and liver strong all while providing fresh breath.  This reduction in infection and disease can help your pet’s longevity and help him live a longer and happier life.

Get your puppy or kitten used to a brushing regimen and these products early in life; this will prevent a struggle with a full grown or adult pet and condition him that these habits are happy and a normal part of a healthy life!  Remember dogs learn best and acclimate better when they are puppies.

I, for one, would do just about anything to extend my dog’s quality of life and give him more days, weeks, months or even years to spend with me.  After all, our pets don’t live long enough.

Specially formulated Dental Dog Food

Most of the dentally formulated dog foods or pet foods are sold through prescription or your veterinary office only these tend to be slightly more effective.  If in doubt even a handful of a prescription diet like Science Diet’s TD will help with your pet’s oral health.

Just a note.  Avoid grain free diets!  Grain free diets have been proven to cause some major heart issues in dogs that the veterinary world has just discovered.  Grain free diets are not recommended and not safe.  Stick with big dog food companies and brands and avoid the promises of small claims.

A few of those are:

  • Science Diet TD which combats plaque and tartar
  • Purina Pro Plan DH which combats tartar

Over the counter diets include:

Science Diet Oral Care for dogs which combats both plaque and tartar

Hills Healthy Advance Oral Care for Dogs which combats plaque and tartar

Eukanuba Adult Maintenance Diet which combats tartar

Dog Dental Treats and Chews

Ingredients Matter

Many of these dental treats for dogs include vitamins and minerals that not only help with freshening breath, these nutrients are also crucial to your pets  development.  Many of these vitamins, nutrients and minerals may not be found naturally.

One of the other ingredients in some of the dog dental chews is chlorhexidine.  This ingredient is safe to ingest in small doses and helps to combat the bacteria that can reside in your best friend’s mouth.  This ingredient also helps to freshen breath and keep plaque from adhering and forming tartar.

Enzymes are another ingredient that helps to break down plaque and tartar that are beginning to form. Just like enzyme cleaners help to break down pet urine, enzyme as an ingredient in treats for dogs, chews, water additives, gels, and toothpaste can help break down plaque and tartar.

C.E.T. manufactured by Virbac ® is one of the largest and most effective brands available. These products can be found online or at your veterinary hospital for purchase.

Just chewing something for an extended period of time will be helpful, like bully sticks. Dogs love bully sticks. Chewing helps to reduce tartar but if you want the best bang for your buck, research the ingredients that each product offers.

Different ingredients provide a different level of care for dealing with and reducing tartar and dealing with doggie breath. No one likes doggie breath. And, all good products will provide you with an ingredients list. Ingredients can also be researched online.

Greenies ®

One of the biggest and well known brands of dog dental treats and chews is Greenies which have been around since the early 2000’s, as I recall.  But, controversy has followed Mars Inc. the pet care giant  (and the company that owns Greenies).

In 2006, CNN exposed a story that revealed 13 dogs t had died after ingesting or biting off large pieces of one of the Greenies dental treats, touted to reduce tarter for healthier teeth and freshen breath.  Dogs loved Greenies but these large pieces were not easily digested and some had to be surgically removed from several dogs.

One set of owners, Michale Eastwood and Jenny Reiff brought a 5 million dollar suit claiming that their dog, Burt, died after consuming a Greeny.  The suit was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

Interestingly, several months before CNN brought to light the story and the dog owners brought suit; I had decided to quit feeding Greenies to my dog.  He had continually vomited large pieces of undigested matter.

Thankfully, the suit brought about changes to the Greenies brand and Greenies were reconstructed and made more digestible.  Dogs love Greenies still!

Years later Mars Inc. was again sued for touting Greenies as being the #1 veterinary recommended dog dental treats and chews.

Greenies are, however, still available and still very popular among veterinary staff and dog owners.

Dental issues can be avoided, as can bad doggie breath if you encourage chewing, brush your dog’s teeth, and implement some other great ingredients.  You can even extend your dog’s life with good oral health care!

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