They’re an easy way to keep his teeth clean – but make sure you’re buying safe and healthy dental products.
Good dental health is a vital part of your dog’s well-being. Periodontal disease is very painful, and will negatively impact his health on many levels. It can affect his ability to eat and enjoy food, leading to weight loss or digestive issues, and can also cause dangerous infections, not just in the oral cavity but in organs like the heart and kidneys. The constant discomfort of a sore mouth can also profoundly affect a dog’s behavior and lead to depression, lethargy and irritability.
A fresh, healthy meat-based diet and regular veterinary checkups and cleanings are two important ways to keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy. Many veterinarians also recommend daily home brushing, and/or the use of no-brush
dental products. Good quality dental treats should also be part of the regime.
“Dental treats are a fairly easy way for people to help care for their animals’ teeth,” says veterinarian Dr. Elisa Katz. “They are much easier than brushing as long as the animal accepts them.”
Today’s market offers a plethora of dental treats – but many aren’t good choices. In fact, a large number of commercial products provide few to no benefits, contain questionable ingredients, or are downright unsafe. Just because something is chewy, hard or crunchy doesn’t mean it’s good for cleaning your dog’s teeth. We don’t clean our own teeth by snacking on crispy chips, crackers or hard candies, because we know these treats are ineffective and loaded with ingredients that actually promote tooth decay.
When choosing a dental treat for your dog, stick to quality products and learn to read labels. It’s just as important to know what isn’t in a dental treat as what’s in it. Also be sure to look for the product’s country of origin and where it’s made.
Using these guidelines, let’s first look at what to avoid in dental treats. This will eliminate a large number of common products and make your final selection easier.
Steer clear of these
• Don’t buy any products containing artificial ingredients, colors or chemical preservatives. “Certain preservatives like BHA and BHT have been linked to cancer,” says Dr. Katz. “Artificial ingredients are not recognized by the body as food and may cause digestive upset or other problems.”
• “Avoid rawhide treats, as they can cause intestinal blockage and contain toxic chemicals from their processing,” says Scott Freeman, creator and founder of Nature’s Logic. “Treats made or sourced in China should also be avoided due to the history of questionable products coming from that region.” Scott adds that it’s not a good idea to purchase treats made with added synthetic vitamins and minerals, since a dog may end up ingesting too-high levels of a particular nutrient, and that can be toxic.
• “‘Filler’ ingredients, such as simple carbohydrates like corn or wheat, should be avoided,” says Krissy Ailara of Wapiti Labs. “Carbohydrates are turned into sugar by a dog’s (or person’s) body and leads to cavities, bad breath and infl ammation.”
• John Wood, CEO and founding member of US Wellness Meats cautions against treats made from GMO ingredients since these can affect GI as well as oral health. “The herbicide used in GMOs is a very dense phosphorus molecule that renders a good bit of the immune response generated in the GI tract impotent,” he says.
Look for simple, natural ingredients
Once you’ve weeded out the unhealthy products and ingredients, the next step is to determine what a high quality dental treat should be made of. The answer is easy – it should contain simple, wholesome, natural ingredients, and have some texture that contacts the teeth.
• “High quality dental treats should be low in calories and have ingredients you can pronounce,” says Aliara. “Simple ingredients are key. For example, our antler chews are just one ingredient, washed with well water and sanded down to remove sharp
edges. Because the antlers are porous, they act like a toothbrush and get into tight spots in the back of the mouth.”
• “A good dental treat should be made some form of all-natural animal part such as bone, tendon material or antler made and sourced in the US (or other countries with safe food sourcing and production practices), with no additives preservatives or
artificial coloring,” adds Scott. “It is always recommended that you supervise your dog’s chewing and remove bones if any splintering occurs.”
• “Grass-fed meat and raw bones would be a wise choice,” John says. “In the wild, canines knew the importance of bone marrow and the value of gnawing on bone to sharpen and clean teeth. There is an inherent wisdom stored in the DNA code of many canine breeds.”
• Oil of oregano is a natural antibiotic that can aid in destroying the bacteria leading to dental plaque, gingivitis and periodontitis. OregaPet makes dental health treats containing oil of oregano to help kill this bacteria.
By following a protocol that combines an appropriate diet with at-home dental care and regular professional cleanings – plus high quality, natural dental treats – your dog should soon have clean, healthy teeth and gums.