Dog Dental Treats (cont.)

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.

Taking Precautions with Dental Dog Treats

Not all dental dog treats are created equal. Some are more effective or safe than others. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you're choosing a dental treat for your dog.

Make the right match. Match the treat or toy to your dog's size, preferences, or personality. For example, aggressive chewers may need a product that is firmer.

Limit edible treats. Depending on the type of edible treat, it may go down too fast to be of much benefit to your dog's teeth. And these treats can quickly add lots of calories. The general rule is the smaller the dog, the fewer the treats. Ask your vet if you have questions about this.

Avoid hard bones and pigs' ears. If your dog has diseased teeth, he or she is likely to break them on hard chews, hard plastic bones, sterilized beef bones, or cow hooves. Fresh bones with meat and cartilage may be easier on the teeth but should be used with caution because of the risk of bacterial contamination or ingestion of sharp bone fragments by aggressive chewers. Take them away after a few hours, as they become hard and dried out.

Although pigs' ears are often a favorite of dogs, studies have not shown them to offer any dental benefits. They are also sometimes contaminated with bacteria.

Be careful with compressed chews. Edible treats such as rawhide chews can help with dental health. But some dogs, especially aggressive chewers, consume them too quickly or may swallow pieces whole. This can cause choking or blockages. These products may also be contaminated or cause gastric irritation. Watch your dog while he's consuming these products. If your dog swallows a large chunk, contact your vet. And watch for signs of intestinal upset. Be sure to limit how much your dog - especially a smaller dog - consumes at one time.

WebMD Veterinary Reference

SOURCES: Veterinary Oral Health Council: "Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease) is the Most Common Disease Occurring in Pet Dogs and Cats" and "Products Currently Awarded the VOHC Seal."

UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine: "Dental Home Care Instructions for Pets."

ASPCA: "Bad Breath" and "Position Statement on Dog Chews/Treats."

VOHC. "Protocols and Submissions."

VOHC web site. "Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease) is the Most Common Disease Occurring in Pet Dogs and Cats."

UC Davis web site. "Dental Home Care Instructions for Pets."

Hennet, P. et al. "Effect of pellet food size and polyphosphates in preventing calculus accumulation in dogs." J Vet Dent. Dec. 24, 2007(4): pp 236-239.

AVMA web site. "AVMA Reminds Pet Owners During Dental Health Month That Pets Suffer with Dental Health Problems, Too."

Reviewed by Audrey Cook, BVM&S on January 24, 2010.

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