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February is #dentalhealthmonth. Earlier this month, in my blog titled How to Brush Your Pets’ Teeth with an Electric Toothbrush, I wrote about how, before the toothbrush was invented, humans used chewsticks. It’s hard to picture humans chewing on sticks, but lots of dogs do. There are so many dental chews on the market for dogs. How do you choose which dental chews to give your dog? What makes a dental chew good?
As a veterinarian, I naturally gravitate towards the ones sold in vet clinics from veterinary medical distributors, but what about the ones sold in grocery stores or pet stores? I wanted to write a fun experimental blog post, which is not sponsored, on dental chews. Here are the four dental chews that I tested out:
- Milk-Bone Brushing Chews (sold in grocery stores and online)
- Vet One DuoClenz Rawhides: Enzyme-Coated Dental Chews for Dogs (vet clinics and online)
- Whimzees Natural Dog Treats (pet stores, vet clinics, and online)
- Fruitables BioActive Fresh Mouth Dental Dog Treats (pet stores and online)
Why did I choose these brands to test out?
I chose brands that I can easily buy in my neighborhood in Seattle, Washington, USA. Different stores or vet clinics stock different dental chews.
Which Dental Chews to Give Your Dog: The Good Ones
What makes a dental chew good?
Some of the dental chews available on the market e.g. Greenies, DentaStix barely last a minute in a dog’s mouth. Dogs barely chew on them before the whole thing is gone. Therefore, the plaque or tartar is still on the dogs’ teeth.
I timed how long different dental chews last my dog Penny. The Milk-Bone Brushing Chew lasted 10 min. which is impressive given its size. Penny loves the taste of them. Even my cat Boo chewed on one when I first brought home a box of them.
In contrast, the DuoClenz dental chews for small breed dogs barely last 5 minutes, sadly. The large breed DuoClenz chews which have a different shape and consistency last longer (10-15 minutes). (I usually give samples to my patients.)
The Whimzees dental chews last Penny longer than a day. They come in several different shapes, not just in sticks: alligators, hedgehogs, and toothbrushes. The chews are vegetarians, great for dogs with meat protein allergies.
Unfortunately, something in the Whimzees makes Penny’s stool soft which brings me to the second characteristic of a good dental chew:
2. Digestible i.e. no vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation
Yes, the teeth are important, but it doesn’t matter how well a dental chew cleans the teeth or how long they last if they don’t agree with your dog’s tummy.
In order for dental chews to clean the teeth, your dog has to want to chew on them. Penny wasn’t too keen on chewing the Fruitables BioActive Fresh Mouth Dental Dog Treats at first.
This chew is designed differently from the other chews listed above. At one of the chew is a scoop. At the other end is a treat pocket. Did they design the dental chew with the two ends knowing that the dental chew itself is not palatable enough?
I had to put a chicken-flavored Pill Pocket in the treat pocket to entice Penny to chew on it. You could use peanut butter or cheese instead of a Pill Pocket. (Picky Penny doesn’t like peanut butter, and I didn’t have any cheese.) For overweight dogs and dogs with dietary restrictions, this brand of dental chew, Fruitables BioActive Fresh Mouth, is not ideal. They also make Penny’s stool soft.
The last but not least important characteristic of a good dental chew is that it is:
4. Hard but not hard enough to fracture teeth
As a veterinarian, I’ve seen so many dogs with slab fractures of the carnassials (the big shearing teeth near the back of the mouth) from chewing on bones and antlers. My recommendation is that if you can slightly bend the dental chew, it’s probably okay to give to your dog. Dr. Fraser Hale (a board-certified veterinary dentist in Guelph, Canada) recommends the knee-cap rule:
“If you would not want me to hit you in the knee cap with it, do not let your dog chew on it!” For very small dogs, I say “if your dog would not want me to hit them in the knee cap with it, do not let them chew on it.”—Dr. Fraser HaleHale, Fraser. Owners are Breaking Their Dog’s Teeth or
The “Knee Cap Rule”. http://www.toothvet.ca/PDFfiles/The_Knee_Cap_Rule.pdf
Word of Caution
Dental chews are a choking hazard. I once had to pull a rawhide chew out of a dog’s throat because it decided to swallow it whole. Please supervise dogs that like to swallow treats without chewing.
Another Word of Caution
As a veterinarian, I recommend giving one dental chew a day. Please remember that dental chews don’t replace toothbrushing (even if they are advertised to do so) or professional dental cleanings. Please have your veterinarian examine your pets’ mouth at least once a year to check for tooth fractures, gum disease, lumps, etc. Your veterinarian would also be able to recommend a good dental chew for your dog.
Give dental chews that are:
- Not hard enough to fracture teeth or hurt the knee cap
Please share my blog post with other dog lovers to help them choose which dental chews to give their dogs. Are there any dental chews that you’d like me to review?