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 can even damage other organs if bacteria enter the bloodstream through diseased gums.
Professional cleanings and brushing of your dog's teeth are great ways to maintain oral health. Dog dental treats and special diets may also provide oral benefits, but there are precautions to be taken with their use.
Benefits of Dental Treats for Dogs
Just like with humans, dogs can suffer from mouth problems like:
Accumulation of saliva, bacteria and food on the teeth (plaque)
A hard yellow or brown residue on the teeth (tartar)
Swollen, bleeding or irritated gums
Improve the health of teeth and gums. Dogs that chew actively have less plaque buildup. And certain types of dog treats and dental diets can reduce plaque by up to 70%. How do they do this? Simply the mechanical action of chewing can make a difference. In one study, increasing kibble diameter by 50% resulted in a 42% reduction in tartar. In the same study, coating products with a substance called polyphosphate further reduced scale by 55%.
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 bites must reduce plaque or tartar by at least 10% to earn the VOHC seal of approval. If a chemical plaque remover is used, it should reduce plaque or tartar by at least 20%. Go to https://www.vohc.org/accepted_products.htm to see which products have received the VOHC Seal of Approval.
Reduce bad breath in dogs. It is not uncommon for a dog's breathing to be slightly unpleasant. This is often the result of bacteria buildup in the mouth and may be a sign that your dog needs better dental or gum care. However, it's not a bad idea to check with your veterinarian to make sure bad breath isn't a sign of an underlying medical problem.
In addition to professional cleaning and regular tooth brushing, some dog treats are also formulated to help improve breathing. Hard chew toys can also help. See what your vet recommends.
Types of Treats and Dental Diets for Dogs
A wide variety of dog treats and dental diets claim to reduce plaque and tartar or improve breathing. Some have been voluntarily tested and given the VOHC seal of approval. Most are available in stores, but some you can only buy through veterinarians. Here are the main types:
Rawhide chew. Made from the hides of cows or horses, rawhide jaws can reduce plaque and tartar. They come in different sizes and shapes.
Dental jaws, bones and biscuits. Greenies®, Del Monte Tartar Check® Dog Biscuits, Bright Bites, OraVet® Dental Hygiene Chews, and Vetradent Dog Chews are examples of VOHC-approved edibles.
Dental diets for dogs. 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 rubbing action. Others have a special coating that helps prevent bacteria, reduce plaque, or discourage tartar buildup. Ask your veterinarian about these special dental diets available only on the veterinary market.
Chew toys for dogs. Although not edible, chew toys such as Kong® toys, Plaque Attackers® or Gumabones® can be a good choice, especially for dogs who chew edible treats too quickly.
Take Precautions with Dog Dental Treats
Not all dog dental treats are created equal. Some are more effective or safer than others. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you choose dental treatment 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 firmer product.
Limit edible treats. Depending on the type of edible treat, it may go down too quickly to be very beneficial to your dog's teeth. And these treats can quickly add a lot of calories. The general rule is that the smaller the dog, the less treats. Ask your veterinarian if you have any questions about this.
Avoid hard bones and pig ears. If your dog has diseased teeth, he is likely to break them on hard jawbones, hard plastic bones, sterilized beef bones, or cow hooves. Do not feed your dog fresh bones with meat and cartilage due to the risk of bacterial contamination or ingestion of sharp bone fragments by aggressive chewers.
Although pig ears are often a favorite of dogs, studies have not shown them any dental benefits. They are also sometimes contaminated with bacteria.
Be careful with compressed jaws. Edible treats such as rawhide jawbones 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 can also be contaminated or cause stomach irritation. Supervise your dog while he consumes these products. If your dog swallows a large piece, contact your veterinarian. And watch for signs of intestinal upset. Be sure to limit the amount your dog - especially a smaller dog - consumes at one time.