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Do dental chews work for dogs?

Our Seattle veterinarians explain how to tell if a dog dental chew is worth buying, which factors you should consider, and even if puppies can have dental chews. 

Do dental treats work for dogs?

As dog owners, we know maintaining a good oral health routine is critical to our dogs’ long-term health, and we’re always looking for the next way to save time. And although tooth brushing is one of the most effective ways to prevent our furry friends from getting periodontal disease (or the precursors of tartar buildup and inflamed gums), they’re not often appreciative of our efforts!

That’s why dog dental chews, sticks, treats and more have become popular in recent years. But before you get overwhelmed with all the choices, let’s look at these oral healthcare products and find out if they are actually worth the cost.

How do dog dental chews work?

Are dental chews good for dogs? Do they work? These questions can be thorny ones. Dental chews can help improve your dog's dental health by reducing plaque and tartar buildup, preventing bad breath, and promoting healthy gums. Additionally, they can provide mental stimulation and entertainment for your dog while also satisfying their natural urge to chew. 

But while properly designed chews do have the potential to reduce plaque and tartar buildup, they’re not a stand-in for routine dental cleanings. Think of them more as supplements to your dog’s regular oral care routine – kind of like how we sometimes chew sugar-free gum to keep our breath fresh, but we wouldn’t expect that to replace regularly brushing our teeth or visiting the dentist.

There are a few things to consider before buying dog dental chews that claim to support dental health:

  • Be skeptical of claims that certain products are supportive of dental health. 
  • Ensure any chews or treats you give your dog are not too hard, as they can fracture teeth. Antlers, bones, and hooves are likely culprits.
  • Don’t forget to schedule your pet’s routine oral exam and dental cleanings with your vet.
  • Look for long-lasting chew products, such as knucklebone, rawhide, nylon, or rubber chew toys (keep a watchful eye on these and toss it if your dog gnaws it down enough for it to become a choking hazard).

How long should dogs spend chewing?

Allow your dog about 30 minutes of daily chew time for them to get the maximum benefit out of their dental chews.

About Dog Breeds, Teeth, and Oral Health Issues

Is your dog a smaller breed? Does he have a stacked or crowded jaw of teeth? In these cases, plaque and tartar are more likely to form in hidden areas, regardless of how hard he chews. You'll need regular toothbrush bristles to get under his gum line and scrape or brush away the bacteria that can cause periodontal disease.

Keep in mind that your dog’s immune system, breed, age, and history can influence his health and factor into whether he develops dental problems. That’s why routine health checkups with a qualified vet are so important.

Can puppies have dental chews?

You can offer your puppy dental chews once they are 6 months old. It is not recommended to offer chew sticks for puppies under 3 months as it may be a choking hazard!

The Bottom Line

While some doggy dental chews are effective, these aren’t an effective substitute for toothbrushing or professional pet dental care routines for your pooch. Keep the other elements of an excellent oral health care routine on your pup’s calendar, and their teeth will stay in good condition.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Does your dog need a dental exam? Our Seattle vets can check your pet's teeth to ensure they are in good condition. Contact us today.

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