Home Dental Care for Your Dog


Home oral hygiene can make a difference in your dog’s comfort and health.  There are several oral hygiene options, but keep in mind that anything you can do to help prevent plaque and tartar build-up will pay big dividends.

Listed below are some common oral hygiene options that have proven to be of benefit for dogs.  Combining several options will achieve the best results.  

  • Brushing and Toothpastes: Brushing your dog’s teeth is the most effective way to maintain oral health between professional examinations.  Plaque is easily disrupted by the mechanical effect of brushing teeth.  Frequent brushing is recommended to maintain optimal dental health.  Almost all dogs will eventually accept brushing but it may take patience and a gradual approach.  A dog that resists brushing frequently may have painful areas in the mouth that need to be addressed.

There is a wide variety of products safe for pets available in the marketplace, but the AVDC recommends pet-specific toothpastes.  These often come in flavors that dogs accept such as poultry and seafood.  Avoid human toothpastes as they often contain abrasives and high-foaming detergents that should not be swallowed or inhaled by dogs.  

Toothbrushes designed for dogs are soft and angled to assist in brushing the hard to reach back teeth.  Some dogs prefer “finger brushes.”  A variety of “dental wipes” are also available – the single use variety are rubbed daily on the outside of the teeth to remove plaque.  

  • Oral Rinses and Gels: Chlorhexidine is the most effective anti-plaque antiseptic since it binds to the oral tissues and tooth surfaces, and is gradually released into the oral cavity.  It is safe for pets, although it does have a bitter taste unless taste enhancers are added and some dogs may object to its taste.  The rinse is applied by squirting a small amount inside the cheek on each side of the mouth and then smearing it onto the teeth.  The tongue and lips will spread the rinse or gel around in the mouth.  
  • Diet and Chews: Several “dental diets” have been shown to be of benefit in decreasing dental disease by employing a specific kibble design or a chemical anti-tartar ingredient.

Chew treats can be helpful if chewed daily and some chews and biscuits contain an anti-tartar ingredient.  Although dogs are carnivores, AVDC does not recommend cow hooves, dried natural bones or hard nylon products because they are too hard.  These hard products are associated with broken teeth and or damaged gums.   

Chew toys are only of benefit if they are played with frequently and over a long period of time.  You can increase your dog’s willingness to chew by smearing peanut butter or soft cheese on the product.  

Dogs should always be monitored while chewing a chew treat or toy, as they may swallow large pieces leading to a variety of digestive disorders.  

The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Seal of Acceptance is awarded to home oral hygiene products that meet or exceed the VOHC standard for retarding dental plaque or dental tartar accumulation.  A complete listing of products that have been granted the VOHS Seal of Acceptance is available at http://www.vohc.org/ – Accepted Products for Dogs are available here

Information taken from: American Veterinary Dental College http://www.avdc.org/carefordogs.html

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