Updated: Feb 18, 2019
People are really surprised when I tell them that I don’t buy into the dental treat category. I also don’t buy the idea that crunchy kibble cleans their teeth. Why? Carbohydrates. Kibble and most dental treats are high in carbs and it is well established that carbohydrates stuck to teeth tend to cause tarter, tooth decay, and bacteria growth linked to gum disease. I’m not saying that dogs shouldn’t have any carbs, in fact I think quite the opposite (that is another blog post all together!). However, it doesn’t make sense to me to sell an item marketed toward dental health that includes ingredients that contribute toward the problem. Despite my opinion on the matter, many customers will testify to how dental treats work really well to maintain their dog’s teeth. Hence why we stock dental treats such as Greenies & Whimzees.
(Be sure to scroll to the bottom for an easy homemade dog toothpaste recipe!)
1. Give them chews like bully sticks, tendons, or bones.
I frequently tell customers that natural chews are their best option to help clean teeth because (1) dogs love to chew which scrapes the teeth of buildup, and (2) there are no carbs with natural animal chew products. These lower cost bully stick options are in our bulk chew area:
Frozen raw bones are another great option but are messier and do require supervision. Exercise caution when giving your dog a raw bone and take away any broken, splintered, or cracked bones immediately. Some customers have mentioned that too much of the marrow (fat) in one chewing session can cause their dog to have an upset stomach. It is not a bad idea to have the marrow last a few chewing sessions! However, if there is any marrow left between chewing sessions the bone should be refrigerated or frozen until the next use.
Cooked or smoked bones are an alternative in the winter when you don’t want the messy raw frozen bones in the house. Some of our cooked bones are stuffed with a yummy natural paste with ingredients like sweet potatoes, berries, pumpkin, and peanut butter.
2. Brush their teeth weekly.
Weekly is a goal but not an absolute. Do what works best for your schedule and your dog’s tolerance level. They will certainly think it’s a little odd and maybe try to wrap their tongue around the brush, but most dogs will cooperate. I also love a three-sided toothbrush because it efficiently gets all sides of the tooth in one swipe – much easier than a standard toothbrush. My dogs appreciate the chore taking less time too!
Have you tried brushing before with no success?
Start by leaving a brush in the middle of the floor with something yummy on it (canned dog food, xylitol free peanut butter, mashed banana, unsweetened yogurt or applesauce all worked well for my rescue dog). Most dogs will investigate it and associate it with something positive. Then move on to you holding the toothbrush while they lick it with the something yummy on it. Eventually you can graduate to brushing their teeth and move to a toothpaste instead of food.
3. Find toys with ridges and texture.
Rubber toys with ridges or rope toys make excellent choices as the rubbing or flossing action can help to clean teeth. Brands like Kong, West Paw and Busy Buddy are our go-to recommendations in the durable rubber dog toy category because you can also stuff treats inside to make them extra enticing for playtime. When selecting a rope toy make sure that the size is appropriate for your dog! Smaller rope toys with larger dogs can have a higher risk of being ingested, which is also why I recommend for rope toy play to be supervised. You will want to be aware of when your dog tears up the rope so that you can take the toy away before they ingest the string.
4. Make fleece toys from scrap fabric.
If you are the crafty sort of person, then these are really fun and easy to make. Fleece is easily repurposed and scraps are inexpensive at craft stores. Your dog will love to toss these toys around or play tug.
Check out the link to video instructions on how to make fleece rope toys:
5. Schedule annual check-ups at your vet and talk about dental health at each visit.
Having your vet check Fido’s teeth and gums is just one of the many reasons to schedule an annual checkup. Even young dogs can experience dental problems and gum disease! A veterinarian will be able to address your concerns and suggest dental cleanings or surgeries when such action becomes necessary.
Over the years I have discovered toothpaste to be the reason that dogs become uncooperative after a few brushing sessions. Many dog toothpastes are full of ingredients that probably taste terrible to them. For example, my dog hates the ones that smell good to humans with peppermint and rosemary. However, he gladly smacks his lips after beef or cinnamon flavored paste!
Dog Toothpaste Recipe
2 Tablespoon Coconut Oil
2 Teaspoons of activated charcoal or food-grade diatomaceous earth
*Optional for improved taste: substitute 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil with chicken, beef, duck, or pork fat (if it comes from your own meal preparation take the fat before adding garlic and onions to pan)
*Optional for improved breath: 1 TBS finely chopped and crushed fresh parsley and ½ tsp ground cinnamon
Melt the coconut oil in a bowl using the microwave or stove top. Once it is liquefied take off the heat.
Add the abrasive of your choice (charcoal or diatomaceous earth) and any of the optional ingredients at this time.
Stir together and place in a bowl to cool. Once it is cool the oil will slightly harden and become opaque in color.
How to use:
Take your dog’s toothbrush and dip it in the mixture.
Brush the teeth and repeat until you brush the top and bottom rows.
No need to rinse, but your dog might want a drink of water afterward!
This is enough for a single brushing session with a lab-size dog. If there is any leftover you can store it in the fridge until next time. You can also double or triple the recipe to make more at one time and save for later use.