In my Longevity List, Clean teeth are #3 for both cats and dogs. Clean teeth mean a longer life, it’s that simple. Your dog’s teeth are going to be the most expensive thing to ignore during their lifetime. Reducing the number of cleanings they need by just one will likely pay for half a lifetime of preventatives.
I bet every $1 you spend on prevention is $5 or more you’re not spending in your pet’s future, and oh, they will feel better, and likely have easier cleanings when they need it.
The Veterinary Oral Health Counsel has standards for efficacy that manufacturers can submit data to prove their products have an affect against the bacterial colonies (plaque) and/ or mineral build up (tartar or calculus). The Seal of Approval cannot be simply purchased like a logo, it must be earned.
My nearest veterinary school has a Dentistry department, and they recommend a four-tier ranking for prevention:
First: Anesthetize every animal every year and get below their gumline with cleaning. They’re not wrong, there’s every reason to do this, but very, very few real world clients do. It’s a lot of anesthesia and a lot of expense. You and I can stare at the ceiling at the Dentist’s and hold still, but given the mystery of what lies under heavy tartar, there is no humane way to properly clean a cat or dog’s teeth while awake. Your groomer can’t get under the gumline, which is where the animals lose their teeth from.
Second: Brush every day. I’m not going to link to dog tooth brushes, because they’re all better than what most folks use, which is nothing because they don’t brush daily. Doesn’t do any good sitting in your dog-drawer. The actual goal of brushing a pet’s teeth is not what it is in people. I’m not concerned with getting every surface of every tooth, what our actual goal is oxygenated spit massaged under the gumline. We’re fighting bacterial periodontal disease, not cavities like in people.
Use a dog brush, use a human child’s soft tooth brush, use your finger wrapped in gauze or paper towel.
Like a cartoon or a little kid, you’re mainly focusing going back and forth on the gumline of the cheek side of these theeth: the big top fangs, and the waaaay back, huge choppers called pre-molars. If you have more of your pet’s patience, great, get the cheek-side of all their teeth at the gumline, but manly focus on where they build up that tan tartar in the first place.
Third place goes to Dental-Formula Foods. These are baked in such a way that the dog has to chew through them to eat them, and that scraping of their tooth and gums acts like a gentle cleaning and gets oxygenated spit below their gumline.
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There are only two I know of that are non-prescription, Hill’s Science Diet “Oral Care”, and Eukanuba regualr dog food has proof against tartar. Some folks use this as the dog’s only food (chicken is the first ingredient, it’s good stuff) and other people get a small bag of it and “top-dress” their dog’s dish with a handful every day, or even mix it in to an new bag of food so the dog gets some with every refill of the bowl.
Fourth but certainly not least ranking is… “everything else”. I’ll tell you, this tier is where most of you all have success if you get the right products and use them daily. Either the dog asks for it (chew treats), or they don’t mind it (PlaqueOff and Water additives).
There are three groups of products here in rank #4. Chews, Water additives, and PlaqueOff.
4a: Most popular: chew treats
Some things are too soft: raw hides, pig ears, bully sticks. These do nothing for your dog’s teeth or gums, but they’re full of fat-calories which can give them gas and obesity (#2 on my Dog longevity list). Stop wasting money on these, get a dental product.
Many common pet store treats are dangerous to your dog’s teeth. They don’t pay your dental bills, and it’s amazing the rationalization owners make about how much their pet loves chewing on a terrible, tooth-chipping treat. The pet store or grocery sold you something that just cost you $1,000 to remove a fractured tooth, and… no one says or does anything… mind-boggling.
Rule of Thumb-nail: If it’s too hard to eventually dent with your thumbnail, it’s too hard for your dog to chew on long term.
- Real bones of ANY kind. Fresh, frozen, cooked, basted, smoked: they’re BAD.
- Hooves, Antlers, Horns
- Rocks, Fences, Ice
- Adult Nylabones have been seen to chip and fracture teeth
- Hardwood sticks
- Many “indestructible” chews will break teeth instead.
The GREAT news is that there are MANY products meant for them to chew on that have earned the seal of approval from the VOHC.
First up, my favorite, Greenies ! They come in MANY sizes and varieties, these are just a few of the kinds available at Amazon. I’ll be honest, the knock-off two pallets down at CostCo are likely fine, too.
Still want a rawhide treat? You’re in luck. C.E.T. chews are processed rawhide, which stay MUCH firmer for the duration of a chewing session. Link goes to multiple dog size options:
So. Many. Great. Options ! No excuse to not find something your dog asks for.
Pedigree Denta Stix has a variety of flavors and sizes, only some represented here in these links:
4b: Water Additives. Keep them at the bowl so you use them.
These are tasteless, odorless water additives. The two main failure points for these are NOT taking the carbon filter out of your fountain, and keeping it out of sight and unused. Keep them right next to the dog’s water bowl ! Use it every. time. you. add. water.
Many of these have Zinc compounds, cetylpyridinium, proteases, or other compounds to inhibit bacteria, freshen breath (by killing bacteria), slowing tartar (by killing bacteria), among other things (then killing more bacteria). It is SAFE for CATS to DRINK any of these, and they’ll benefit from the product, too.
TropiClean Fresh Breath, comes in two sizes, and some other varieties for Dogs. (The cat version has a little more of the active ingredient, go figure.) Last one by Dechra is alongside the TropiClean in my lobby.
Other water additives with out the VOHC seal of approval (yet), but with ingredients exact or similar to the approved ones. Check out the price on the Arm and Hammer 16oz !
4c: PlaqueOff. Hear me out, this is weird, but I know it works.
I was SUPER dubious when PlaqueOff (nee Clenz-A-Dent) first came to my hospital, feels like 20 years ago now. I didn’t believe in it at first, until a few years went by and I quizzed my owners on their pet’s great looking teeth. “What are you using?”, I asked. They would cock their heads and inform me they were using the stuff the other doc sold them last year. It was PlaqueOff ! I started using it on my own pets, and now with hundreds of clients. I can tell you that diligent, daily sprinkling of PlaqueOff, especially with combination with a chewing treat or dental food, can do AMAZING things. I have some dog and cat clients who only use PlaqueOff and Greenies, or PlaqueOff and dental food, and have never needed their aged cat’s or dog’s teeth cleaned yet. Those owners have saved thousands by spending hundreds over their pet’s life. PlaqueOff Works.
The only medical contraindications are allergy to seaweed and any Thyroid condition. Talk to your veterinarian if you pet has thyroid issues for alternatives to Plaque Off.
The fine-flake powder in 60g, 180g, 420gram (2oz, 6oz, 14oz)
Mini bones for the wee dogs
Big dog bones
The active ingredient in PlaqueOff is a species of Atlantic seaweed, Ascophyllum nodosum.
PlaqueOff sustainably harvests their source. Finding other sources of that exact species in bulk at Amazon is up to you to experiment with, but there are other knock-off dental kelp products for dogs and cats: