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Ask a Vet: Do Dental Chews for Dogs Work?

Ask a Vet: Do Dental Chews for Dogs Work?

Pet parents are always on the lookout for ways to ensure their furry friends maintain optimal health. Dental chews for dogs have garnered significant attention. Although some pet parents wholeheartedly embrace them, others wonder, do they truly deliver on their promises? 

Let’s ask the experts and delve deeper into this dental solution.

Why Is Dental Health Important for Dogs? 

As dedicated pet parents, we often focus on providing a balanced diet and regular exercise for our dogs. But how often do we think about their dental health?

Like humans, dogs can suffer from various dental issues, including gum disease, bad breath, and tooth decay. The consequences of neglecting a dog’s dental health extend beyond the mouth, potentially affecting the heart, kidneys, liver, and other systems

Regular dental care can prevent these complications, and dental chews have emerged as one popular solution. The questions on many pet parents’ minds are: how effective are these dental chews, and can they replace traditional dental care methods?

What Exactly Are Dental Chews for Dogs? 

Navigating the pet store aisles, you’ve likely come across several products aimed at improving your dog’s dental health. Among the most popular are dental chews. Though you may have seen them, what are they exactly? 

Dental chews are specially designed treats that dogs chew, promising to reduce plaque and tartar buildup on their teeth. They typically come in various shapes, sizes, and flavors to cater to different breeds and preferences. 

Their textured surface is meant to scrub away the buildup and stimulate the gums. As your dog enjoys their treat, the chewing action enhances dental cleanliness. However, with so many products on the market, understanding their efficacy and how they compare to other dental care methods becomes essential.

How Does Science View the Effectiveness of Dental Chews? 

When we think about our pets’ health, relying on evidence and science is paramount, especially in a market flooded with countless products promising miracles. That said, what does the science say about dental chews? 

Several studies indicate that consistent use of dental chews can reduce tartar formation, with some products even receiving the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s (VOHC) seal of approval. This seal ensures that the product meets specific standards in plaque and tartar reduction.

It’s also vital to remember that not all dental chews are created equal. Their effectiveness can vary based on ingredients, texture, and even the dog’s chewing habits. 

Consulting with a veterinarian can provide clarity on choosing the right product and understanding its place in a holistic dental care regimen for your furry friend.

What Are the Main Benefits of Dental Chews for Dogs? 

Understanding the benefits of dental chews is crucial for pet parents eager to offer their dogs the best care. So, what makes dental chews stand out in the world of canine dental health?

Plaque and Tartar Reduction

Dental chews are primarily designed to combat the buildup of plaque and tartar. Their textured surface acts as a scrub, cleaning the teeth as your dog chews, making them a proactive solution for many pet parents.

Freshening Breath

Let’s face it: our beloved pets don’t always have the freshest breath. Dental chews often contain ingredients that neutralize bad odors, providing a dual action of cleaning and freshening.

Gum Stimulation

Chewing is a natural behavior for dogs. Chewing on these dental treats stimulates their gums, promoting better oral health and potentially preventing gum diseases.

Mental Engagement

Apart from dental benefits, the act of chewing can also be mentally stimulating for dogs, helping to relieve boredom and reduce destructive behaviors.

However, while the advantages are clear, balancing enthusiasm with a realistic perspective is essential. Dental chews are an excellent supplemental tool, but they shouldn’t be the sole method of dental care for your canine companion.

Are There Concerns and Considerations To Be Aware of?

Every pet parent wants the best for their dog, so understanding potential concerns is essential. What should one consider when introducing dental chews?

Choking Hazard

Some dogs, especially aggressive chewers, might bite off large chunks that can become choking hazards or cause blockages in the digestive tract. Monitoring is essential during chew time.

Size and Type 

Dental chews come in various sizes and formulations. Selecting one that’s too small could increase choking risks, while an oversized one might not be as effective.

How Do Dental Chews Compare to Other Dental Care Methods? 

In the quest for optimum dental health for our dogs, various methods and products vie for attention. How do dental chews stack up against them?

Brushing remains the gold standard for dental care. It allows thorough cleaning and reaches areas a dental chew might miss. Dental chews can complement brushing but shouldn’t replace it entirely.

Rawhide has been a popular chew for years. However, as previously discussed, they come with potential risks. Dental chews are specifically designed for oral health, making them a preferable choice for many pet parents.

Dental chews can be valuable in a broader dental care routine, but they’re just one piece of the puzzle. Regular check-ups, a balanced diet, and other preventive measures are equally important.

Ultimately, the best approach is a balanced one. While dental chews offer convenience and specific benefits, integrating them into a broader, holistic dental care strategy will ensure the best outcomes for your pet.

What Do Veterinarians Recommend for Optimal Dental Care? 

Veterinarians play a crucial role in guiding pet parents on the best practices for their furry family members. When it comes to dental health, what do these experts advise?

  • Regular Dental Check-Ups: Just as humans require periodic dental exams, dogs benefit significantly from them, too. Regular check-ups can identify issues early on, preventing more significant problems down the road.
  • Introduce Dental Chews Wisely: While dental chews can be an asset, vets often recommend introducing them gradually and under supervision. This ensures that your dog adapts well and avoids potential choking hazards.
  • Diverse Dental Routine: Vets emphasize the need for a varied dental care routine. This includes brushing, dental chews, and potentially dental diets or water additives, all aimed at achieving the best oral health outcomes.
  • Veterinary Dental Work: Getting dental work done as recommended by your veterinarian is crucial for maintaining your dog’s overall health and well-being. Just like humans, dogs can develop dental issues like plaque buildup, tartar, gum disease, and tooth decay. Regular dental cleanings, tooth examinations, and potential tooth extractions are common procedures performed by veterinarians to address these problems.
  • Tooth Extraction: Tooth extraction, while sounding alarming, is sometimes necessary to alleviate pain and prevent further complications. Your veterinarian will assess your dog’s oral health, recommend appropriate treatment, and ensure that your furry friend is comfortable throughout the process. Prioritizing dental care promotes good oral hygiene, prevents infections, and contributes to your dog’s overall quality of life.

Collaborating with your veterinarian can help tailor a dental care regimen perfect for your dog’s unique needs.

Are All Dental Chews Created Equal? 

With a plethora of dental chews on the market, it’s only natural to wonder: are they all the same? What factors should pet parents consider when selecting one?

Remember, dental chews vary in their ingredients. It’s essential to choose products free from harmful chemicals or additives, as these can be detrimental to your dog’s overall health.

Also, the effectiveness of a dental chew can be influenced by its texture. Those with grooves or nubs are generally more effective at removing plaque and tartar.

Don’t forget to look for dental chews that have received the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s (VOHC) seal or similar endorsements. These certifications indicate a certain level of effectiveness.

Making an informed decision based on research and consultation with your vet can ensure that your chosen dental chew is both safe and effective.

How Can Pet Parents Make the Most of Dental Chews? 

It is crucial for pet parents to ensure their canine companions reap the most benefits from dental chews. Integrating dental chews into a routine is more than just offering it as a treat; it’s about understanding its role in holistic dental care. 

It’s important to offer them in a consistent manner, perhaps after meals, which conditions your dog to anticipate and enjoy this oral care routine. 

Monitoring your dog as they enjoy their dental chew ensures their safety and that they’re spending adequate time to achieve dental benefits. Emphasizing quality over quantity, offering a high-quality dental chew once a day can be more impactful than multiple chews with lesser effectiveness.

Wrapping Up

Ensuring our dogs maintain their dental health is integral to responsible pet parenting. With their growing popularity, dental chews present a promising avenue for this. 

While they offer numerous benefits, viewing them as part of a comprehensive oral care regimen rather than an all-in-one solution is essential. By understanding their potential and integrating them wisely with other dental care practices, pet parents can pave the way for a healthier smile for their canine companions. 

For more information about all things pet health and behavior, check out the ElleVet blog. We strive to offer resources and tools for all pet parents looking to support their pets’ health and wellness. 


The impact of periodontal disease and dental cleaning procedures on serum and urine kidney biomarkers in dogs and cats | NIH

Dental Disease and its Relation to Systemic Disease in Pets | VCA | VCA Animal Hospitals

Comparison of a Vegetable-Based Dental Chew to 2 Other Chews for Oral Health Prevention | NIH

Veterinary Oral Health Council