Your dog’s dental hygiene affects their whole body, so it’s important to keep dog teeth clean. By using methods like brushing their teeth, providing dental treats and chews, using water and food dental additives, and more, you can keep your dog’s teeth clean and their breath fresh between annual vet dental checks.
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We all love our dogs, but no one loves getting a faceful of bad doggy breath. Bad breath isn’t the only reason to keep your dog’s teeth clean – plaque buildup can lead to gingivitis, tooth loss, and even heart disease! It can seem daunting, but fortunately, there are many ways you can keep your dog’s teeth clean and their breath fresh.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also have regular doggy dental cleanings at your vet’s office. Just like how humans get their teeth cleaned at the dentist but also brush and floss daily, these are 12 ways to keep your dog’s teeth clean and breath smelling fresh between those vet dental checks.
Also, make sure to read to the bottom to find out which popular dental chews are actually dangerous for your dog!
12 Ways to Clean Your Dog’s Teeth and Freshen Their Breath
1. Brush Your Dog’s Teeth
Brushing your dog’s teeth takes time and patience. This is especially true if you start brushing your dog’s teeth when they’re an adult. If you’re able to start brushing your dog’s teeth when they’re a puppy, it makes the job a lot easier from then on out.
Do NOT use human toothpaste on a dog. Most human toothpaste contains fluoride, which is poisonous to dogs. Reputable pet stores will have doggy-safe toothpaste as well as toothbrushes designed for pups.
Be wary of brands that use neem oil in their ingredients, since some dogs are allergic to it.
If your dog doesn’t like you brushing their teeth, don’t give up! Slow and steady wins this race. Only brush a small portion of their teeth. A few days later, do a different area, and so on.
Over time, your dog will get used to the experience and let you brush their teeth. It’s recommended that you brush your dog’s teeth a minimum of three times a week.
2. Use Dental Wipes to Keep Dog’s Teeth Clean
If no matter how hard you try, your pup refuses to let you brush his teeth, dental wipes can be a good second choice.
They don’t get into all the nooks and crannies like a brush does, but they will wipe off plaque and bacteria. And the reason it’s a good option for those brushing-adverse pups is that quickly wiping your pup’s teeth is faster and far less invasive than a toothbrush.
3. Add Dental Powder Additives to Their Wet Food
Dental food additives are available that soften your dog’s plaque and tartar from the inside out. You just mix the powder into their wet food, and the natural ingredients work through your pup’s saliva to soften plaque and even tartar! It isn’t an overnight cure, but studies show it works.
4. Put Dental Water Additive in Their Water
Dental water additives can effectively reduce plaque and tartar, almost like a doggy mouthwash.
However, it’s important to monitor your dog’s drinking habits after adding it to their water bowl. Some dogs don’t like the taste of these additives, and you don’t want your dog to avoid drinking their regular amount of water and become dehydrated.
5. Try Yak’s Milk Treats for Dogs
Dogs love treats and chewing, so yak’s milk treats make a great option for most dogs. Yak’s milk treats only contain yak’s milk, lime, and salt – no artificial or unhealthy ingredients here! They also last a long time and clean your dog’s teeth well.
When they get down to a nub, don’t just throw them away! Soak them in water for 5-10 minutes and then put them in the microwave for 30-60 seconds. They’ll poof up like a cheese puff, and you can give them to your dog as a treat.
6. Give Them Bully Sticks to Chew
Dog treats that encourage chewing are great for cleaning teeth and freshening their breath, but you have to be careful which kind you get. Some may have dangerous ingredients. Bully sticks are made from a single ingredient (bull pizzle), are nutritious and high in protein, and stand up to a lot of chewing.
Please note that bully sticks do have an odor some people dislike, but you can buy odorless varieties. Also, if you’ve never given your pup a chew stick before, it’s a good idea to monitor them and make sure they chew it as they should and don’t try to swallow it. As a last note, it’s best to have your dog chew them on a hard floor or one that’s easy to clean as they can make a mess.
7. Consider a Dental Spray
Dental sprays are a promising new addition to the world of doggy dental care, but a word of caution is in order. While some dental sprays are backed by clinical studies, others make extreme claims without the scientific research to back them up.
If you choose a dental spray for your pup, make sure it is made by a reputable company with listed ingredients that are safe for dogs. Also look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s (VOHC) seal of approval, which means it will have had clinical studies.
Also, dental sprays work best when combined with something that physically removes plaque, like brushing your dog’s teeth or giving them dental chews.
8. Try a Dental Gel for Dogs
Dental gels are another product that promises clean teeth without brushing. They can be very effective, but only if used properly.
To clean your dog’s teeth with dental gel, rub a small amount on your dog’s cheek teeth. When it combines with your pup’s saliva, it spreads throughout their mouth very quickly and starts breaking down plaque.
This can be a great option for pup parents, but there are a couple of catches:
- Some pups don’t like the taste or smell.
- You have to withhold food and water for 30 minutes after applying the gel and then return their water bowl, which may mean this is a tricky option for pup parents with hectic schedules
9. Buy Your Pup a Dental Chew Toy
Dental chew toys encourage your pup to chew, and they also have textures and surfaces that scrub your pup’s teeth while they chew. The dental chew toy should be hard enough to last a long time and clean effectively while also being soft enough not to damage your dog’s teeth.
If dental chew toys aren’t available in your area, try a regular chew toy instead. While not specifically made for dental health, chew toys still encourage chewing and work against your dog’s teeth, which makes them helpful in the fight against doggy tooth decay and bad breath.
Like with dental chew toys, make sure the toy is hard enough to take some chewing without breaking down while also being soft enough not to damage your pup’s teeth or gums.
10. Give Your Pup Carrots
Who knew that a wonderful option for cleaning your dog’s teeth was as close as your refrigerator! Carrots are nutritious and low in calories while also providing dental benefits. Many dogs love them, too, so they don’t realize this “treat” is actually good for them.
As with any food or treat that comes in a larger size, monitor your pups at first to make sure they don’t literally try to bite off more than they can chew.
11. Give Your Dog Prescription Dental Food
If your veterinarian feels your dog needs additional dental help, they may recommend prescription dental food.
The prescription dental kibble has a unique shape and texture to encourage your dog to chew the food instead of swallowing it whole. This chewing action combined with the fiber in the kibble acts like a toothbrush to clean your dog’s teeth.
Again, this is only if your vet recommends this diet for your dog and writes you a prescription for it.
12. Strengthen Their Teeth from the Inside Out
Your dog can’t have healthy teeth and gums if the rest of their body is unhealthy. Along with regular exercise and a healthy diet, giving your dog supplements specifically designed for their life stage and activity level will help grow strong teeth as a puppy, maintain those teeth as an adult, and protect them as a senior.
If you’d like to find out more about what supplements are right for your dog, take the free quiz below.
Common Dental Treats and Cleaning Methods to Avoid
1. Antlers as Chew Toys
Antlers may seem like a natural choice for your dog to chew on, but natural doesn’t always mean safe.
Their hardness makes them long-lasting, but it also makes them more likely to cause tooth damage. If your dog manages to chew or break off a piece of antler, you have the added danger of them swallowing a hard and sharp object.
While some dogs chew antlers without any problems, you should be aware of the possible dangers.
2. Using Baking Soda as Toothpaste
While some people and websites recommend baking soda as an easy DIY dog toothpaste, many vets say to avoid it. Baking soda can upset your dog’s stomach and digestive tract, and the bad taste may make your pup even more reluctant to let you clean their teeth.
3. Giving Rawhide Chews
Rawhide chews have been a favorite dog treat for decades, but growing evidence shows they have risks attached. Like antlers, rawhide can be so hard it causes tooth damage, and it also carries a high risk of digestive problems if your pup swallows any pieces.
Another risk with rawhide chews or bones is their manufacturing process. Some rawhide treats manufactured in other countries have been found to contain toxic chemicals.
While it’s true that some dogs chew rawhide without any problems, pup parents have many chewing alternatives that don’t carry those risks.
The Final Woof
Our dogs’ dental hygiene may not seem as important as some other aspects of their health, but it plays a big factor in their quality of life! By using various methods like brushing our dogs’ teeth or providing the right chews, we can protect our dogs’ overall health while keeping their teeth clean and pain-free and their breath fresh.