In this article, we will discuss the importance of maintaining a good dental hygiene regime for your dog and look at some of the best dog toothpastes that are recommended for the job.
Periodontal Disease is a MAJOR Issue
Most owners do not realise how important dental hygiene is for their dogs. Periodontal disease (also known as gum disease) is actually the most common condition that vets have to deal with in both cats and dogs. It is even suggested that as much as 80% of dogs over the age of three are suffering from the condition in some form.
While the condition can vary from very mild to severe, by having a regular dental hygiene plan for your dog, you will minimise the risk of any problems starting, or escalating out of control.
Severe periodontal disease can lead to a buildup of plaque and tartar causing infection and this can mean that the dog can be in a lot of pain and possibly lose teeth. There is also a risk that the bacteria can transfer into the dog’s bloodstream and this can have a potentially serious impact on some of the major internal organs.
Periodontal disease is the biggest problem condition that vets deal with in dogs
Prevention is Better than Cure
Dealing with a serious case of periodontal disease can be costly, it is often not covered by insurance policies, and, of course, your pet is at risk of severe discomfort or pain which is actually completely preventable.
Rather than waiting until the problem is there and has to be dealt with, taking steps to minimise the chances of any treatment being required in the first place is the most sensible plan. There are lots of things that you can do to help make sure your dog maintains pearly whites, including feeding a high quality, non-sugary diet, using dental chews and toys, feeding raw meaty bones, and using supplements to add to food or water. Some things are proven to be more effective than others. It is widely accepted, however, that nothing beats toothbrushing for being an effective way to keep your dog’s teeth in great condition.
It is important to remember that often periodontal disease has already set in before you even realise. Sometimes it can impact on the tooth below the gumline so it is not yet visible to the naked eye. By using a brush to clean your dog’s teeth this will be accessing areas that you couldn’t if you are just wiping the surface.
Nothing beats toothbrushing in terms of keeping your dog’s teeth free of tartar and plaque build up
Make it Part of Your Daily Dog Care Ritual
A lot of people comment that daily toothbrushing seems over the top and that they have difficulty getting their dog to sit through the process, or if they do, they can’t keep them still long enough for the brushing to have any positive impact.
If we brush our own teeth daily to keep them healthy, why wouldn’t we do the same with our dogs? Getting into the habit is half the battle, a bit like with their grooming regime too. Why not just make it part of your own bedtime regime? Before you get your own toothbrush out, grab theirs. It literally only takes a few minutes a day, and it could save a whole heap of pain, hassle and expense in the future. You don’t need to do it everyday either, two to four times a week is generally what is recommended.
Getting Your Dog Used to Having Their Teeth Brushed
Okay, so understandably, most dogs are not keen on having a toothbrush shoved inside their mouth and unceremoniously bashed around in there.
If you put a bit of work in at the beginning to teach them that it can be a positive experience, it will make things so much less of a chore and much more effective going forward.
There are some dogs that, once they taste the meaty flavor that some toothpaste have, they will accept the routine no bother. If that is your dog, lucky you!
Most of the time a routine has to be built up gradually, and ideally, this should be done from when they are a puppy, unless, of course, you have adopted an adult dog. Regardless, the training approach should be the same.
Start with just bringing the toothbrush out and showing it to your dog. When they look at it, they should get a super tasty little treat. Put it out of their sight again. When it reappears, again give them a food reward. Repeat this a number of times in the session. Your goal is to have them get excited when the brush comes out as they are anticipating a treat.
To really maximize their positive association at this stage, you could do a couple of sessions like this, lasting just a few minutes, over the next couple of nights.
The next stage is to get them comfortable with the toothbrush making contact with their mouth. Pick a toothpaste that has a flavor that you know that they like. Have a few sessions where you just let them lick the toothpaste off the brush, without trying to put it inside their mouth.
From here, you want to get them used to you lifting their lip to allow you better access to their teeth. Start with just lifting one side very gently and then rewarding them with a treat once they have let you do this. You can build up the length of time you are holding the lip up for too. Then work on doing that with the other side.
Once they are comfortable with this step, you can move on to lifting the lip and then starting to brush. Start with just a very short brush of one or two teeth and reward your dog if they have sat for this. You can build up the amount of time you brush for very gradually.
It may seem like a bit of a kerfuffle but putting the time in to build up the exposure gradually can make it a much less stressful experience for you both in the long run.
Always make sure you use a doggy appropriate toothbrush, they usually have softer bristles than some human brushes. Find one that works best for you and your dog, some people like those that fit on top of the finger, others find a bigger one more effective, especially if your dog has a long, strong jaw.
Never force your dog into having their teeth brushed, it can make them afraid, turn things into a battle, and possibly lead them to become aggressive if they are very frightened; always build things up gradually and positively
NEVER Use Human Toothpaste for Your Dog
Don’t be tempted to use your own toothpaste to save a bit of money or hassle. Not only can the frothing variety be a weird sensation for your dog and they don’t know how to spit and rinse, but, more importantly, they can contain ingredients that are problematic and sometimes even toxic for your dog.
Some human toothpastes contain artificial sweeteners to give them a palatable flavour. If they contain Xylitol, which is perfectly safe for humans, this is highly toxic for dogs and ingesting too much of this ingredient can actually be fatal for your dog. Fluoride is also bad for dogs in high doses too.
Why Do So Many Toothpastes Contain Enzymes?
You may have noticed if you have been searching for a toothpaste for your pooch previously, that lots of the products mention that they contain enzymes or that they are ‘enzymatic’. This isn’t just marketing speech to get you to buy the product. Enzymes can have a beneficial purpose, helping to break down the bacteria, and this is often the type of toothpaste that your vet will encourage you to purchase for your dog.
Which Toothpaste is Best?
So, we should start by saying that there is not one ‘best’ toothpaste on the market. There are some that are more effective in their cleaning properties, some that have a more palatable flavour, and there are some that may suit an individual dog’s digestion better than others. It can be a bit of trial and error to find what works best for your dog, but there are some doggy toothpastes on the market that are more widely regarded as being effective and safe than others.
This list relates to six toothpastes that are consistently well-reviewed, but it does not necessarily mean they will be the best for your dog.
1. Petrodex Enzymatic Toothpaste for Dogs – A Top Seller
If you are looking for a doggy toothpaste that has been tried and tested by thousands of dog owners, then this may be the option to go for. Petrodex has over 2.500 five star reviews on Amazon.
It is an enzymatic toothpaste and it has a palatable poultry flavoring and, for those on a budget, it is one of the best value for money options in this list too. For those that prefer to buy from a company that manufacturers in the USA, then this one is a good choice too.
Some users have complained that they do not think it smells pleasant but, if it works, then does it really matter if it gives your dog a minty fresh breath smell?
2. Vet’s Best Enzymatic Dog Toothpaste – A Great Natural Option
If you always like to purchase products for your dog that have natural ingredients, then the Vet’s Best toothpaste could be a good option.
It doesn’t get as many 5 star reviews as the Petrodex toothpaste, but it is still well-reviewed.
Because this product comes in a gel format, rather than a paste, it is designed to adhere to the tooth a little better and longer and, if your dog is not keen on vigorous brushing, a little of this put along the gum line will likely be better than nothing.
This one doesn’t have a meaty flavoring so, while it may not be as palatable for some dogs, for those owners that can’t stand the meaty breath that some dogs have after brushing with the poultry flavored toothpaste, they may prefer to try this option.
The tube isn’t as big as the Petrodex one, so it works out at slightly more expensive, but it is still a very good value option.
3. Vetoquinol Enzadent Enzymatic Toothpaste – A Super Palatable Option
The Vetoquinol toothpaste is made by a respected USA manufacturer that has been in the business for many years now. It is very well-reviewed, with hardly anyone having anything negative to say about it.
It is also one of the toothpaste that comes out on top in the palatability test. Most dogs seem to love the taste, and that makes things a lot easier when trying to brush their teeth. If they associated the task with something so tasty, hopefully, it will make them less likely to run away when the toothbrush comes out!
It is certainly not the cheapest of the options on our list though, and it works out at over double the price of the Vets Best option. A little does go a long way though, so you shouldn’t have to buy toothpaste too regularly, even if you are brushing your dog’s teeth the recommended 2 – 4 times a week.
It is also one that is marketed as being safe for use with dogs and cats, so, if you also have a feline friend in your household, it saves having to buy two different types.
4. Oxyfresh Pet Dental Gel – Teams Up as an Aid for Dealing with Hot Spots
The Oxyfresh product is another gel consistency, and it is one that doesn’t actually have any flavor. This can be good if you have a dog that doesn’t seem to enjoy the taste of a standard toothpaste. It does mean though that you should have even more tasty treat rewards at the ready though to continue to make sure your dog associates toothbrushing with something nice.
The product contains Aloe Vera and this can be good if your dog has any minor gum wound, and some dog owners even use it to apply to a hot spot or small wound on the body of their dog. The aloe vera can help to soothe and promote healing.
5. Petsmile Professional Dog Toothpaste – The One Awarded by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC)
This is the most expensive of all the toothpaste listed here, but it is one that has gone through full clinical trials and contains a tested ingredient called Calprox, and it is the only toothpaste to be awarded by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. This means you can be reassured that you are getting a product that is known for being effective. The beef flavoring also means that your dog will likely enjoy the taste too.
6. ZPAW Dental Wipes for Dogs and Cats – An Alternative to Using a Brush and Contains Chlorhexidine
If your pet really does not tolerate the toothbrush well, then using less invasive wipes may be an alternative option. They will never clean as effectively as a toothbrush, but it is certainly better than just giving up.
These wipes also contain an ingredient called Chlorhexidine and this is something that has been clinically proven to be an effective anti-plaque antiseptic.
Even if your dog does tolerate toothbrushing, some owners choose to use these once or twice a week, alongside their toothbrushing regime for extra dental care.
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Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.