The Benefits of Dog Dental Chews

Dog dental chews provide many benefits for your dog, including plaque removal and breath freshening. Used in conjunction with regular tooth brushing, they can help extend the life of your dog's teeth and reduce the chance he may develop gum disease or other dental problems.

Gum disease, the most common canine dental problem, begins when a dog eats. Food residue and saliva form plaque, which may settle on the dog's teeth at the gumline. Over time, the plaque hardens into tartar, and the tartar can cause periodontal (gum) disease if it is not removed. The American Veterinary Dental Society estimates that 80 percent of pet dogs over the age of 3 have gum disease. Smaller breeds are more prone to gum disease than larger ones, perhaps because their teeth are more closely crowded together.

Periodontal disease doesn't stop at your dog's mouth. Dogs with gum disease may be more prone to heart, liver or kidney problems because of the inflammation and infection that results from gum disease.

Choose the Right Chew

Chew choices include dental bones, dental rawhides and dental chew treats. Because a wide selection is available at your local pet supply store or online, your final selection will depend on the size of your dog and his particular chewing preferences. Choose a chew that is the appropriate size for your pet, and make sure that the chew you choose is at least twice as large as your dog's mouth to protect your pet from choking on the chew.

Although you may be tempted to just give your dog a bone from the butcher shop, don't do it. Your dog can break a tooth by aggressively chewing on a natural bone, which can cause other dental problems.

Dental Bones

Dog dental bones are made from strong synthetic materials. The bones usually feature nubs or rounded spikes that massage your dog's gums while he chews, removing the plaque and tartar from his mouth. Most dental bones are designed to withstand the efforts of even a strong-jawed dog. Wash the dental bone regularly to prevent bacteria buildup.

Dental Rawhides

Dental rawhide chews are another option for your dog. A new rawhide presents a chewing challenge to your pet, scraping his teeth and gums in the process. Previously chewed rawhide, on the other hand, is softer and works its way in between your dog's teeth as he tugs and pulls at the chew.

When shopping for rawhide dental chews, select only those that bear the USDA seal of approval. Foreign-made rawhide may not be processed under the same quality standards as U.S.-made products, and you don't want to risk your pet's health by offering him a harmful chew. Purchase several rawhide chews at a time because they are prone to quick bacteria buildup and should be discarded after a week.

Dental Chew Treats

Dental chew treats offer plaque-cleaning benefits while your dog eats his treat. These products come in a variety of flavors, including chicken and beef. Some also offer the breath-freshening properties of mint.

Take Your Dog Shopping

Since your dog will be the one using the dental chews, let him help you make the final selection. Take him to the pet supply store for a tour of the dental chew department to see which products seem most interesting.