Dental treats are a nifty option for pet owners who are looking to keep up with their dog’s oral health. They help to clean dog’s teeth, while also providing a tasty reward. But are all dental chews created equal? This blog delves into how dental chews are made and which ingredients may be beneficial versus harmful.
A dog’s dental health begins to decline when there is a buildup of plaque and tartar. This buildup is usually the result of bacteria on the surface of teeth which digest the food the dog eats. As the bacteria breakdown and ferment sugars from the dog’s food, they produce acids. These acids lower the pH of the mouth, promoting tartar build up and the degeneration of teeth (1). As oral health begins to decline, teeth begin to yellow and that doggy breath we all know and love becomes more noticeable.
Dental chews are designed to reduce the progression of dental degeneration and help clean dog’s teeth. Made of malleable ingredients like xanthan gum, gelatin and starches, dental chews are designed to be soft enough to wrap around the dog’s teeth as they chew. This helps to scrub tartar and plaque from their teeth. Dental chews also come in a variety of shapes to attempt to optimize the chewing process.
A number of additional ingredients may also be included in these treats. Ground herbs like spearmint and parsley are commonly added to freshen breath. Studies have shown that spearmint and parsley may act as an anti-bacterial to reduce odour producing bacteria in the stomach and mouth (2). A variety of vitamin and mineral supplements may also be added to dental treats in an attempt to reduce gum inflammation and fortify teeth.
Some dental treats contain ingredients which may be counter productive to the goal of optimizing dental health. It is best to avoid ingredients that are high in sugars. Starches with high glucose availability, like corn or wheat starch, promote the growth of bacteria which cause plaque formation (3).
Certain dental treats also contain artificial paletents, colours and flavours. Preservatives like ethoxyquin, BHA, TBHQ and BHT can also be potential health hazards. Ethoxyquin is a compound that may potentially cause liver and kidney damage, while BHA and BHT have been recognized as carcinogens by the FDA.
A few more ingredients to be wary of are propylene glycol and propyl gallate. Propylene glycol is an additive used to preserve moisture content in pet food and is usually non-toxic in low amounts. However, propylene glycol has been shown to cause heinz body anemia, a blood disease. Conversely, propyl gallate is an additive used to reduce the oxidation of fats and has been shown to disrupt normal reproductive hormone function (4). At low levels these ingredients are unlikely to cause toxicity, so it is important to be aware of how high they appear on the ingredient list. (Image 3)
As a result of increased awareness in pet owners and more scientific publications, the use of toxic compounds in pet food and dog treats has declined. It is still important for pet owners to be aware of what they are feeding to their pets and to look at the ingredients on dental treat labels. Ultimately, dental treats are a fun option to improve your dogs oral health, but it is important to read the label and be aware of risky ingredients.