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Best Dog Dental Chews for Tackling Stubborn Plaque

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Nothing substitutes for brushing your dog's teeth. But if you find yourself struggling to keep up with the routine, you may want to extra help. And wouldn't it be handy if your pup LIKED part of the tooth-cleaning process? That's where dog dental chews come in. Tasty and healthy, they're the perfect addition to your puppy dental care routine.

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There’s nothing worse than hearing your dog has horrible teeth. (Well, except for getting the BILL for terrible teeth) Dental disease is a serious business. Your dog’s mouth gets sore. Sometimes it even prevents them from eating. Not to mention you’ll put up with the WORST doggie breath. But if you add dog dental chews to your regular dental care plan, they can help prevent the problem. And it comes with the bonus of being a delicious treat your pup will love!

Dental Care

Strictly speaking, dogs don’t NEED their teeth. And some tiny breeds end up with full-mouth extractions due to their genetics. They go through life without a problem. However, it’s not a goal for most owners. (And as cute dogs are with their tongues hanging out of the corner of their mouths, it comes with some special responsibilities)

So you want to make sure you care for your pup’s chompers. And that means starting when they’re a puppy. If you implement a dental care plan from the beginning, your dog will maintain a healthy canine smile into their senior years. This includes:

  • Regular brushing
  • Proper chew toys
  • A healthy diet
  • Routine check-ups with the vet

And dog dental chews? They help fill in the gaps.

Dog Dental Chews vs. Dog Dental Treats

When you start to explore the aisles of dog dental chews, you’ll also see dog dental treats. And while both feature bright canine smiles on the packages, they’re NOT the same.

Dental treats are small snacks. Your dog probably won’t chew them. And if no teeth get involved? The treats won’t do anything to remove plaque. Plaque is the film of bacteria that coats teeth after eating and drinking. And if it sticks around too long, it mixes with minerals in the saliva, hardens, and forms tartar.

Tartar is the chunky coating on teeth that leads to gum disease and bad breath. And NOTHING – not a treat nor a chew – can remove it. You need a professional dental cleaning to scrape it off.

Dog dental chews CAN remove plaque. How? With a larger size. Your dog needs to chew on them (hence the name), which works their teeth. They contain mildly abrasive ingredients, scraping away plaque. This leaves your pup’s smile looking brighter. And some dental chews come with extras that improve doggie breath.

Health Expectations

Dog dental chews CANNOT substitute for brushing your pup’s teeth. They’re not that good. You still need the enzymes in toothpaste and the circular motion of the toothbrush to really get into all of the grooves of the teeth. That’s the only way to head off dangerous periodontal disease.

If you’re worried about the smell coming from your dog’s mouth, set the dental chews aside. Halitosis (the “nice” term for bad breath) results when tartar and gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) get out of control. Even the BEST dog dental chew won’t help. You need to make an appointment with your vet for a dental cleaning.

And dog dental chews come with calories. That means relying on them to clean canine teeth isn’t ideal. Too many, and you run the risk of your favorite furry friend putting on excess pounds. While it’s okay to offer one now and then, you don’t want them to be the ONLY part of the dental care plan.

Choosing a Dog Dental Chew

You’ll find plenty of options when you start searching for dog dental chews. But you want to think things through carefully. Bones DON’T work well in this situation; they’re too hard and not edible. Instead, you want to check for these key features:

  • VOHC Seal: The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) reviews dental products – of every kind. And when they approve of a dog dental chew, you know it WILL reduce and remove stubborn plaque.
  • Size: While you can get away with treats of different sizes, dental chews MUST match your pup’s mouth. If they don’t take the time to chew it, it won’t work. And if it’s too small, they may choke. Look at the package carefully, and then supervise your dog while they eat it.
  • Ingredients: You need that abrasive quality. And extras for breath and cleaning help. But you don’t want to see a lot of additives or unnecessary coloring.

A Note on Tartar

Some dog dental chews say they remove tartar. It sounds great, but it’s not possible. If your vet told you your dog had tartar build-up (or mentioned calculus – which is the same thing), you need a professional cleaning.

Plaque comes off with dental chews; tartar does NOT. Even bones fail to remove tartar. And since you’d like the teeth to remain, you don’t want to go for excessively hard chew options. Focus on dog dental chews that say they work on plaque.

The Best Dog Dental Chews

Brushing your dog’s teeth is the gold standard. If you want to keep that smile fresh and healthy, you can’t do better. But when you’d like a little assistance? Dog dental chews are the perfect option. Your pup gets a yummy treat that scrapes away that pesky plaque. And you can sigh with relief that you’re helping. You just want to watch the calories – or keep these treats to a minimum, so your canine companion doesn’t put on too many pounds.

Small breed dogs often have some of the worst dental problems. And Ark Naturals steps in to help them. The outer ridges gently scrape away plaque. Inside, they have a toothpaste center that goes to work once your pup bites through the abrasive exterior. And it’s combined with natural breath fresheners of chlorophyll (hence the green color), cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla. That’s four handy dental needs in one little chew!

Downsides? This dog dental chew is designed for pups weighing between “under 8 and over 40 pounds.” That’s an arbitrary set of numbers to work with. ALWAYS supervise your dog with their chew and make sure it’s not too small or too large for them. Ark Naturals also recommends you substitute this FOR brushing, but that’s not a great idea. And at 60 calories a day (per their feeding instructions), you’ll want to look at your other treats and do some calculations.

The Good

The Bad

Blue Buffalo offers a dog dental chew in a larger size. Catering to dogs weighing 5-50 pounds, you get four sizes to choose from, all on a larger scale. And each comes in three package sizes, letting you decide how often to restock. The rough texture goes to work as your dog chews. And while they avoid potential allergens such as corn, wheat, and soy, they DO add in blueberries for that superfood punch. They also include parsley for fresher breath. And the color? Perfectly natural, courtesy of dried beets.

The downsides? These dog dental chews are on the expensive side. And, again, the poor tiny dog set gets left out of the equation. Not to mention your giant dog breeds. And at 138 calories? Make sure you’re not giving this out too often – or at least balance it with the rest of your pup’s treats.

The Good

The Bad

When you think of dog dental chews, you think of Greenies. Carrying the VOHC seal of approval, they cater to dogs of almost every size. And you’ll even find different flavors and formulas (including a grain-free option). The toothbrush shape features bumps and ridges that get in and around teeth to remove plaque. They’re firm enough to encourage chewing without being so hard they’ll damage the enamel on your dog’s teeth. And you get natural breath-freshening to boot.

Our Greyhound LOVES her Greenies. She gets one at 11:00 AM every day – and she KNOWS it. If we happen to lose track of time, she reminds us. And while she inhales most treats, this is one she takes time with. She doesn’t have a favorite flavor (we change it up), either – she loves ALL of them. And her teeth get a clean bill of health at every vet visit. As a sighthound, that’s important because they’re notorious for bad teeth.

So what are the downsides? Some people noted their dogs ate their Greenies fast rather than chewing on them. It’s not a consistent report, though, so you’ll need to judge for yourself. Also, your puppy needs to be at least six months before you can start offering these dog dental chews. And at 90 calories a treat? You need to balance out the rest of your treats carefully.

The Good

The Bad

Milk-Bone? With a VOHC seal of approval? Nope, you’re not seeing things! This budget-friendly dog dental chew works every bit as well as more expensive options. Your pup gets the same bumps and ridges needed to reach clinging plaque in a delicious treat they’ll love. You get a dog with fresher breath in a chew that comes in three different sizes. And they add in vitamins and minerals without the artificial flavors or colors you might suspect. It’s a handy compromise if you want a dental dog chew that won’t break the bank!

Downsides? The sizes range from 5-50+ pounds, but most of your larger breeds will inhale that chew without a problem. Before you walk away, make sure your pup’s actually chewing on their new treat. And, again, watch the six-month age warning. And at 100 calories? It’s up there.

The Good

The Bad

If you’re anxious about your dog’s breath, OraVet may be the dog dental chew for you. In addition to the tough outer coating, these treats contain Delmopinol. This is the same compound you find in most dental rinses. It generates a barrier in the mouth that prevents bacteria from adhering to your dog’s teeth. Then plaque can’t get a good grip. This keeps teeth clean AND prevents the worst of bad breath from forming. And with sizes ranging from 3.5-50 pounds, it helps even those teeny-tiny pups.

The downsides? The 50+ category needs some careful oversight. Odds are most dogs will bolt the chew down. And as these are HARD dog dental chews, you’ll want to make sure you avoid youngsters – OR swallowing.

The Good

The Bad

Pedigree offers a range of flavors for their dog dental chews. Your pup can choose from SEVEN different options! The cross design gets into the nooks and crannies between all of their teeth. And, even if you don’t get the “fresh” flavor, you still have the bonus of fresher breath with each chew. They come in three different sizes, with five packages available. It’s the perfect option for the canine that likes to get choosey over their treats.

So what are the downsides? The largest size maxes out at 30 pounds. That leaves out quite a few dogs. You’ll also want to look through the calorie count of the flavor you choose, as some are higher than others (around 65-76 calories/chew). Not the worst out there, but also not the best. And these aren’t suitable for puppies less than six months old.

The Good

The Bad

Some of the most challenging plaque lies along the gum line. And that’s where Purina comes in. Their dog dental chews have a porous texture. So when your dog bites down, it sinks over their tooth, scraping away ALL of the plaque. It’s a nifty design that earned them that VOHC seal of approval. You’ll love the longer length of the chew, encouraging your pup to sit and gnaw away. Plus, you have the option of the ActivFresh version, with extra boosts for fresh breath. And with no artificial flavors or colors, you won’t have to worry about giving your dog something you DON’T want them to have.

Downsides? The large isn’t intended for dogs weighing more than 15 pounds. Definitely a bummer. And they increased that minimum age to ONE YEAR. They’re also 100 calories a chew, so check over your other treats when you add them into the mix.

The Good

The Bad

Vet IQ narrowed its focus to removing plaque AND freshening your dog’s breath. All of the bumps work between your dog’s teeth where plaque likes to hide, scraping it down to the gum line. And while they skip potential allergens such as corn, wheat, or soy, they DO add in FIVE natural breath fresheners: parsley, alfalfa, dill, fennel, and peppermint. That gives your dog’s mouth a healthy clean you’ll smell.

The downsides? There are only two sizes, covering pups from 5-40+ pounds. You’ll need to take special care and watch to make sure the one you choose is appropriate for your dog. Some owners also HATED the smell of those natural ingredients. Others didn’t mind (and the dogs didn’t get included in the review). You may have to decide whether you can stomach the scent for your dog to get the health benefits.

The Good

The Bad

If you’d prefer to focus on vegan dog dental chews, Virbac has just the ticket. You get that all-important Z-shaped design to scrape away plaque but without any meat in the ingredient list. And they feature a similar porous design to the Purina chews, sinking around your dog’s teeth to reach the gum line. And at only 48 calories a chew, they’re not going to do much to your dog’s waistline. They’re the perfect option – even if you aren’t looking for vegan treats!

So what are the downsides? They’re on the pricey side. You only get one package for each size, and they don’t contain many chews. And dogs need to weigh at least 11 pounds, even for the XS size. Also, the large is for 66+ pounds, which gets questionable. We used to give these to our girl, who weighs 75 pounds. She inhaled them in a few seconds. While we DID see her chew them, it took her less time than her Greenies. It’s one reason we switched.

The Good

The Bad

Whimzees offers several dog dental chews, but if you want that VOHC seal, you’ll need to look for the Brushzees. The extra grooves and ridges of the shape allow your dog to scrape the plaque away from their teeth, which is key. But you also get the bonus of a vegan dog treat. And the alfalfa is a natural breath freshener. And while they ARE colorful, there isn’t a single unnatural or artificial cause – everything’s from plants.

Downsides? Sizing only covers pups from 5-60+ pounds. (So tough to get everyone in, I know) And youngsters need to be at least nine months to start enjoying this treat. You may also need to watch older dogs as these are HARD dog dental chews. Also, due to the abundance of plants used, some dogs experienced GI upset. Watch carefully.

The Good

The Bad

Zuke’s combines grain-free options with delightful fruit and vegetable flavors for a delicious dog dental chew. The ridges along the chew remove plaque while your dog bites down, and the parsley, alfalfa, and fennel provide a natural breath freshener. There’s no corn, wheat, or soy to worry about, and they even skip gluten (in case you’re worried). It comes in three handy sizes, too, going all the way up to 90 pounds.

The downsides? While getting up to the big dogs, the Mini size isn’t designed for dogs weighing less than 10 pounds (definitely a bummer). These are also softer dog dental chews, which may lead to your pup bolting them too fast to gain any plaque-removing benefit. And that may mean some GI upset. Watch carefully (which, of course, you’re going to do anyway).

The Good

The Bad

Daily Dental Chew

Proper dental care is essential for your dog. And you’re breaking out that toothbrush as often as you can. But you know some additional help would go a long way. This is where dog dental chews come in. They keep up with the plaque – and your dog LIKES them. It’s an excellent addition to that toothy arsenal.

And as long as you don’t rely on them to do ALL the work, you’re golden. After all, you don’t chew that dental gum and expect a good report from your dentist, right? It’s one tool in the toolbox. And when your dog gets that A+ from the vet, you’ll both be delighted.

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Andria Kennedy

Andria Kennedy

Andria Kennedy worked as a Licensed Veterinary Technician for 10 years, focusing on Emergency/ICU and later Cardiology, as well as volunteering at both the Philadelphia Zoo and Virginia Living Museum for over six years. She's now a freelance writer, but she gravitates toward writing projects with a focus on animals (once an animal-lover, always an animal-lover). She lives in Virginia with her husband, three cats (one "works" as her personal assistant), and a Greyhound who thinks she's a big cat — all of them rescues.

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