The 8 Best Dog Dental Chews, According to Veterinarians and Pet Pros
Your pup has a favorite tooth-friendly chew toy, gets regular cleanings at the vet, and has a dental hygiene routine complete with a doggie toothbrush. Yet, there are still a few moments where their yawn is potent enough to wake you up from a nap. While persistent bad odor can point to bigger health problems that would need to be diagnosed by your veterinarian, occasional bouts of bad breath may be improved with dog dental chews.
What Are Dog Dental Chews?
These types of treats are used in between brushing sessions to freshen breath by encouraging dogs to, well, chew. They tend to have a more lasting effect than dog breath mints and fresheners on the market for this reason. "Some [chews] work by manually rubbing and scraping off bad smelling bacteria and stuck food from between the teeth as the dog chews," says Mary Altomare, DVM, head veterinarian at Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter in East Hanover, N.J. "Others—my favorites—also have enzymes and other ingredients in the chew that work to break down bacteria and tartar, even without the aid of manual rubbing, so this will continue to work even when your dog is done enjoying their chew."
How Often Should I Give My Dog Dental Chews?
Less is more when it comes to how often to give your dog dental chews. Altomare recommends 2 to 3 times a week, keeping calorie content in mind. As you incorporate these treats into your routine, monitor your dog's dental health. "Chews are best used before the dog's breath and tartar become a real problem," Altomare says. "We have a lot of clients looking to remedy bad breath, but usually once that happens there is so much calculus and gingivitis that a full dental at the vet office is needed."
The bottom line: It's not a bad idea to give your veterinarian a call if you have concerns about your dog's dental health, and if you want their opinion on the chews you pick.
The Best Dog Dental Chews
Greenies Original Dental Dog Treats
“All dogs love greenies. Period,” Altomare says. “They come in so many varieties, like grain-free, large and small dog, etc.” These dog dental chews work for their design: Their texture is just chewy enough for dogs to sink their teeth in (scrubbing away plaque in the process) yet won’t break apart in your dog’s mouth. The bendable texture means the chew will get into harder-to-reach areas for even more plaque reduction.
Shop now: Greenies Original Dental Dog Treats, starting at $5; chewy.com
Yummy Combs Dog Dental Treat
The unusual honeycomb shape of these dog dental chews give these treats their name and is the secret to their teeth-cleaning benefits. “The ridges floss around and between teeth while the pockets surround and scrub the teeth,” says Joe Roetheli, creator of Yummy Combs. “The two-sided design simultaneously cleans teeth on both the upper and lower jaw and the thin walls of the ridges/pockets also speed dissolving and digestion of the treat.” When choosing the right-size Yummy Comb—they come in five sizes—go by the weight recommendations on the package instead of thinking of your dog’s mouth. This is because Yummy Comb sizes were developed based on the size of the opening in the back of the oral cavity (as measured by a consulting vet) in different weight classes of dogs.
Shop now: Yummy Combs Dog Dental Treat, $21; chewy.com
C.E.T Enzymatic Oral Hygiene Chews
These vet-recommended dog dental chews are effective for their toothbrushing texture and their plaque-busting enzymes. “Some enzyme action is wonderful to help break down that tartar and bacteria buildup,” Altomare says.
Shop now: C.E.T Enzymatic Oral Hygiene Chews, $27; chewy.com
C.E.T HEXTRA Premium Chews
These vet-recommended dental chews for dogs are a step above the enzymatic chews due to the inclusion of a special ingredient: chlorhexidine. “This is a broad spectrum biocide that acts very similar to human mouthwash,” Altomare says. “Chlorhexidine kills a variety of bacteria and, once in the oral cavity, can continue killing bacteria long after the chew is finished.”
Shop now: C.E.T HEXTRA Premium Chews, $17; chewy.com
Purina ProPlan Veterinary Diets Dental Chewz
If you’re not one for scrutinizing countless labels, Altomare says to look for a seal of approval from the Veterinary Oral Health Council (V.O.H.C). You’ll find it on these widely-available dog dental chews. Altomare also likes that beef hide is the first ingredient along with a texture that’s great when it comes to removing tartar.
Shop now: Purina ProPlan Veterinary Diets Dental Chewz, starting at $9; chewy.com
Oravet Dental Hygiene Chews
“These are best for the little guys and have an ingredient to coat the teeth to prevent tartar buildup while freshening breath well,” Altomare says. The secret ingredient is delmopinol, a compound that has an antimicrobial effect that prevents the amount of plaque that can form on teeth and lead to gingivitis.
Shop now: Oravet Dental Hygiene Chews, starting at $23; chewy.com
Bow Wow Labs Safe Fit Bully Sticks
When shopping for dog dental chews, Altomare recommends looking at the label for products that have more protein than fat and have real meat as the first ingredient. Though she didn’t review these specific treats, these bully sticks meet the criteria: Each is 80 percent protein (and 2 percent fat) and is entirely made up of grass-fed beef. The action of chewing on the long-lasting sticks helps remove plaque and tartar. Pair it with the Bully Buddy, a specially-designed device that keeps pups from choking on the last little bit of bully stick.
Shop now: Bow Wow Labs Safe Fit Bully Sticks, starting at $20; amazon.com
InClover Grin Daily Dental Chews for Dogs
Another thing to look for when shopping for dental treats? Texture. Altomare recommends chews with firm or abrasive texture, which will create a “brushing” action against teeth. These clover-shaped treats have a firm feel, but they also are moist enough to stick to teeth. InClover says it’s intentional—the texture encourages chewing but also lets plaque-fighting components (like green tea polyphenols and anise) go to work.
Shop now: InClover Grin Daily Dental Chews for Dogs, $10; amazon.com