Do the Additives in Dog Food Remove Plaque?

by Jon Mohrman
    Dental hygiene helps minimize that infamous doggy breath.

    Dental hygiene helps minimize that infamous doggy breath.

    George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    Dental hygiene is as pressing a concern for your pooch as it is for you. Your dog's mouth is susceptible to plaque accumulation, which over time paves the way for periodontal disease. Some canine foods, treats and chews allegedly benefit dogs' dental health. Many do assist with plaque removal, but not because of additives they contain. Just remember, these products don't let you off the hook for keeping up your pet's vet-recommended dental hygiene regimen.

    Most advantages of so-called dental treats and foods for dogs come from manual removal of food particles and plaque buildup during chewing. For daily diet, this works only with dry kibble, not wet canned foods. In fact, moist foods are more prone to sticking to the teeth and gums, causing problems instead of mitigating them. When your dog chews a hard food, dental treat or chew, it scrapes gunk off your pooch's teeth. This -- not any particular additive -- is where the dental benefits come from.

    Some dental foods and treats remove up to 70 percent of plaque, cites WebMD. This helps prevent bad breath, which can be notoriously foul in dogs. But as bacteria accumulates in your dog's mouth, plaque turns to tartar in as little as 36 hours. Tartar is a harder, stickier substance that's more difficult to remove. It discolors the teeth and, when left unchecked, it leads to gum inflammation, pain, infections and disease. So, cleaning off plaque is an essential part of preventing irreversible periodontal disease. For the most benefits, choose products labeled with the Veterinary Oral Health Council's seal of approval.

    You can't rely solely on dog dental foods and treats to eliminate plaque. They don't cover all the surface area of teeth and gums, nor can they get into the gum line. Some are swallowed too quickly to provide much, or any, benefit at all. If you use these products, find those that actually keep your dog chewing for a while. Also, if you buy extra treats or chews for oral hygiene purposes, pay attention to the extra calories you're adding into your pet's diet. They add up quickly, and it doesn't take many added calories to trigger weight gain, especially in small breeds.

    Brushing your dog's teeth, though it isn't always easy or fun, is crucial to her dental health and prevention of periodontal disease. Some breeds are more prone than others, but it's a concern in all dogs. Ask your vet how often you should brush your dog's teeth, and for a canine toothpaste recommendation. Also ask whether you should use an oral rinse or wash. Other chewable products, including some toys, bones, pig ears and rawhide, can also help manually remove plaque. Ask your vet about these; some pose mouth injury or choking hazards, can lead to intestinal blockages, can break teeth and may carry other health risks.

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    • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Jon Mohrman has been a writer and editor for more than seven years. He specializes in food, travel and health topics. He attended the University of Pittsburgh for English literature and San Francisco State University for creative writing.

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