You probably grew up expecting dogs to have "doggy breath," so it may have come as a surprise to hear that today's health-savvy pet guardian brushes her dog's teeth. Now that you're in the know, choosing a natural, safe doggy toothpaste is the name of the game for securing your pet's dental health.
Doggy Tooth Brushing
Doggy breath may not completely be a thing of the past, but allowing your pet's foul mouth to impact his good health is. Brushing your pup's teeth now prevents a host of problems further down the line, from tooth decay and gum disease, to bacterial infections of the kidneys and brain. Attending to your pooch's dental health not only makes him more pleasant to spend time with now, it helps to ensure he'll be around for many years to come.
Purchasing Natural Dog Toothpaste
The good news is that natural dog toothpastes are readily available online or at many pet supply retail outlets. Choosing one may take some ingredient-deciphering. The active ingredient in most natural toothpastes is enzymatic cleaner, usually derived from milk. These toothpastes are heartily recommended by veterinarians because the enzymes keep working long after you've finished Fido's daily toilette regimen -- a good thing, since it's a lot harder to get your pup to sit still for flossing. The options for other ingredients, however, can be mind-boggling. From stevia and tea tree oil to cinnamon and goat yogurt, the combinations are endless and potentially confusing. Consult your veterinarian, a veterinary nutritionist, or veterinary herbalist if you're not comfortable making a selection on your own.
Making Natural Dog Toothpaste
Natural dog toothpaste recipes are simple and straightforward, and usually consist of baking soda and glycerin -- but baking soda is considered potentially toxic for dogs. Chemically speaking, it's a base -- too much can cause severe dehydration and metabolic disaster through electrolyte imbalance. And if you swallow too much glycerin, you may be running to the bathroom to deal with an unpleasant consequence: diarrhea. Of course, with both ingredients, it's a matter of proportion. In each case, "too much" causes the problem, but how much is too much? Unfortunately there's no cut-and-dry answer: It depends on the size and metabolism of your individual dog. The safest bet is to go with a vet-recommended commercial toothpaste. If you really want to DIY, there are many recipes for doggy toothpastes using herbal and homeopathic remedies -- and it's always a good idea to consult a veterinarian before testing one out on your beloved pet.
No People Toothpaste!
Never, ever use human toothpaste or other dental products on your pup. No matter how natural it purports to be, its pH balance is for human beings and can hurt your doggy's mouth and upset his tummy. The real danger, though, lies in human toothpaste sweeteners. Most toothpastes and mouth washes meant for you contain xylitol. To us, it's a harmless sugar alcohol, but to your dog, it causes fatal liver failure. Dogs who've ingested xylitol products -- toothpaste, mouthwash, gum, sugar-free foods -- require immediate veterinary attention.
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Ten Steps to Your Dog's Dental Health
- Veterinary Partner: A Guide to Canine Tooth Brushing
- Ottowa Valley Dog Whisperer: Dental Care for Dogs - Natural, Herbal, Homeopathic DIY Remedies, Treatments
- Dog Grooming and Training: Dog Toothpaste
Angela Libal began writing professionally in 2005. She has published several books, specializing in zoology and animal husbandry. Libal holds a degree in behavioral science: animal science from Moorpark College, a Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and is a graduate student in cryptozoology.