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How to choose the best dental treats for your dog

Jessie, a 14-year-old Pekingese, smiles for the camera
Jessie, a 14-year-old Pekingese, smiles for the camera
C. Anderson

The truth is, there’s no substitute for tooth brushing. The fact remains, not all pet parents are going to to brush their dogs' teeth. The reasons are varied but the outcome is the same: bad dental outcomes for our pooches. There are some helpful alternatives and while they are not the optimal answer, they are certainly better than doing nothing at all. One drawback of any type of "bone" is that it will only clean above the gum line. A dog toothbrush or professional cleaning by a veterinarian is the only way to get a thorough cleaning. In the meantime, dental bones are a good way to maintain your pet's oral hygiene.

A word of caution, though. Be very selective when choosing dental treats and chews. There are many different types marketed as healthy for dogs. But a closer look reveals a number of discrepancies. Rawhide chews in particular may even be deadly. Some can cause intestinal blockages and are choking hazards, while others are made from unhealthy ingredients. Luckily, there are a number of healthful, safe chews available, but it may require a bit of diligence to locate them.

Dehydrated Sweet Potatoes

Try dried sweet potatoes for a healthy chew that dogs adore. They contain iron, and vitamin C, as well as much needed fiber. You can purchase them at pet shops or make your own. Sweet potato chews can be found in different shapes and sizes, which is handy in accommodating both small or large size dogs. Dried sweet potatoes are very chewy and will occupy your pet for extended periods of satisfied chewing.

Single Sheet Natural Rawhide Chews

Read about rawhide chews and you'll find they are somewhat controversial. However, if chosen carefully the right type of rawhide can still be an effective and safe chew for your dog. Chews made from a single sheet of rawhide are more difficult to pull apart into pieces that can be swallowed. The more common (and cheaper) rawhide chews are actually pieced together scraps of rawhide that can be dangerous to your pet. And as with any long-lasting chew, supervision is important.

Dental Chews

Find natural dental chews at any pet store. They are targeted specifically for the teeth and are safe and effective. They provide necessary chewing action and a food treat at the same time. The proteins in this chew make them an easily digestible, chewy treat that takes your dog some time to consume. They are easily digested. The ingredients are gelatin, wheat protein isolate, soy protein isolate, and sodium caseinate. Vitamins and minerals are added to enhance the healthful qualities.

Starch-based Chews

Look for starch-based chews made from vegetables, such as potatoes, at pet stores and online. Starch-based bones are nutritious and take your pet some time to consume, thus providing lots of chewing satisfaction. These chews are gluten-free, wheat-free and sugar-free. They contain fiber, are low-fat and contain no artificial ingredients. They can also be purchased in a variety of fun shapes and colors. Starch-based chews will not damage your pet's teeth and are easily soluble.

Real Bones

Give your dog a real bone. It's true they are messy, so it is best to give it to your dog outside. Make certain it is the type of bone that won't splinter easily, creating a choking hazard. Beef bones are a good choice. Always supervise your dog when you give her a bone just in case. You can also purchase marrow bones. These are natural alternatives to real bones, they have been sterilized, and some are filled with treats.

Rope Bones

Rope bones are fun toys in addition to providing a good dental workout. Rope bones have the reputation of being able to actually floss the dog's teeth. While this is not really the case, the soft fibers are gentler on the teeth than hard bones and may be the best option for a puppy or an older dog with bad teeth. There are also sprays you can apply to the rope bone to make chewing even more fun for your dog. Again, a word of caution. Always supervise your dog with one of these toys. Some dogs have been known to chew off pieces of the rope and swallow them, creating a choking hazard or even an intestinal blockage.

Rubber Bones

Select from a number of sizes. These durable bones can be filled with healthy treats to encourage longer chewing sessions. Others have special grooves that enhance their cleaning action. Rubber bones can also be found in combination with rope bones. Try coating it with some dog toothpaste to make it into a tasty treat.

February is National Pet Dental Health Month. During that time many veterinary practices offer discounts on dental cleanings. Check with your vet practice to find out if that is the case and schedule an appointment if your veterinarian recommends it. Periodontal disease can lead to many other health problems so it is well worth the effort to address this potential issue before it becomes a real problem. Your veterinarian is your best resource and partner in promoting your pet's healthy lifestyle.

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