Skip to main content

Why your dog needs a dental diet

Most of us probably don’t put a lot of thought into our dog’s oral health.

But the health of your dog’s teeth and gums is important for their overall health.

Did you know most dogs have signs of periodontal disease by the time they’re 3 years old? 

Just like you, having tooth decay, cracked or loose teeth or gum disease can be painful and dangerous for your pet. 

If your dog can’t chew without pain or discomfort, it can affect their appetite and lead to malnourishment. And if your dog has untreated tooth decay or gum disease, the bacteria in their mouth can move through their bloodstream and cause heart, liver, and kidney disease. 

Treating these serious conditions is far more expensive than investing in preventive care for your dog. Tooth-friendly food and chew toys can protect your pet from dangerous and costly illnesses down the road.

If you’re new to a dental diet for your dog, don’t worry — we’ve put together this guide to help you pick the right foods and chew toys to keep your dog’s dental health on track. 

Look for the VOHC seal

A great place to start when looking for tooth-healthy treats and food for your dog is to look for the VOHC seal by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. 

This independent veterinary dental group is like the American Dental Association in that they review and make recommendations on tooth-healthy foods and chew toys for your pup.

So, if you’re not sure whether that organic dog food is really going to make a difference in your pet’s oral health, the VOHC seal will help you choose a product that’s been reviewed and approved by the experts.

Is dry dog food healthier for my dog’s teeth?

You may have heard that dry dog food can help keep your dog’s teeth clean, as the abrasive texture could help brush away cavity-causing bacteria.

But since most dog kibble has a higher percentage of refined carbohydrates, dry dog food can still increase plaque and tartar levels on your dog’s teeth — causing more dental problems than it can supposedly prevent.

However, there are some dog food brands that are specifically designed to help remove plaque and reduce your dog’s chances of getting gum disease. Read more about these tooth-healthy dog foods below.

Are bones good for my dog’s teeth?

Although wild dogs and wolves may gnaw on raw bones, you don’t want to give your canine companion any animal bones that you'll find at pet stores or butcher shops. 

Whether raw or cooked, animal bones are too hard for your dog’s teeth and tender gums. They can splinter and tear in your dog’s mouth, which can chip or break teeth and cause damage to their gums. 

And in fact, many dogs in the wild can be found with broken and chipped teeth.

Another rare but additional risk of raw bones is that uncooked meat can carry bacteria that could be dangerous to both pets and humans. 

So, steer clear of animal bones for your pup to protect their teeth.

Tooth-friendly chew toys

A good chew toy that can help keep your canine companion’s teeth strong should be bendable and flexible so it won’t break your dog’s teeth or irritate their gums. It also shouldn’t be small enough for your dog to accidentally swallow it.

Look for rubbery chew toys and other balls or chew toys made of similarly flexible material.

Chew toys to avoid

There are many chew toys you can purchase at the pet store that are far from healthy for your dog’s teeth. 

Here’s a list of chew toys to pass up next time you’re looking for something for your pup to gnaw on:

Bones made of starches

  • Unlike raw meat bones, chew toys made from starches like potato, corn or rice flour can stick to your dog’s teeth and add to cavity-causing plaque and tartar build-up.

Hard chews

  • Avoid giving your dog hard chews like hooves, nylon bones, and thick rawhide.
  • Hard chew toys can break your dog’s teeth, which could lead to bloody abscesses (and an expensive trip to the vet). 
  • Rule of thumb? If you bang the chew toy on your tabletop and it sounds like a rock, it’s too hard for your dog’s teeth.

Animal bones

  • As addressed above, animal bones both raw and cooked are too hard for your dog’s sensitive gums and teeth.
  • They can break or chip your dog’s tooth and can splinter in your dog’s mouth and lead to a choking hazard.
  • Some vets advocate for thin, flexible rawhide, but many warn that thick, heavy rawhide can break or fracture your dog's teeth.

Tennis balls

  • The fuzz on the outside of a tennis ball works similarly to the scratchy green side of your kitchen sponge — but on the inside of your dog’s mouth.
  • Tennis ball fuzz will essentially sand down your dog’s teeth over time.
  • Tennis balls can also trap sand and dirt inside their fuzzy exterior, which makes them even rougher on your dog’s teeth. 
  • The solution? If your furry friend loves to fetch balls, look into buying a flexible rubber ball.

A healthy dental diet for your dog can keep your canine companion healthy and happy as they age — which keeps you happy, too.

But beyond a tooth-healthy diet, the number one way to manage your dog’s oral health is by maintaining an at-home oral health routine — just like you.

Stay in the know

Sign up to get tips and resources

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.

Find a pet insurance plan with our partner Pets Best

Dental Insurance

Good Health Starts With Your Smile

You're busy and sometimes it’s a challenge to get it all done. Our plans are designed to help make it easier for you to put your health first - starting with your smile. Find a plan that’s right for you.

Accident Insurance

Be Prepared for Life's Surprises

You never expect an accident to happen to you or anyone in your family. Our plans help you deal with surprise costs that go along with them.  Find a plan that’s right for you. 

Pet Insurance

A Smart Choice for Pet Insurance

Now you can get simple, easy, affordable pet insurance and join millions of other happy customers.

Critical Illness Insurance

A Safety Net When You Need It Most

Dealing with a serious illness is tough. Having a financial safety net helps you focus on the fight - not how you'll pay the bills.  Find a plan that’s right for you.