For a long time, pet guardians have been told to brush their pet’s teeth. For years now, your vet has helpfully suggested/nagged about cleaning your dog’s — or cat’s — teeth, hasn’t he or she?
But things are changing.
Vets advise against using human toothpaste — it’s toxic to animals, so use pet toothpaste instead. But this isn’t much of an incentive to get you to start brushing your pet’s teeth. What people want is a product with proper benefits that make a real difference. This is where the latest pet toothpastes come in.
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Pet Toothpaste Benefits
When you pick the right product, a good pet toothpaste goes above and beyond doing no harm. It also:
- Changes the pH of your pet’s mouth, making it a more hostile place for bacteria
- Prevent food debris from gluing itself together to form plaque
- Is antibacterial and kills the bugs that turn sticky plaque into hard tartar
- Improves gum health
- Has a lingering effect after brushing has finished
Add all this up and you get cleaner teeth, healthier gums and fresher breath. In the long term, this means dodging disease and the dreaded de-scale under anesthetic, which is better for your pet and your pocketbook.
Why Pets Can’t Use Human Toothpaste
Dogs and cats don’t rinse and spit — they swallow. This means toothpaste becomes food.
But toothpaste contains fluoride, which is hazardous when swallowed. Therefore, pets can’t use human toothpaste.
Let’s look at some figures.
Around 5–10 mg/kg of fluoride is fatal to a dog. For a 10 kg dog, this means 50 mg of fluoride could kill, with a much lower dose of 10 mg being enough to cause clinical signs of illness.
When you cover the toothbrush head with a strip of human toothpaste, this contains about 2.5 mg of fluoride, so 4 brush-loads and your dog is in trouble.
The bottom line? Stick to pet toothpaste.
Brushing without toothpaste and just water is of some benefit because it rubs away food debris.
However, the benefits pretty much end there. If your dog has infected gums, then brushing alone could make matters worse as you catch the gums, make them bleed and give bacteria an entry point into circulation.
Various Pet Toothpastes
Pet toothpastes vary widely in how they work and their effectiveness. Indeed, what’s puzzling to me is that some “natural” toothpastes contain tea tree oil. This is a little perplexing because this oil is toxic when swallowed, so how do you square that circle?
At the other end of the scale, the gold standard toothpaste is Petsmile (affiliate link) because it is the only toothpaste that holds the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval. The VOHC is a body of specialist veterinary dentists who use research and scientific data to work out if products are effective or not.
Petsmile gets a big thumbs-up because as well as working to reduce plaque and bacteria, it has a lingering effect. Indeed, the brushing part is recommended but not essential. You can even apply this toothpaste to a chew toy – what matters is that the paste ends up in the pet’s mouth.
Pick up some helpful tips from this vet’s video on brushing dogs’ teeth:
The silver standard toothpastes — with no VOHC certification — are “enzymatic.”
Enzymes are biological chemicals — in this case, GOx (glucose oxidase) and LPO (lacto peroxidase — an enzyme derived from milk). The GOx converts to hydrogen peroxide in the mouth, which activates the LPO to kill bacteria. It is bacteria that form part of plaque and cause it to harden into tartar.
They also include humectants to keep the paste spreadable. Sorbitol is commonly used as a humectant. But don’t panic — sorbitol is perfectly safe (unlike xylitol, a chemical that has a similar name but is deadly).
And last but not least are microbeads of polishing agents to help shift stains.
Cost and Taste
Yes, a good pet toothpaste is more costly than a human one, but I hope you can now see why. There is much more than meets the eye to that bland-looking tube. There’s a whole load of science that went into making it safe and effective for your pet.
Pet toothpastes taste just great (to pets). When you use a great-tasting pet toothpaste, most pets become eager to incorporate teeth brushing into their daily routine because they think you’re rubbing delicious spreadable meat around inside their mouth.
Nom nom nom. Definitely something to smile about.