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Dental health is just as important for your four-legged friends as it is for you. If their teeth aren’t cared for, dogs can develop periodontal disease, oral pain, halitosis, and other serious conditions. In addition to brushing your dog’s teeth, you may also want to give them dental chews, which are designed to remove plaque and tartar.
These chews come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s important to find ones that are appropriate for your pet. “I always recommend asking your veterinarian as well for their input on which products would work best for your pet,” Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM, Veterinary Expert for Pumpkin Pet Insurance. “They can usually recommend a few products that they love and find beneficial for their patients.” You can also ensure you’re getting an effective product by looking for the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal.
Here, the best dental chews for dogs.
Best Overall: Virbac C.E.T. VeggieDent Fr3sh Tartar Control Dog Chews
Key Ingredients: Corn starch, glycerin, brewers dried yeast | Calories: 75 calories per medium treat | VOHC Seal: Yes | Quantity: 30 per bag | Food Form: Treats | Life Stage: Adult | Breed Size: Medium
Available in numerous sizes
Contains prebiotic for digestion
Virbac is a well-regarded animal health pharmaceutical company, and its C.E.T. VeggieDent Fr3sh Tartar Control Dog Chews are a top-rated choice that’s recommended by Dr. Wooten. These chews come in extra small, small, medium, and large sizes for various dog breeds, and their unique Z-shape allows the chew to reach different areas of your dog’s mouth.
The Virbac Dog Chews are plant-based with a relatively short ingredient list, and they don’t contain any gluten or animal-derived ingredients. The formula helps to reduce tartar and plaque, as well as freshen your dog’s breath, and they meet the VOHC standards. The treats are easy for your dog to digest, and they even contain a prebiotic that helps support proper digestion.
"We have trouble finding dental chews because our dog bites them in half and then swallows them, so they don't much good for teeth cleaning. This might not seem like an endorsement, but I think because it's plant-based and doesn't smell like meat, that he doesn't get quite as excited about it and will take his time chewing it."—Margot Cavin, Spruce Photo Producer
Best Budget: Milk-Bone Brushing Chews Daily Dental Dog Treats
Key Ingredients: D-calcium pantothenate, vitamin supplements | Calories: 63 calories per small/medium treat | VOHC Seal: Yes | Quantity: 5 per bag | Food Form: Chews | Life Stage: Adult | Breed Size: All
Affordable to buy in bulk
Formulated with essential vitamins and minerals
Available in several sizes
Only VOHC approved for tartar control
The Milk-Bone Fresh Breath Brushing Chews are a great value, as they come in large packages. They’re VOHC approved for tartar control (but not plaque), and the chews are available in mini, small/medium, and large sizes.
These dental chews have ridges and nubs on each treat to help remove plaque and tartar buildup while refreshing your dog’s breath. They’re fortified with calcium, as well as a variety of vitamins and minerals, and they’re free from any artificial flavors.
Best for Large Dogs: Purina DentaLife Adult Large Dog Treats
Key Ingredients: Glycerin, dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate | Calories: 100 calories per treat | VOHC Seal: Yes | Quantity: 18 or 30 per bag | Food Form: Chews | Life Stage: Adult | Breed Size: Large
Dog-approved chicken flavor
Cleans teeth down to gumlines
Crunchy texture doesn't last as long
High in calories
If you have a large breed dog, the Dentalife Daily Oral Care Large Dental Dog Treats are VOHC-approved chews that can help reduce tartar buildup. Plus, they have a tasty chicken flavor and crunchy texture that dogs will love.
These treats have a circular shape with eight distinct ridges that help clean your dog’s teeth down to the gumline, and they have a porous texture that helps to scrub off tartar. The crunchy texture is ideal for dogs who don’t like rubbery chews, but keep in mind that these treats are higher in calories than other options, so you may need to reduce your dog’s food intake accordingly to prevent weight gain.
Best for Small Dogs: OraVet Dental Care Hygiene Chews, Extra Small
Key Ingredients: Delmopinol | Calories: 26.8 calories per treat | VOHC Seal: Yes | Quantity: 30 per bag | Food Form: Chews | Life Stage: Adult | Breed Size: Extra small, toy
Help to prevent bacteria
Easy for dogs to digest
Size is appropriate for extra-small dogs
For extra-small dogs, the OraVet Dental Care Hygiene Chews are a top choice, as they’re designed for animals between 3.5 and 9 pounds. (However, they should only be given to dogs 6 months and older.) The chews are VOHC accepted for tartar control, and they’re one of the only products on the market that contains delmopinol, an ingredient commonly used in human dental products.
The OraVet Chews help to create a barrier on your dog's teeth to prevent bacteria, while the chewing action scrapes off plaque. The formula is easy for dogs to digest, and the treats are also available in larger sizes if you have a bigger dog.
Best for Seniors: Greenies Senior Aging Care Natural Dental Dog Treats
Key Ingredients: Lecithin, calcium carbonate, vitamin supplements | Calories: 90 calories per treat | VOHC Seal: Yes | Quantity: 27 per bag | Food Form: Soft chews | Life Stage: Senior | Breed Size: Medium
Soft, chewy texture
Includes important vitamins and minerals
Available in several sizes
Don't last as long due to soft texture
High in calories
Some dental chews are too tough for senior dogs, but the Greenies Aging Care Dental Dog Treats are designed with older pets in mind. These dental chews are for dogs over 7 years old, and they’re 50 percent softer than the brand’s regular chews with soluble, all-natural ingredients that break down quickly.
These chews have a unique shape with ridges on one end that’s designed to control and remove tartar and plaque, and they’re approved for both purposes by the VOHC. They’re formulated with vitamins and minerals to help your senior dog get all the nutrients they need, and they have a taste that dogs love.
Best for Puppies: Greenies Puppy Regular Dental Dog Treats
Key Ingredients: Glycerin, calcium carbonate, vitamin supplements, DHA | Calories: 95 calories per treat | VOHC Seal: Yes | Quantity: 12 or 20 per bag | Food Form: Soft treats | Life Stage: Puppy | Breed Size: Medium
Soft texture is gentle on puppy teeth
Aid in brain, teeth, and jaw development
Several sizes for different puppy breeds
High in calories
You can start prioritizing dental health early with Greenies Puppy Dental Dog Treats, which are formulated for puppies 6 months and older. They feature the classic Greenies shape, which has ridges on one end for a deeper clean, and they contain DHA and calcium to support brain, teeth, and jaw development in growing dogs.
Because they’re made for puppies, these treats are 50 percent softer than standard Greenies, and they’re accepted by the VOHC for plaque and tartar control. The formula is soluble and easy for puppies to digest, and while the regular size is best for puppies 25 to 50 pounds, the brand does have puppy treats for smaller pups, as well.
Best Grain Free: Blue Buffalo Wilderness Wild Bones Grain Free Dental Chews
Key Ingredients: Vegetable glycerin, calcium carbonate | Calories: 120 calories per medium treat | VOHC Seal: No | Quantity: Varies | Food Form: Chews | Life Stage: Adult | Breed Size: Medium
Grain- and gluten-free
Available in several sizes
No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
High in calories
Not VOHC approved
If your dog has a grain allergy or is on a grain-free diet, the Blue Buffalo Wilderness Wild Bones Dental Chews are grain- and gluten-free, and they’re also made without any chicken or poultry byproducts, artificial preservatives, or artificial flavors. These chews come in mini, small, medium, and large sizes, and they help to decrease tartar and plaque buildup while maintaining healthy gums and teeth.
The main ingredients in these chews are potatoes and potato starch, and they do have a higher number of calories per chew than other options, so be sure to adjust your dog’s food accordingly. Additionally, keep in mind that these particular chews are not approved by the VOHC.
Best Chew Toy: Arm & Hammer Ora-Play Dental Chew Toy
Key Ingredients: Baking soda | Calories: N/A | VOHC Seal: N/A | Quantity: 1 | Food Form: Chew toy | Life Stage: All | Breed Size: All
Long-lasting and reusable
Baking soda helps fight bad breath
Only suitable for smaller dogs
One of the downsides of dental chews is that you need to feed them to your dog regularly—typically on a daily basis—for maximum effectiveness, which means you’ll go through them very quickly. The Arm & Hammer Ora-Play Dental Chew Toy is a longer-lasting alternative, as it’s a hard chew toy that has nubs and scrubbing grooves to help clean your dog’s teeth as they chew on it.
This dental chew toy is best for dogs under 35 pounds, and it has a peanut butter flavor to encourage chewing. It’s infused with baking soda to fight bad breath, and it’s made from tough nylon that can stand up to even the most enthusiastic chewers.
The Virbac C.E.T. VeggieDent Fr3sh Tartar Control Dog Chews (view at Chewy) are a great choice for most dogs, as they come in a variety of sizes, are VOHC approved, and have a plant-based formula. For a longer-lasting option, consider the Arm & Hammer Ora-Play Dental Chew Toy (view at Amazon), a hard toy with nubs and grooves that will help to clean your dog's teeth. Plus, because it’s not ingested, you don’t have to worry about your dog consuming extra calories.
What to Look for in Dental Chews for Dogs
“I recommend looking for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval on the packaging,” says Dr. Wooten. “VOHC is an organization that evaluates dental chews for their efficacy in reducing plaque or tartar. Dental chews must reduce plaque or tartar by at least 10 percent to achieve the VOHC seal of approval. If a chemical anti-plaque agent is used, it must reduce plaque or tartar by at least 20 percent.” The VOHC keeps an updated list of its accepted products that’s available for pet owners to see.
When shopping for dental chews, it’s important to select a product that’s an appropriate size for your dog. “Ideally, the chew should be larger than the dog’s mouth to prevent swallowing hazards, so make sure to choose the right-sized chew,” says Dr. Wooten. “A dog shouldn’t swallow the chew when it is broken down. Take away the chew when it gets smaller than the dog’s mouth and replace it with a larger chew.”
When shopping for dental chews, it’s important to look at the number of calories in each chew. “Many of these products have high caloric density and can cause increased weight gain for our canine friends,” explains Dr. Jessica Herman, DVM, a veterinarian at Fuzzy, a subscription-based pet-health service. If you do select chews that are high in calories, you’ll want to adjust your dog’s food portion accordingly on days that you give them a chew.
Do dental chews really work?
“The most effective way to keep our dog’s teeth and mouth healthy is by daily brushing,” says Dr. Herman. “Brushing helps to remove plaque daily, thus, not allowing tartar and bacteria to adhere to the teeth. Dental chews, dental wipes, water additives, treats, and dental rinses also exist, but are not as effective as daily brushing.”
If you do opt to give your dog dental chews as a supplement to brushing, you’ll want to look for a product that’s been scientifically tested and proven effective at preventing and removing plaque and tartar.
It’s also beneficial to select long-lasting treats, as longer chewing sessions increases the effectiveness of dental chews: “Dogs will get the best benefit out of their chews if they chew for five to 10 minutes or longer because the product needs to be in contact with the teeth and gums in order to remove plaque,” says Dr. Wooten. “If a dog finishes the chew in a few minutes then it won’t be as effective.”
How often should I give my dog dental chews?
The majority of dental chews are designed to be given to dogs on a regular basis—typically every day or a few times per week. “Plaque takes three days to harden into tartar. Offer dental chews daily or every other day to reduce plaque and thus, tartar,” says Dr. Wooten.
Are dental chews good for overweight dogs?
Because dental chews are typically high in calories, they’re not always the best option for overweight dogs. Instead, you may want to use a dog-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste to clean your pet’s teeth. If you do choose to give an overweight dog dental chews, it’s important to adjust their daily food intake accordingly.
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
This article was written by Camryn Rabideau, a lifelong animal lover who currently owns a 2-year-old Golden Retriever, as well as three cats. While researching this article, she looked for highly-rated products that are approved by the VOHC and free from potentially harmful ingredients.