You brush your teeth at least twice a day, but what about your pup?
Dental health is just as important for your canine BFF as it is for you. If their teeth aren’t cared for, dogs can develop oral pain, halitosis, and other serious conditions like periodontal disease, which is the most common dental condition in dogs and can lead to tooth loss.
“Dental care is extremely important in dogs. In fact, dogs are an excellent model for humans, so you can think about the need for periodontal (gum health) in a similar fashion,” says veterinarian Dr. Stephanie Goldschmidt, BVM&S, DAVDC, an assistant professor of dentistry and oral surgery at the University of California-Davis.
“Lack of plaque control leads to bone and tooth loss, pain, as well as distant effects to other organs in the body. Brushing is the best way to decrease plaque and calculus. If brushing is not an option, then other periodontal products (like treats/diets) can be utilized.”
You can ensure you’re getting an effective product by looking for the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal which says that a product reaches certain pre-set standards..
The best overall dental chew for dogs is the C.E.T. VeggieDent Tartar Control Dog Chew which has a distinctive Z-shape that helps reach all teeth and gums. The plant-based treats come in four sizes and are easy to digest.
Virbac C.E.T. VeggieDent Fr3sh Tartar Control Dog Chews
Easy to digest
Some dogs don’t like the taste
Made without any animal-based ingredients, these veggie chews have an unusual Z-shape that makes it easier for dogs to grip as they gnaw. The twisty shape also helps get into the nooks and crannies of their teeth. A respected animal health care pharmaceutical company, Virbac has a line of other dog dental products including toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental rinses, and other dental treats.
These particular chews come in four sizes from extra-small to large and are for dogs from under 11 to more than 66 pounds. They’re designed to reduce plaque and tartar while also freshening your dog’s breath. They are easy for a pup’s GI tract and contain a prebiotic to help with digestion. They’re accepted by the VOHC and have a relatively short list of ingredients.
C.E.T. VeggieDent Tartar Control Dog Chews are easy to digest, have VOHC acceptance, and are a top-rated choice from many veterinarians.
Price at time of publish: $29
Treat sizes available: extra-small, small, medium, large | Main ingredients: Corn starch, glycerin, soy protein isolate, rice flour | Calories: 75 calories per medium chew | Nutrition: 17% min protein, 0.4% min fat, 2% max crude fiber, 15% max moisture
Best Selection (Puppies, Seniors, Large Dogs)
Greenies Original Regular Natural Dental Dog Treats
Lots of sizes and formulas
Added vitamins and minerals
Less expensive than many
Some users say it can cause diarrhea/gastric issues
Greenies are one of the most well-known dental chews. They are aptly named for their distinctive green color and are shaped somewhat like a toothbrush. Greenies are made in the U.S. with globally sourced ingredients, including vitamins and minerals. The treats are poultry flavored and most dogs seem to really enjoy the taste.
They are designed to freshen breath and to fight plaque and tartar for teeth and gum health. They are often veterinarian-recommended and were accepted by the VOHC. They come in four sizes for dogs from 5 to 100 pounds. They also have special formulas for puppies, seniors, and weight management, as well as recipes that are grain-free or contain spearmint for extra fresh breath.
Price at time of publish: $37
Treat sizes available: Teenie, petite, regular, large | Main ingredients: Wheat flour, glycerin, wheat gluten, gelatin | Calories: 91 calories per regular original treat | Nutrition: 30% min protein, 5.5% min fat, 8% max crude fiber, 6% max moisture
Best for Small Dogs
OraVet Dental Care Hygiene Chews, Extra Small
Dislodges plaque and tartar and then protects teeth
Individually wrapped for freshness
Four sizes for dogs from 3.5 to 50-plus pounds
Hard to find non-active ingredient listing
The main ingredient in these dental chews is delmopinol, which is used in human dental rinses. It works by coating your dog’s teeth to help protect against tartar and plaque formation and bad breath. When your dog first chews the treat, it causes plaque to loosen and break off. Then the active ingredient protects from the bacteria that triggers plaque and leads to bad breath.
The dental treats are little green rectangles with a swirled chewy center. They are individually wrapped for freshness and come in four sizes for dogs from 3.5 to 50-plus pounds. This extra-small size is for dogs from 3.5 to 9 pounds. They are poultry flavored and are often recommended by vets.
Price at time of publish: $24
Treat sizes available: four, for dogs ranging from 3.5 to 50-plus pounds | Main ingredients: Delmopinol | Calories: 80.5 calories per medium chew | Nutrition: 46.41% min protein, 2.55% min fat, 0.69% max crude fiber, 13.98% max moisture
Whimzees Natural Grain Free Daily Dental Dog Treats
Brushzees have VOHC acceptance
More expensive than some
Who says dental care can’t be fun? Whimzees come in cute shapes like an alligator and a hedgehog. There are Whimzees Brushees, which are shaped like toothbrushes, topped with a swirl of chewiness that looks like toothpaste. And there are Stix, which are long ridged chews, and those also come in seasonal shapes on the end including pumpkins and snowmen.
The treats come in five sizes for dogs from 5 to 60-plus pounds. They contain no artificial ingredients, flavors or additives. Brushzees have the VOHC seal of acceptance. Whimzees are made in the Netherlands in a factory that puts a lot of focus on sustainability.
Price at time of publish: $30
Treat sizes available: five (extra-small through extra-large) | Main ingredients: Potato starch, glycerin, powdered cellulose, lecithin | Calories: 88 calories per medium chew | Nutrition: 1.1% min protein, 2% min fat, 13.7% max crude fiber, 11% max moisture
Purina DentaLife Small/Medium Dog Dental Chews
Less expensive than most
Ridges and air pockets for chewy texture
Some picky eaters don’t like them
These affordable treats from Purina have air pockets and ridges that work together to create a chewy texture. That chewiness helps attack tartar and plaque, which also leads to better breath. The main ingredients are rice, glycerin, and wheat flour.
These treats are significantly less expensive than many dental chews. The small/medium size is less than 40 cents each, while many others are closer to a dollar. The chews are accepted by the VOHC and owners say their dogs really seem to like the taste. There are three sizes for dogs from 5 to more than 40 pounds.
Price at time of publish: $15
Treat sizes available: Mini, small/medium, large | Main ingredients: Rice, glycerin, wheat flour | Calories per treat: 63 | Nutrition: 6% min protein, 2% min fat, 1.5% max crude fiber, 15% max moisture
Best Natural Ingredients
Blue Buffalo Dental Bones All Natural Dog Treats
Shape and texture work together to remove plaque and tartar
No artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors
Not accepted by VOHC
These bone-shaped dental treats are chewy and have a texture designed. The shape and texture work together to help remove tartar and plaque while freshening breath. Potatoes are the main ingredient and they contain added minerals. They contain no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors, and no grains, gluten, corn, soy, or wheat.
The bones come in four sizes for dogs from 5 pounds to more than 50 pounds. Look for blueberries and pea protein in the ingredients, instead of any poultry byproduct meals. Many owners say dogs love the taste, but often eat them quickly.
Price at time of publish: $26
Treat sizes available: Mini, small, regular, large | Main ingredients: Potatoes, powdered cellulose, vegetable glycerin | Calories: 87 calories per regular bone | Nutrition: 7.5% min protein, 3.5% min fat, 12% max crude fiber, 20% max moisture
Best with Toothpaste
Ark Naturals Breath-Less Brushless Toothpaste Dog Chews
Gummy toothpaste center
Can be fed twice a day
Not VOHC accepted
Called brushless toothpaste, these chewy dental sticks have a heart-shaped channel of gummy toothpaste in the center. Your pup first crunches on the outside stick that has ridges for hard-to-reach spots. Then when they get to the middle, the toothpaste center helps polish their pearly whites.
The chews come in four sizes ranging from mini (up to 8 pounds) to large (up to 80 pounds). They contain spices like cinnamon, clove, vanilla, and alfalfa to help freshen breath. Most dental chews should be fed no more than once a day, but it’s OK to offer these twice a day if your pup does well with them.
Price at time of publish: $29
Treat sizes available: Mini, small, medium, large | Main ingredients: Rice flour, honey, water, glycerin, canola oil, gelatin | Calories per treat: 50 | Nutrition: 5% min protein, 5% min fat, 2% max crude fiber, 20% max moisture
Bocce’s Bakery Dailies Dog Treats for Wellness Support
No artificial flavors, color, or preservatives
Ingredients include chickpeas, apples, coconut, and spinach
Not VOHC accepted
These bristle-shaped dental sticks smell so good, you might be tempted to sample one yourself. The ingredient list is short and simple and includes all-natural items such as chickpeas, apples, coconut, and spinach. There are no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives and they’re made in the U.S.
Brushy Sticks come in three sizes for dogs from 5 pounds to more than 50 pounds. In addition to a huge selection of interesting and gourmet everyday treats, Bocce’s also has Brushy Bites. These 9-calorie treats are made with apple and mint for fresh breath.
Price at time of publish: $16
Treat sizes available: Small, medium, large | Main ingredients: Chickpeas, tapioca flour, coconut glycerin, apples | Calories: 55 calories per medium stick | Nutrition: 11% min protein, 2.75% min fat, 3.75% max crude fiber, 27% max moisture
Virbac C.E.T. Enzymatic Oral Hygiene Dental Dog Chews
High in protein
Combo of texture and enzymes work together
Not accepted by VOHC
Some dogs don’t do well with rawhide
Many types of rawhide toys and treats use chemicals and adhesives to create dog chews from leather industry byproducts. However, these dental chews are made with all-beef rawhide. That makes them incredibly high in protein compared to most other dental chews, so be aware if your pup is on a special diet.
These chews are made by the same company that makes VeggieDent Tartar Control Chews, both of which are often recommended by vets. They’re created from single strips of rawhide and come in four sizes for pups from under 11 pounds to more than 50 pounds. Enzymes, plus the chew’s rough texture, work together to scrub plaque and tartar.
Price at time of publish: $15
Treat sizes available: four sizes (extra-small, small, medium, large) | Main ingredients: Beef rawhide, dextrose, poultry digest, maltodextrins | Calories: 54 calories per medium chew | Nutrition: 75% min protein, 1% min fat, 3.5% min crude fiber, 18% min moisture
What to Look For
“You should look for one that has the VOHC seal of approval meaning that you know it ‘works,’” says veterinarian Dr. Stephanie Goldschmidt, BVM&S, DAVDC, an assistant professor of dentistry and oral surgery at the University of California-Davis. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of acceptance is typically found on the packaging. VOHC evaluates dental chews on how effective they are in reducing plaque or tartar.
“The VOHC seal means that the dental treat/diet/product has gone through a clinical trial ‘proving’ it works. all dental treats that have the VOHC seal have been proven to decrease plaque and tartar by at least 20 percent,” Dr. Goldschmidt says. “Thus, the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) recommends the use of these products. Yet, other products may be effective, they have just not been tested.”
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. Sarah Wooten, DVM, veterinary expert for Pumpkin Pet Insurance. “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.”
The treats should be firm, but not too hard. “Look for one that is soft enough that it will not damage/fracture any teeth,” Dr. Goldschmidt says. “You should be able to indent your fingernail into the treat and/or feel comfortable hitting it against your own knee cap.”
Be sure to consider 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.
Introduce them gradually and pay attention to how your pet reacts. “Most dental treats are well tolerated, but some can cause GI upset, especially in sensitive dogs,” says Dr. Goldschmidt. “It can take some trial and error to find the treat that works best with the overall nutrition/health plan. Furthermore, if your pet has a systemic illness that requires nutritional management, such as diabetes, then dental treats are not a good option.”
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?
For this roundup, we considered dog dental chews and treats, testing many and reading dozens of reviews for feedback.. We evaluated them on ingredients, sizes, nutritional information, and whether they were VOHC-approved.
Mary Jo DiLonardo has been writing about pets and animals for several decades. She has a rescue dog and has fostered more than 60 dogs and puppies. She is always trying different products to keep the dogs in her care entertained, healthy, and safe.