Periodontal disease is the most commonly diagnosed health problem in dogs, but developing a regular toothbrushing routine can prevent gingivitis and plaque build-up, reducing inflammation and other harmful consequences for your pet.
“A dogs’ mouth is the portal to their body and good dental hygiene is key to their physical wellbeing," says Sarah Machell, DVM, a lead veterinarian with Vetster. “Having healthy teeth and gums is one of the most important ways to help your dog avoid hidden infection and pain."
Unfortunately, brushing your dog's teeth can be a tricky pet hygiene task, even with the best toothbrush. Picking the right toothpaste—especially one with a flavor your dog can't resist—can make toothbrushing a little more palatable for both you and your dog.
In our search for the best dog toothpaste, we evaluated foaming, enzyme-based, and even brushless gel varieties, consulting with veterinarians to ensure that our picks are not only palatable to your dog, but also aligned with the best medical guidance available.
Our favorite is Petsmile Professional Pet Toothpaste, which has clinical data backing its effectiveness and comes in irresistible flavors. But we have several other recommendations that may fit you and your dog even better.
Here are the best dog toothpastes.
Petsmile Professional Pet Toothpaste
The only VOHC-approved toothpaste
Clincally tested to reduce tartar, plaque, gingivitis
Can be used without brushing
For cats and dogs
Vegan and cruelty-free
Petsmile’s signature toothpaste comes in first among our product picks largely because it is the only dog toothpaste to be approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC), which sets standards and reviews data to highlight pet products that are proven to reduce plaque and tartar.
VOHC products have been shown to decrease plaque and tartar buildup by 20 percent, thus reducing the likelihood of periodontal and other mouth diseases. With its proprietary Calprox formula, Petsmile’s Pet Toothpaste has undergone clinical trials that demonstrate its ability to control plaque and calculus deposits in both dogs and cats.
That’s right—you’ll notice it’s marked as a “pet” toothpaste rather than just a canine product. If you have a feline pal in the house as well as a pup, you can get twice the bang for your buck with Petsmile. That’s just as well because Petsmile’s only drawback is its high price tag ($25 for a 4.2 oz tube). But with the wide proliferation of mouth disease among dogs, it’s important not to skimp on your dog’s oral hygiene products.
With its high-quality and non-allergenic ingredients, human-grade strength, appealing meaty flavor and professional co-sign, there’s nothing on the market that touches Petsmile Pet Toothpaste’s efficacy. Another perk: It’s not ideal, but if your dog struggles during cleanings, Petsmile also works without brushing.
Virbac CET Enzymatic Toothpaste
Different flavors to suit your pet
Hydrogen peroxide for plaque and tartar
Appealing food-like taste
Brown paste can stain white fur
Virbac’s enzymatic toothpaste is one of the most ubiquitous and beloved dog toothpastes on the market, with tasty chicken, beef, malt, seafood, and mint flavor options and lots of superior doggy-teeth cleansing properties.
With its lack of foaming agents and fluoride, it is an exceptionally safe product ingredient-wise, meaning your pup can eat it without getting sick. “There are many components of human toothpaste that can be irritating and cause stomach upset if consumed," Dr. Machell told The Spruce Pets. "Our pets aren't good at following the directions 'rinse and spit.'"
A veterinary favorite, this gel’s dual enzyme system generates hydrogen peroxide while brushing, which combats existing plaque and tartar buildup while zapping the bacteria that might create more. “It has the added benefit of ongoing action after the brushing has been completed,” Dr. Machell said.
For best results, use a comfortable soft-bristled toothbrush with this paste to give your pup’s mouth full coverage. One word of caution: it’s brown and can potentially stain white fur, so you’ll want to wipe off any excess from your dog’s muzzle.
A final perk: Like other grade-A pet toothpastes on the market, it’s also designed for use on cats as well as dogs.
Vet’s Best Enzymatic Dog Toothpaste
Designed by veterinarians
Ingredients not all-natural
In addition to its affordable price tag, this Vet’s Best toothpaste contains some added products to distinguish it from other common dog toothpaste brands. Its blend of soothing aloe, baking soda, and enzymes effectively cleans plaque, tartar, and other build-ups that can lead to gum disease.
Additionally, neem oil, grapefruit seed extract, and its appealing grape flavor amount to an effective breath-freshening formula that is guaranteed to make owners happier getting up close and personal with their dog, along with making their pup’s mouth healthier.
Though a good toothbrushing is the best and most comprehensive way to clean your dog’s teeth, you can also use this toothpaste with your finger or with a finger brush. The product is also designed by veterinarians, so it’s a safe and reliable option if you want to spend less on a quality product.
Zymox Oratene Brushless Toothpaste Gel for Dogs and Cats
Strong enzymatic formula
Hard on tartar and plaque
Prevents dry mouth
Restores oral flora
Zymox’s clear gel pet toothpaste contains two distinct enzyme formulas that dissolve bacteria while encouraging the good bacteria in your pup’s mouth to flourish. One targets dangerous odor-causing bacteria while the other goes after plaque; it’s also been proven to be effective in preventing xerostomia, or dry mouth.
With regular use, this toothpaste will help restore the natural protective abilities of your pet’s saliva. It’s completely non-toxic, and free of alcohol, chlorine compounds, and xylitol. For some added perks, it also can be used without a toothbrush and is also acceptable for use on cats.
With its 17-dollar price tag, Zymox’s toothpaste is more expensive than many competing brands, but its potent and one-of-a-kind double-enzymatic capabilities make it more than worth the investment.
RADIUS USDA Organic Canine Dental Gel
USDA organic certification
Non-toxic for humans and other species
Made from organic coconut oil, sweet potato, cinnamon, and mint, this gel toothpaste from RADIUS is 100 percent USDA organic, and non-toxic. It’s safe for even humans to use. Fans of natural products will also appreciate that it contains no xylitol, pesticides, GMOs, glutens, fluoride, or synthetics.
The food-grade ingredients not only help to fight bacteria to reduce the risk of tooth decay in dogs of all ages, but they also freshen your pup’s breath and whiten their smile, thanks to the coconut oil infusion. Dr. Machell notes that the most common challenge when it comes to brushing your dog’s teeth is remembering to do so, but with a toothpaste that’s this fresh and tasty-smelling, that won’t be a problem.
Best for Puppies
Nylabone Advanced Oral Care Puppy Dental Kit
Designed to gradually acclimate puppies to toothbrushing
Toothpaste and toothbrush kit
Breath-freshening without odor
Tartar and bacteria control
Adult dog version also available
Not all-natural ingredients
This toothbrush/toothpaste kit from Nylabone has everything you need to get the routine of dental cleaning started with your puppy.
“One of the keys to brushing your dog’s teeth is to start early when they are young to establish a daily routine and ensure positive rewards during the process, then building on these good habits right from the start,” Dr. Machell said.
Nylabone’s package includes a puppy finger brush, toothbrush, and tube of puppy toothpaste. The toothpaste has proven excellent for tartar control, featuring the brand’s proprietary Denta-C that's scientifically proven to help reduce bacteria. It helps to freshen their breath, too, but without using any drastic odor.
If you and your puppy both grow to love the Nylabone toothpaste and brush kit, they also have a version for adult dogs available so you don’t have to change the routine too much as your pup ages.
TropiClean Fresh Breath No Brushing Clean Teeth Dental & Oral Care Gel for Dogs
A little goes a long way
99.2 percent natural
Touch on plaque and tartar
Brushless alternatives usually less effective than brushing
If your pup is averse to having a toothbrush in their mouth, you can still get them sparkling clean by using a brushless variety of toothpaste. A number of the products we have covered have this capability, but this product from reliable doggie teeth experts TropiClean makes it extra simple. All you have to do is put two drops in their mouth—one on either side of their jaw—and let the gel go to work.
This vitamin-E-infused gel uses ingredients like spearmint, green tea leaf extract, and more to get rid of bacteria build-up. Its makeup is 99.2% natural and avoids any ingredients with potential side effects for pups, while remaining extra-tough on tartar and plaque. It’s a very reasonably priced option for dogs who just can’t handle comprehensive brushings on the regular.
Best for Bad Breath
Arm & Hammer Dental Fresh Breath Enzymatic Dog Toothpaste, Vanilla-Ginger Flavor
Promotes gum health
Fresh-tasting and smelling
Made with natural ingredients
Not as many health benefits as other brands
When it comes to flavor, the best one is the one your dog, in particular, can’t resist. “So many dogs are motivated by food—choose a flavor that your dog loves, and it works to enhance the positive reward in the process,” Dr. Machell said. Arm & Hammer’s Enyzmatic Dog Flavor is a winner in the flavor department, guaranteed to be an instant hit with your pup.
It’s also a win for you, too: not only does this signature vanilla-ginger gel taste delicious, it has the added benefit of freshening your pup’s breath. (If for some reason that flavor isn’t for them, Arm & Hammer has chicken and beef flavors on the market as well.) The baking soda included in the gel also helps to deodorize dogs’ teeth and gums.
There are also significant other health benefits to the product, like the additional enzymes it contains that help break up tartar. This reduces the amount of bacteria in your pup’s mouth and wards off tooth decay.
Our picks for the best overall dog toothpaste is Petsmile Professional Pet Toothpaste, due to its clinically tested cleaning capabilities, ease of use, high-quality ingredients and its coveted seal of approval by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. Virbac CET Enyzmatic Toothpaste is a great enzymatic option that is also a favorite among professionals and consumers alike, thanks to high-powered, hydrogen-peroxide-fueled cleaning and great flavor.
What to Look for in a Dog Toothpaste
How to Brush
Working a puppy up to allowing their teeth to be brushed takes some patience. They must become used to the smell of the toothpaste and toothbrush; if they really don’t like them, then try another product. Eventually, owners can allow the dog to lick the toothbrush and toothpaste and begin familiarizing them with the feeling of having the brush in their mouth. All of this should happen before attempting to actually brush.
“Brushing should start at the gumline working gently towards the tip of the tooth,” Machell told The Spruce Pets. “The most significant amount of dental plaque and tartar develops on the surface of the tooth that rests against the inside of the cheek, so concentrate your efforts there.”
In terms of technique, it’s best to start with the front of your pup’s mouth and move gradually to the back, before checking over their entire mouth. Move the toothbrush in a circle or up and down and target the crowns or outside of the teeth to eliminate tartar.
Central to all dog toothpastes are scrubbing ingredients which both eliminate cosmetic stains and target plaque and tartar. The enzymatic subgenre of toothpastes contains additional enzymes that help reduce bacteria, which specifically target tartar buildup and bad breath, thus decreasing the chance of periodontal disease. Make sure that whichever product you picked has a healthy smattering of ingredients with superior cleaning capabilities.
“Fundamentally, toothpaste provides added friction when brushing, improving the ability of your brushing action to grab smaller, deeper plaque,” Machell said. “Additionally, several types of pet toothpaste contain added ingredients that add lasting benefits to the oral health environment to reduce plaque formation between brushings.”
In case of ingredients that dogs should get nowhere near, the main red flag is Xylitol. This is present in no dog toothpastes because it can cause dogs’ blood sugar to drop, as well as liver damage. However, it is in almost every human toothpaste, so make sure you don’t use your own toothpaste on your dog by accident.
Bad breath is a warning sign that your dog’s teeth are not being cleaned regularly enough. Often, it can indicate gum disease due to a buildup of plaque and tartar. This can lead to periodontal disease, which affects over 80 percent of dogs have some form of by the age of 2.
Veterinarians like Dr. Machell will offer a lot of great reasons—many which we’ve already alluded to—why regular at-home brushing is important. Outside of the superior coverage it provides, it also helps pet owners avoid costs stacking up with dog dental appointments. Less professional cleanings are good for your pup as well, resulting in less exposure to anesthesia. Generally, keeping to a regular schedule of brushing—rather than doing big cleanings after long periods of neglect—is the best way to make sure disease-causing bacteria never makes itself too at home in your dog’s mouth.
Can I use human toothpaste on my dog?
No. The pH in a dog’s mouth differs greatly from a human’s mouth, and the majority of human toothpastes contain an ingredient which is highly toxic to dogs: the sweetener Xylitol. Xylitol and glucose can cause dogs’ blood sugar to drop, which can lead to liver damage.
Does dog toothpaste expire?
Like most other consumable products, dog toothpaste does expire, and you can look around on the packaging to see when the manufacturer suggests using the toothpaste by. However, it’s highly unlikely that using expired toothpaste will cause your dog harm; it will simply not work as well, since the ingredients will become either less or completely non-active.
Can dogs eat dog toothpaste?
Dog toothpastes are designed to be safe for consumption, because it is almost unavoidable. Indeed, many dog dental products come in diet or treat form, and toothpaste adheres to the same principals, often with the option of brush-free application. Inevitably, this means your pup will eat the toothpaste, unless he or she is miraculously trained to spit and rinse afterwards.
Is dog toothpaste safe?
It is 100 percent safe when used properly and when dog-specific products are used. Remember to only use a small (roughly pea-sized) amount. If your dog consumes too much toothpaste, it can lead to an upset stomach. Remember to check for ingredients like Xylitol which are proven to be dangerous for dogs.
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
Winston Cook- Wilson is a writer and editor based in New York City. His writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Ringer, Vice, Pitchfork, Spin, and elsewhere.
This roundup integrated information from experts and a variety of studies to determine the differences in cleansing capabilities between the major toothpaste brands on the market. We also assessed the quality of their ingredients, looking out for potentially toxic elements like fluoride, chlorine, and xylitol, and gauged which products were compromised of largely (or entirely) natural ingredients. At The Spruce Pets, we also monitor consumer satisfaction when writing our product roundups, studying testimonials, and chatting with owners who have used the products on their animals.
A previous version of this article was written by Anne Fritz. Fritz has worked in the publishing industry for over 20 years, most recently as an editor at publications such as Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, and Reader's Digest.