Part of your pet's oral health plan can include treats and toys. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends giving pets chew toys that massage the pet's gums and help keep their teeth clean. The mechanical action of chewing can make a difference. Pets that chew actively have less plaque build-up, and some types of dental treats and diets can reduce plaque by nearly 70%.
More than Just Play Things
The appropriate toy will help scrape soft tartar off teeth. Chew toys might reduce your dog’s stress level, eliminate boredom, and provide an outlet for their desire to chew. To be effective, toys cannot be too hard, too soft, too small, or too big. Test the appropriate level of treat hardness by seeing if you can make an indentation with your fingernail.
Keep in mind that some treats are high in calories. Regulations do not require the labeling of calories on pet treat packaging, but most pet treat companies do post the calories on their web sites. The treat only works if the pet takes the time to chew the item such that it massages their gums and scrapes away tartar. If your pet gulps down the treat, discontinue its use as part of his or her oral hygiene practice. A toy like Nylabone Plaque Attacker Dental Dinosaur for dogs or Petstages Dental Health Chews for cats might be more appropriate.
Also, if you feed your pet moist or canned food, provide at least some dry kibble as part of his or her diet. Like treats, dry foods are abrasive and help keep the teeth clean and sharp.
Some Guidelines to Follow
- AAHA recommends the following guidelines to keep in mind as you’re choosing a dental treat or toy for your pet:
- Match the treat or toy to your pet’s size, preferences, or personality. For example, aggressive chewers may need a firmer product. Make sure toys and treats are not small enough to risk swallowing whole.
- Avoid hard bones and pigs’ ears. If your dog has diseased teeth, he or she is likely to break them on hard chews, hard plastic bones, sterilized beef bones, or cow hooves.
- Fresh bones with meat and cartilage may be easier on the teeth, but should be used with caution because of the risks of bacterial contamination and ingestion of sharp bone fragments by aggressive chewers. Take fresh bones away after a few hours, as they will become hard and dried out.
The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) is an organization that evaluates pet products to see if they meet standards for reducing plaque or tartar. Approved foods, treats, and chews must reduce plaque or tartar by at least 10% to achieve the VOHC seal of approval. Go to www.vohc.org/accepted_products.htm to see which products have received the VOHC seal of approval.
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