Maintaining Dental Health in Our Pets
Say cheese! Does your dog suffer from periodontal disease, or are you just looking to maintain their pearly whites? Well look no further! Here we will give you some tips on keeping your pet’s teeth looking their best. BUT did you know that human toothpaste (and even some pet toothpastes) are highly toxic to pets? That’s right! There are several ingredients that are not healthy for our furry friends. We will also go over these ingredients and point you towards some safe products to use with your fur-babies.
Why should I NEVER use human toothpaste on my pet?
It contains several ingredients that have toxic side effects when consumed by dogs and cats.
Fluoride: Small doses can cause diarrhea and vomiting in dogs. Dogs do not spit out toothpaste like humans do, so they will end up ingesting the fluoride in toothpaste.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): It is a surfactant, detergent and emulsifier commonly used in toothpaste, shampoo, and cosmetics. SLS has been shown to contain toxic contaminants and is readily absorbed into the eyes where it has been shown to cause irritation and damage. SLS also stays in the body for at least four days after ingesting, so it can continue to cause damage long after absorption. This compound has also been shown to cause damage of the skin and fur and increase absorption of any accompanying carcinogens and other toxins. Because it has a very small molecular structure it easily passes into cells, bringing with it other chemicals, which can lead to damaged organs. Unfortunately, this compound is commonly found in many pet products as well despite the health risks.
Xylitol: Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is commonly used in toothpaste. In humans, it is much less of a concern and is safe in quantities consumed normally. However, in dogs it can rapidly decrease blood sugar and can lead to liver failure within a few days of consumption. Common signs of xylitol poisoning signs include, vomiting, lethargy, and dizziness.
So what should you be using instead?
Well, first thing’s first, make sure to read the ingredients of any product you buy! Like I mentioned above, many pet products will still contain SLS. You want to avoid this compound. An example is Nylabone’s Advanced Oral Care Natural Toothpaste. Below are the ingredients:
Ingredients: Sorbitol, Hydrated Silica, Glycerin, Water, Ascorbic Acid Phosphate, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Titanium Dioxide, Natural Allergen Free Peanut Flavor, Cellulose Gum, Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Copper Chlorophyllin
As you can see, it contains Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, as well as a couple other ingredients that can be toxic in higher doses, such as Tetrasodium Hexametaphosphate, titanium dioxide, and sorbitol. Sorbitol, by the way, is a sugar alcohol used as an artificial sweetener. People and pets cannot digest it so it has no caloric value, but it may be able to feed the bacteria that cause tooth decay. Either way, brushing your teeth with sugar does not seem like a good idea.
Luckily, there are safe alternatives to use for keeping our pet’s teeth squeaky-clean! Pet toothpastes that use naturally derived alcohols are safe and great for cleaning pet’s teeth. These are not the same kind of alcohols in alcoholic beverages so they are safe for our pets. Our personal favourite is Tropiclean. They make water additives, tooth gel and foams, and spray that use natural alcohols derived from coconut fatty acids. They are great for softening plaque and keeping their breath fresh. Another thing you can use to help soften plaque and keep your dog’s teeth white is a species of kelp called Ascophyllum nodosum. It has been proven to reduce plaque build up by 52% when accompanied with regular brushing.
Not a fan of brushing your dog’s teeth?
Luckily, it’s not the only answer for keeping your dog’s teeth clean! The answer? CHEW, CHEW, CHEW! Giving you dog things to chew on accomplishes a similar result by allowing them to scrape off plaque build-up. This is especially true when you accompany it with something to soften the plaque. However, avoid “dental” chews and treats that contain starch since this will help feed bacteria in the mouth and often accomplish the opposite effect. Take the below ingredient list of DentaStix, for example:
Rice Flour, Wheat Starch, Glycerin, Gelatin, Gum Arabic, Calcium Carbonate, Natural Poultry Flavor, Powdered Cellulose, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Iodized Salt, Potassium Chloride, Vitamins (Choline Chloride, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate [Source of Vitamin C], d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement [Vitamin B2], Pyridoxine Hydrochloride [Vitamin B6], Vitamin D3 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Alpha Tocopherol Acetate [Source of Vitamin E]), Potassium Sorbate (A Preservative), Smoke Flavor, Zinc Sulfate, Green Tea Extract, Turmeric, Iron Oxide, Copper Sulfate
First of all, it contains quite a few high starch ingredients. Second, some of the other ingredients are highly toxic. The sodium tripolyphosphate, for example, is what is given to patients to clear out their bowels before colonoscopies. The FDA does not recommend more than one dose within 24 hours because it can be deadly. Not really something you want to be feeding your pets.
On the other hand, take a look at the ingredient list for Crumps’ Naturals Plaque Busters:
Ingredients: Sweet Potato, Oyster Shells Fine Ground, Dried Citrus Pulp and Coconut Oil
There are very few ingredients, nothing harmful, and the only starchy ingredient (the sweet potato) is a lot healthier than flour and isolated starches. The oyster shells help scrape off plaque. If you are going to feed a dental stick, this is a healthier option. Other natural products that are great for chewing that keeping the teeth plaque-free are patella bones, antlers, horns, yak cheese, etc. Plus, many of these items have other health benefits as well!
For really bad cases of tartar build up, a product worth trying is Leba III. It is a mixture of distilled water, ethyl alcohol, mint extract, and rose extract. It works by stimulating enzymes in the mouth and balancing mouth chemistry, which helps tartar soften and fall off the teeth. The ethyl alcohol is not very much and given in such small doses that it is not a concern for toxicity when used properly.Those are our tips for keeping your pet’s teeth clean! To summarize, do not use human toothpaste, some pet toothpastes are not safe so make sure to read labels. Tropiclean is a good option, but giving your dog something to chew on, that is not full of starches and sugars, is a great way to keep plaque away.