Most newbies often ask if brushing their mutt’s teeth is really necessary since no one clearly has seen a wild dog brush its teeth, let alone use toothpaste to clean it with. But experts now agree that canine-formulated toothpastes are important in maintaining stronger and healthier teeth while also protecting it together with the gums from the risk of developing periodontal diseases in dogs. While you don’t necessarily have to brush their teeth as frequent as we do ours, choosing the right doggie toothpaste should help you provide better oral and dental care for your pooch. Before we start with the nitty-gritty stuff, let us first take a look at the 11 best dog toothpastes currently available in the market.

Dog Toothpaste Buying Guide

Sections of pet supplies store shelves present a dizzying array of toothbrushes and dog toothpastes especially designed for our canine friends. They come in various flavors, styles, and presentations in pretty much the same way as the oral care products that humans use. There are simply way too many choices that picking up the right natural dog toothpaste for our furry pals can be downright challenging. Worse, in our confusion we might actually end up getting a mediocre quality oral care product.

We understand your predicament. We truly do. That is why we have prepared a comprehensive guide to help you navigate through the process of selecting the best item for your pooch. We will first try to explore the importance of toothbrushing among canines as well as a look into the impact of bacterial organisms in canine oral health. Then we will take a look at some considerations or parameters that you have to address in selecting the most appropriate and safest dog dental paste. Of course, all of these will be for nothing if you don’t know how to properly brush your pooch’s dentition. Hopefully, by the time you finish reading this guide, you would already have gained so much knowledge that you’re now more than ready to apply them in the real world.

Importance of Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth

Just like us, cleaning our dogs’ teeth is a very important aspect of their care. Not only does it help remove food debris that may have gotten stuck in between teeth or even got adhered to the surfaces of their teeth, brushing can also help prevent the development of bad breath and periodontal diseases. In this section and as a prelude to how you are going to choose the best dental paste for your canine friend, we shall explore some of the reasons why brushing your mutt’s dentition is important.

  • Removes food debris 

The mechanical action of a toothbrush works exceptionally well in removing debris and particles that may be present on the teeth. While this can also be accomplished by the use of dental care-specific dog chews – those that come with ridges or nubs or even soft bristle-like projections – nothing can beat a real brush since you can control the amount of pressure applied on the brush while also directing it towards areas that are normally reached by dental dog chews. Think of the brush as the hard brush that you use to remove dirt and debris from the floor carpet of your car.

So where does a dental hygiene paste come into the picture? Well, it is true that you can remove dirt and debris with a brush alone. However, there are certain particles that get stuck on the surface of the teeth or even on the gums which have to be softened first before these can be removed by brushing. Many canine toothpastes come with unique formulations to help hasten the removal of such particles on the teeth. So the brush and the paste typically go together as partners in the more effective removal of food debris.

  • Prevents bacterial colonization 

Most dog foods today are filled with carbs. While this is not inherently bad especially if your pooch happens to be very active, it does have its consequences on the teeth. If you think carbs are what fuels your mutt, carbs left on the surface of the teeth provides an exceptional medium for bacteria to grow. This is not to say that there are no microorganisms in the oral cavity. However, if these carb-rich food debris are not removed by brushing or by any other means, then you are giving bacteria and other microorganisms in the oral cavity to grow and proliferate. In other words you will have a massive population growth spurt of bacteria in the mouth of your dog. Brushing the teeth can help prevent its colonization by bacteria and other germs such as fungi.

  • Helps prevent tartar buildup 

One of most compelling reasons why we need to brush our dogs’ teeth with dog toothpaste is to help prevent the buildup or accumulation of tartar. These often start with unremoved food particles that, over time, will increase the number of bacteria that colonize the area. We already understand this from the discussion above. The unfortunate matter is that bacteria don’t only reside and multiply in these fields of leftover food debris. As they continue to multiply they release a very thin film of substance known in the scientific community as biofilm. Technically, we know this as plaque. It’s colorless and a rather sticky film that forms or develops on the teeth as well as along the ridges of the gum.

The sadder fact is that, if the biofilm or plaque is not removed, it hardens over time, adding several layers of minerals on top. This turns the once-transparent biofilm into a brownish to dark-brown, cement-like covering we now know as tartar. This layer is what further protects the bacteria present in periodontal surfaces. Tartar shields bacteria from the abrasive action of both toothpaste ingredients and the mechanical action of brushes that you really have to work your way across these surfaces on your pooch’s dentition. In most instances, sadly, this is often not enough so you’ll have to seek a veterinary dentist to remove the tartar on your pooch.

  • Prevents gum diseases 

Gum disease is the natural median result of food debris that is allowed to be inhabited and colonized by bacteria until they form plaque and solidify into tartar. Because tartar is like cement, or perhaps even tougher than pavement, it provides a very effective protective barrier for the bacteria underneath it. This gives bacteria the capacity to continue producing acids that eat away at the enamel of the teeth. Not only are cavities formed, the gums get inflamed, too. Inflammation of the gums is often characterized by redness and swelling. In many instances, there is also bleeding which can further aggravate the condition. Bleeding simply means there is now a connection between the external surfaces and the bloodstream. Bacteria and other microorganisms can enter through these openings and travel to other body parts.

Here’s the issue if such a problem with the gums is allowed to continue. The continuing inflammation can also damage the various structures that are holding the teeth into their respective sockets. Pain notwithstanding, there is a great chance that your pooch might as well lose its tooth. And you know how difficult it is to eat without a complete set of pearly whites, right?

  • Prevents oral-related systemic diseases 

We discussed in the preceding section that bacteria and other germs can enter the body through a connection made in the cavities and gingivitis that are occurring in the teeth and the gums, respectively. Since the circulatory system is actually a closed unidirectional circuit, the entry of microorganisms into the blood can reach the heart where it can be either pumped out through the other body organs or get lodged into the valves of the heart. If the latter happens, the bacteria can cause the heart valves to stiffen, severely impeding their ability to close. As a result, there is a backflow of blood into the chamber just before the valves. This backpooling of blood causes an increase in blood pressure in the systemic circulation where the liver blood vessels can engorge and edema of the abdominal cavity can occur.

If the microorganism happens to travel to other body organs, then it initiates an inflammatory response in these organs. Immune system cells will have to act quickly to try and contain the inflammation so it will not spread to other areas. Unfortunately, if the inflammatory responses occur at different points all at the same time, your pet’s immune system will be so overwhelmed that it will simply fail in its mission. The end result could very well be massive infection.

  • Promotes fresher breath 

Brushing your mutt’s dentition with a high quality dog toothpaste can also help promote fresher breath; you really won’t mind your pooch licking and panting right in your face. Bad breath is caused by growing bacteria in the oral cavity. As they grow, they release methane-like gaseous byproducts that get mixed with saliva creating the characteristic odor that we now know as bad breath. Brushing can help prevent bad breath while providing for a dental environment that smells fresher.

  • Promotes optimum gum health 

There are canine dental pastes and dog toothpastes that contain certain ingredients that help strengthen not only the teeth but also the gums. Strengthening the gums can make them more resilient against bacterial infections. As the gums are strong, it would take a tremendous effort on the part of bacterial organisms to make their way through the tough structure of the gums. 

bacteria in your dog's mouth

Bacteria in Your Dog’s Mouth

As you may have noticed from our presentation in the preceding section, the main issue in not brushing your canine friend’s teeth is in the growth and proliferation of bacteria. We also mentioned that there are plenty of these microorganisms in the oral cavity. Many of these don’t produce disease for the simple fact that the body already considers them as normal ‘residents’ of the mouth. That is why they are called normal bacterial flora.

The main problem begins once these microorganisms adhere onto the surface of the teeth as well as the gums and slowly secrete the thin biofilm which will slowly degrade the underlying structures leading to tooth cavities and gingivitis or inflammation of the gums. Once they have burrowed into these structures, it becomes more difficult to remove them unless with the assistance of a veterinary dentist.

What do these ‘normal bacterial flora’ do? First, some of them are involved in the initial digestion of carbohydrates to form the very first product of carbohydrate digestion which is starch. Some bacteria also help to maintain a more stable pH in the oral cavity so that more harmful microorganisms will not be able to grow and proliferate. Regrettably, some of these microorganisms can really become pathogenic and cause the many health conditions that we have identified so far.

If these microorganisms are harmful, then why is it that our dogs don’t get sick? The reason for this is simple. A healthy pooch has a healthy, normally functioning immune system that constantly monitors the pathogenicity of these microorganisms. These are always kept in check by immune system cells. Once there is a significant reduction in the functioning or the effectiveness of the immune system, these microorganisms are essentially given a window of opportunity to become really pathogenic – they can now produce disease.

That is why it is important to always look out after the optimal functioning of the immune system so that ordinary microorganisms won’t have the opportunity to become pathogenic.

Now that we have this covered, let us look at the most common bacteria that are present in the oral cavity of dogs. These can include the following.

  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Escherichia coli
  • Enterobacter cloacae
  • Citrobacter freundii
  • Acinetobacter calcoaceticus
  • Pasteurella multocida
  • Klebsiella pneumonia

Here’s the catch. Just because your mutt’s immune system is fully functional doesn’t necessarily mean it is already safe. The problem is that if your mutt happens to have an open wound elsewhere and it will lick this open wound, it actually introduces these bacteria into the open wound where they can get access to the blood. As we have already described above, bacteria only needs to enter the blood to be distributed to the rest of the body where it can wreak havoc on susceptible organs.

Another point of concern is that if the dog happens to bite someone, either a person or another dog. The puncture wound introduces these microorganisms into the body of the bitten individual or dog. Your dog licking your face can also introduce these bacteria on your skin as well as the mucus membranes of your ears and nose. You don’t get sick right away, however. But if your immune system is also compromised, then you’re looking at a potential infection.

We were also talking about plaques and tartar on the teeth and gums. Science has somehow identified some of the most common bacteria that are known to produce plaque. These include the following.

  • Campylobacter rectus
  • Treponema denticola
  • Tannerella forsythia
  • Eikenella corrodens
  • Porphyromonas gulae

toothpastes for dogs

Things to Consider When Buying a Dog Toothpaste for Your Pet

Now you understand why it is important to brush the teeth of our pooches. Because of the threat of bacteria on its general wellbeing, the health of other dogs, and our welfare, too, choosing the most appropriate dog toothpaste for your pet is a very important matter. To help you decide here are some things you need to consider.

  • Canine use only

Perhaps the most important parameter that you have to consider when selecting toothpaste to be used on dogs is that it should be designed and especially formulated for dogs. Never make the mistake of using your own toothpaste on your mutt as this often contains chemicals that are otherwise safe for us but dangerous to dogs. We don’t actually swallow these chemicals as we’re able to rinse, gargle, and spit. Sadly, our canine friends have never learned how to gargle and spit. As such, their only recourse is to swallow the foamy residue of the toothpaste. And this is where the problem lies. These chemicals can irritate the lining of the stomach leading to stomach upsets and other potential problems.

  • Ingredients

We did mention above that the content of a dental paste should be especially formulated for dogs. This is closely related to their inability to spit out these chemicals after toothbrushing. Aside from fluoride there are other substances or ingredients that you have to be wary about. These can include artificial sweeteners or flavorings as well as alcohol since these substances are particularly abrasive on your pooch’s teeth.

  • Presentation 

Dog toothpastes come in various presentations or forms. You may need to choose one that is more convenient to use for both you and your mutt. For example, most well-trained dogs will be more receptive to a semi-solid dental paste. This gives you the added benefit of absolute control over the manner in which you can thoroughly brush the teeth. For a rather fussy pooch or one that really cannot sit still while being brushed, you may opt for dental drops. These are applied or ‘dropped’ onto your mutt’s teeth then simply let your pooch brush it with its tongue.

  • Taste 

Since the natural reaction of dogs to the application of dental paste in their teeth is to swallow it, you might as well go for a product that has amazing flavors so it will be enjoy the brushing experience a lot more. The idea is to teach your mutt to associate toothbrushing with a very delicious and yummy experience.

 tips when brushing your dog's teeth

Tips when Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth

Now that you have an idea of what you need to look for in the right dog toothpaste for your pooch, it’s time to take a closer look at how you can effectively brush its teeth. Here are some tips for you to consider.

  • Always start early. Don’t wait for your puppy to grow older before you start brushing its teeth. Remember that plaque and tartar develops over time. The earlier you start brushing your pet’s teeth, the greater are the chances that bacterial colonization can be prevented. Furthermore, puppies that learn to accept brushing as a normal routine tend to grow old as pooches that are more than willing to undergo brushing.
  • Timing is important. Make sure to brush your mutt’s teeth when it is relaxed and calm. More importantly, you need to make a routine. It doesn’t have to be a daily ritual especially if you’re giving dry kibbles and doggie treats. An every other day toothbrushing should suffice.
  • Training is critical. As in any other pet activity, it is best to train your dog to accept brushing as an ordinary part of its life. You may need to acclimatize it first to the presence of the toothbrush, the sensation of the brush on its teeth and gums, the taste of its dental paste, and even the movement of the brush. In each of these stages, you’d have to go slowly.
  • Ask your veterinarian to demonstrate to you how you can brush your mutt’s teeth, if you are not familiar with it yet. You can then practice this at home until you feel more confident about toothbrushing your mutt.
  • Remember that even a very quick wipe of your doggie’s teeth is better than not doing anything at all. So even if you are not able to brush their teeth every day, you can still run your fingers across their teeth and gums to remove any food debris. Of course, don’t forget to protect yourself. 

Check Out Our List of the Best Cat Toothpaste

Does My Dog Need Enzymatic Toothpaste?                   

One of the latest craze today when it comes to canine oral care is enzymatic toothpaste. But really, does your pooch need it? To answer this question let us first get a clear understanding of what it is and what it does for your mutt.

Enzymatic toothpastes contain an enzyme which is a chemical substance that speeds up chemical reactions. Most of the enzymatic toothpastes we have today contain glucose oxidase which is actually derived from the same fungal species from which penicillin is synthesized. This particular enzyme will hasten the reaction of glucose and oxygen to produce what we all know as hydrogen peroxide. The end result of the enzymatic reaction is what gives it unique antibacterial properties.

We understand that plaque and tartar are inherently rich in bacteria. Using enzymatic toothpaste exposes these bacteria to the bactericidal or germ-killing effects of hydrogen peroxide. Studies show that this substance is safe for dogs to swallow.

Should you give your pooch enzymatic dog toothpaste? If you can see that plaque and tartar is already building up, then an enzymatic toothpaste should help kill the bacteria present in its mouth. This is also ideal as a preventative so you can use it on puppies while they don’t have plaque and tartar yet. At the very least you can feel a lot safer about their oral health when they grow up.

However, if the tartar and plaque buildup is already severe, no amount of enzymatic toothpaste will ever solve the problem. The solution is to seek the services of a qualified veterinary dentist so that the plaque and tartar can be effectively removed. Once this is accomplished, then you can use enzymatic toothpaste to help prevent the reemergence of such conditions.

Brushing your canine friend’s teeth has the same health implications as that of human toothbrushing. Brushing the teeth is important in the promotion of optimum dental and gum health and the prevention of diseases or conditions of the teeth, the gums, and other organs of the body. As the oral cavity is inherently filled with a lot of bacteria, brushing the teeth with appropriate toothpaste is thus critical. At any rate, enzymatic toothpastes for dogs can help reduce plaque and tartar that are the natural domiciles of bacteria while also killing these microorganisms. And with the 6 best dog toothpastes you’re now more than capable of providing optimum dental care and oral health for your mutt.

toothpaste for dogs

Dog Toothpaste FAQ

Q: Can dogs use human toothpaste?

A:  Under no circumstances should you use human toothpastes to brush your dog’s teeth. One needs to understand that dogs are not fully capable of spitting out the foamy residue of human toothpaste. What they do instead is that they tend to swallow it. And since majority of human toothpastes contain fluoride – a necessary element to help strengthen the enamel of the teeth – swallowing human toothpastes can lead to a host of problems for your pet. ALWAYS opt for a premium and top rated dog toothpaste.

For instance, it can lead to gastric irritation. Fluoridated toothpastes are toxic to dogs. It is quite corrosive which can lead to stomach upsets, vomiting, and even diarrhea. In worst-case scenarios, your dog may even develop inflammation of the stomach lining.

For puppies, using fluoridated human toothpastes can also prevent the proper development of their teeth’s enamel. This can leave the puppy’s teeth highly vulnerable to the effects of microbial buildup leading to plaque and tartar formation. Sooner or later, your pup will be losing its teeth in a manner that is not associated with teething.

On the other hand, dog toothpastes are especially formulated to contain safe ingredients. Even if your dog will swallow the paste, these ingredients will be easily processed by gastric juices and intestinal enzymes. Additionally, there are many products today that are uniquely formulated to be highly palatable. Many come in chicken or beef flavor which can help increase your dog’s compliance with brushing its teeth.

Q: How often should I brush my dog’s teeth with dog toothpaste?

A:  We are always told to brush our teeth at least twice every day and even to floss our dentition with the same frequency. As for our dogs, the current recommendation of veterinarians is to brush our dogs’ teeth every single day. We know this is too much to ask, but being responsible pet parents we should always find time to brush our pet’s dentition once a day, every day.

We only need to look at the behavior of our pets as to why this is absolutely necessary. Dogs lick their fur which can actually harbor germs they may have contracted on their adventures outdoors. They may lick at the soil or any other object on the ground that captures their interest. Most dogs eat almost anything that we give them, including raw meats, bones, organ meats, fruits, and vegetables. Some may scavenge on your pile of garbage in search of something to chew on. Most dogs will chew on almost anything – your chair, your carpet, and even that used, unwashed, germ-laden socks and underwear.

In other words, their behavior exposes them to a lot of things that can get into their mouth, their gums, and their teeth. These can contain bacteria, fungi, viruses, and even parasites. While bacteria and fungi are two of the most common culprits of dental and gum diseases in dogs, they are not particularly immune to parasitic and viral infections either. When bacteria are allowed to stay in the dog’s oral cavity, they can slowly creep up in crevices secreting a very thin biofilm which serves as a highly protective shield. They hide under this shield to multiply and extend well into adjacent tissues. You now have plaque. Give it some more time and this plaque will instantly turn into tartar.

While it is impossible to eliminate all microorganisms in your dog’s oral cavity, brushing their teeth on a daily basis can help prevent bacteria from ever building up their defensive biofilm. If you can prevent this, then they will not have any fortress to hide in. They will not be able to proliferate. If you brush your dog’s teeth only once a week or even once a month, the remaining 6 days or 29 days will be enough time for bacteria to setup the biofilm.

As tedious as it may sound, brushing your dog’s teeth every day is the only way you can guarantee healthier gums and teeth for your pet.

Q: What do I do if my canine swallows dog toothpaste?

A:  If you’re using dog toothpaste for your pet, it should be perfectly okay if it swallows it. This is especially true if the product contains clearly identifiable enzyme systems.

Now just because it is a dog toothpaste doesn’t mean that you should already let your guard down. There are some products in the market that may contain xylitol. This sweetener is often added to make for a more pleasant taste for your dog. Unfortunately, xylitol can cause hypoglycema, liver necrosis, and liver failure. These are very serious conditions that require emergency veterinary management. Since none of us are actually qualified to induce vomiting in our pets as a means of removing the toxic substance from our dog’s system, only our vet’s expertise can help our dog.

The same is true if your dog swallowed human toothpaste. In addition to the xylitol that these oral care products contain, they also have fluoride. One way you can tell is that if your dog is showing restlessness, drooling, vomiting, loss of appetite, and stiffness. Don’t waste time in bringing your pet to the vet. Sooner or later fluoride toxicity can lead to weakness, severe depression, seizures, and cardiac failure.

Q: Can dog toothpaste cause upset stomach?

A:  Some dog toothpastes can cause upset stomach. This is usually seen in dog toothpastes that contain abrasive ingredients such as baking soda, silica, and even kaolin. Since these compounds are naturally abrasive, they can also irritate the lining of your dog’s stomach. This can cause stomach upset and can lead to either vomiting or diarrhea or even both. Tea tree oil and plant extracts have been reported to be safe, although there are reports of diarrhea occurring with the use of this types of dog toothpastes.

Dog toothpastes that contain enzyme systems such as lactoperoxidase and glucose oxidase as well as lysozyme are known to be generally safe and friendly to your dog’s tummy. These ingredients are preferred because they are natural constituents of the dog’s immune system. These enzymes are naturally found in certain parts of the dog’s body but mostly in its mucus membranes. Because these are considered as parts of the dog’s natural composition, they are naturally safer.

Q: How much dog toothpaste is toxic to a dog?

A: If you use human toothpaste on your dog’s teeth or if your dog inadvertently ingested human toothpaste, problems are sure to arise. The two most important culprits in toothpaste toxicity in dogs are fluoride and xylitol. So how much toothpaste is toxic to a dog?

Sadly there are no definite answers. Some dogs are known to ingest an entire tube of human toothpaste without any untoward incident. Still, there are some dogs that ingest a tiny bit of toothpaste and severe reactions already developed.

Generally, your pet will have to consume an entire tube of dog toothpaste to go down with cardiac arrest associated with fluoride toxicity. However, given that xylitol is considered to be 100 times more toxic than your favorite chocolate when ingested by dogs, a 100-gram tube of toothpaste with 5 to 35 percent xylitol should be enough to send your dog to the emergency room.

Our Top Pick

There were two contenders for our best dog toothpaste plum. Both Petrodex Enzymatic Toothpaste and Virbac C. E. T. Enzymatic Toothpaste are formulated with enzymes sourced from Aspergillus niger. However, based on the number of consumer reviews, Petrodex leads Virbac. On the basis of additional active ingredients that may prove useful in the promotion of healthier dental and oral health in dogs, Virbac clearly has the edge since it also contains Lactoperoxidase in addition to the Glucose oxidase enzyme that Petrodex also has. Additionally, Virbac is available in 5 different flavors, giving quite a lot of options to pet parents. When considering their price, Petrodex comes out a winner on a per-ounce basis.

brushing dog's teeth

After careful deliberation we determined the Virbac C. E. T. to be in the best possible position to take home the plum as the best dog toothpaste in the market. Its dual enzyme system means you get better deep cleaning and protection for your pet’s teeth and oral cavity. The available flavors give you the chance to pick one that your pet will love. It may turn out to be slightly more expensive on a per-ounce basis, but considering you have two enzyme systems working on your dog’s teeth makes it invaluable. It may also have less number of reviewers, but if you factor the average star-rating, Virbac enjoys a slight edge.

Sources

  1. 7 Tips for Doggie Dental Care, Cesar’s Way
  2. What’s the Difference Between Toothpaste for Dogs & People?, The Nest
  3. How Often to Brush a Dog’s Teeth and Other Tips on Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth, Dogster

Let Us Know What You Think

Fantastic Review

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Very helpful review! I recently started using the Petrodex dog toothpaste on my pooch and it is amazing!

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Olivia Williams
Olivia is our head of content for MyPetNeedsThat.com, mum of one and a true animal lover. With 12 different types of animal in her family, it's never a dull moment. When she isn't walking the dogs, feeding the cats or playing with her pet Parrot Charlie, you will find her product researching and keeping the site freshly updated with the latest products for your pets!

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