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Best dog dental chews

Testing out the best dental chews for pups 📷: Sara Ondrako

Here’s something to chew on: The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) estimates that most dogs will develop periodontal disease by the age of 3. Unhealthy teeth are a problem in and of themselves — in addition to being linked to issues like heart disease. Dental chews, when combined with toothbrushing, can help maintain your dog’s canines and lessen their risk of developing dental problems down the line.

To help keep your pup’s teeth healthy, we searched the market for the best dental chews out there. We looked at factors like the safety of the ingredients, the hardness of the chew, and whether or not the product was approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). After carefully reviewing and testing our top choices, here’s what we found.

Dental chews we loved

Our vet’s fav

Purina Proplan’s Dental Chewz are approved by two labs: the VOHC and Dr. Irish’s labrador retriever! They tend to take longer to chomp through than some of the other dental sticks we tested. Dr. Irish liked that these chews have been successful in clinical trials. Depending on the retailer, you may need authorization from your vet to purchase this product.

  • Ingredients. While our product reviewer had a few concerns about the food coloring in these chews, our vet feels confident that this is the best and safest option on our list.
  • Smell. These chews have a mild poultry smell.
  • Palatability. Our vet’s dogs love the taste of these dental chews! They beg for them every night.
  • Safety. These chews are highly digestible, and our vet assures us that they don’t pose a choking hazard. They’re also VOHC-approved.
  • Packaging. Dental Chewz come loosely packaged in a box.

What our vet thinks

Dr. Irish recommends Purina Proplan’s Dental Chewz because of her positive experiences with them, both as a vet and dog mom. Her dogs crave them, but they can’t instantly chomp them down — which is good news for their teeth and her pocketbook. She also likes that these treats have a great reputation and are easy for pups to digest.

Our plant-based pick

Our product reviewer said that her dogs really enjoyed these meat-free chews. She recommends using these treats intermittently because the main ingredient, corn, doesn’t have much nutritional value.

  • Ingredients. These vegetarian chews are corn- and soy-based. They also contain rice flour and brewer’s yeast. Pomegranate adds an unexpected twist and aids in digestion.
  • Smell. Dogs dig it! The moderate smell encourages chewing without being too overpowering.
  • Palatability. These treats are very appealing to dogs. We only wish they lasted longer because they were gobbled up quickly.
  • Safety. Virbac VeggieDent Tartar Control Chews are VOHC-approved.
  • Packaging. The zip-sealed bag was easy to open and close.

What our vet thinks

Virbac consistently makes high-quality products that please pets and vets alike. VeggieDents are no exception, hosting great reviews and earning the VOHC seal of approval. The treats are also pliable, which means dogs are less likely to choke on them. Dr. Irish recommends these chews based on their good reputation in clinical trials and good reviews by pet parents.

Best for removing tartar

We like Purina DentaLife Daily Oral Care because it’s a tasty, inexpensive chew that gets the job done. We recommend feeding them to your pup only occasionally, however, because these snacks contain a lot of carbs and synthetic preservatives.

  • Ingredients. The first ingredient in this product is rice, followed by glycerin and wheat. Chicken byproducts provide protein and flavor. DentaLife does contain BHT and BHA, two synthetic preservatives.
  • Smell. These treats have a mild, pleasant smell.
  • Palatability. Our dogs love them!  
  • Safety. These treats are fairly pliable, which helps prevent your dog from choking, and they earned the VOHC seal of approval.
  • Packaging. The bag was easy to open and reseal.  

What our vet thinks

Dr. Irish values Purina’s good reputation. She also likes how Dentalife is VOHC-approved. Based on those factors alone, she has no issues recommending these chews to pet parents!

Best for doggie breath

Our product reviewer liked how Greenies Original Dental Dog Treats delighted her dogs and earned VOHC approval. She said the wheat flour doesn’t provide a lot of nutrition, though, so there may be healthier options for long-term use.

  • Ingredients. Greenies feature natural ingredients and freshen dogs’ breath with safe herbs and spices. The main ingredient is wheat flour, so these chews won’t work for dogs with gluten sensitivities.
  • Smell. These snacks have a very faint smell.
  • Palatability. Our dogs think these chews are yummy.
  • Safety. Greenies garner mostly positive reviews. Their new formula is more pliable than it once was, so they’re less likely to cause a pup to choke or experience a blockage.
  • Packaging. These treats come in a green box that’s easy to open and store.

What our vet thinks

Dr. Irish uses these treats with her dogs and thinks they’re great. She also values the VOHC seal of approval and gives a nod to the positive reviews.

Tough on bacteria

We like Tartar Shield because the rawhide is soft, pliable, and easy to digest. These snacks do contain artificial preservatives, which we typically don’t prefer, but these specific ingredients haven’t been proven to be dangerous.

  • Ingredients. The first ingredient is American-raised beef hide. Natural bacon adds some flavor, and the mixture of sodium tripolyphosphate and cetylpyridinium chloride fights plaque and bacteria in Fido’s mouth.
  • Smell. Tartar Shield has a subtle meat-like smell that dogs really like — without leaving your sofa smelling like a gigantic treat jar.
  • Palatability. Dogs love rawhide! Tartar Shield chews safely indulge their carnivorous cravings.
  • Safety. These VOHC-approved treats are a smart alternative to standard rawhide, which is typically tough to digest and notorious for getting stuck in the GI tract.
  • Packaging. The plastic, zippered bag is easy to open and reseal for freshness.

What our vet thinks

Dr. Irish noted that these Tartar Shield chews stand out in the rawhide crowd for being soft and VOHC-approved.

A long-lasting chew

Native Pet Yak Chews really gave our dogs something to gnaw on! We liked that these were long-lasting and made from organic ingredients. If your dog accidentally swallows a hunk, these treats will break down easier than a lot of meat-based options.

  • Ingredients. These chews contain organic milk from yaks and cows, and a trace amount of lime and salt.
  • Smell. No stinky cheese here! Native Pet Yak Chews have a very light smell.
  • Palatability. Our dogs liked them, but they weren’t jumping for joy.
  • Safety. Yacking on a bone isn’t an issue with these milk-based treats. Though these treats are not VOHC-approved, we believe they’re safer than most dental sticks. They are a little harder than we would have preferred, however, so we advise you to watch your pet closely when giving them this option.
  • Packaging. These treats come in a resealable plastic bag.

What our vet thinks

These treats are a little harder than the others we reviewed — a fact that has conflicting conclusions. On the one hand, harder chews last longer than softer options, which are quickly chomped down and swallowed. On the other hand, harder chews pose a choking risk. Since these chews don’t have VOHC approval, pet owners may want to monitor their pup when letting them chew on this choice from Native Pet.

Our research process

Why you should trust our reviews

  • Dr. Erica Irish helped us formulate this list — Our veterinarian rated each dental chew based on her personal experience, the manufacturer’s reputation, and whether or not the product earned VOHC approval.
  • We ordered and paid for these products — We used our own resources to buy and test these chews. These treats were not sponsored or gifted, which allowed us to give bias-free reviews.
  • We sent them off with our product researcher to test in the field — Our product reviewer Sara Ondrako used a hands-on approach to critique every product. She weighed them against our criteria and tested them with her in-house team: her pups.

How we picked

Extremely hard treats didn’t make the cut because they can damage dogs’ teeth and cause digestion issues. To determine which dental chews were safe, we conducted a “dent” test. If we pressed our fingers into the treat and found that it had a little bit of give, then it was good to go. Our vet and product reviewer Sara then ranked the treats that passed this initial test according to our criteria.

Sometimes once we review a product in-person, we decide we don’t want to recommend it to pet parents. One popular product didn’t make our list, and we think it’s important for pet parents to know why.

At first glance

Here’s a closer look at how the products stack up against each other.

Product Flavor Price Amount Price per ounce
Purina Dental Chewz Beef $9.99 5 oz. $2.00
Virbac Corn and pomegranate $37.99 24.8 oz. $1.53
Purina DentaLife Chicken $13.51 28.5 oz. $0.47
Greenies Mints, herbs, and Spices $39.99 36 oz. $1.11
Tartar Shield Beef and bacon $38.01 13.62 oz. $2.79
Native Pet Cheese $17.99 8 oz. $2.25

*price at the time of our review

How we tested these products

Dog testing dental chew

Our pup gives Purina Proplan’s Dental Chewz a try 📷: Sara Ondrako

We worked with our product expert and veterinarian to determine the most important criteria when choosing a dental chew for your pup. After hours of research, we decided on the following:

  • Ingredients. Does the product contain high-quality, nutritious ingredients?
  • Smell. How did the dental chew smell? Did it seem like dogs would enjoy it?
  • Palatability. Did our dogs like it? This is where we asked our doggie testers to help.
  • Safety. Were there any safety concerns for any of these products? This includes how safe each chew was for a dog’s teeth and whether or not it posed a choking risk.
  • Packaging. Packaging is important to ensure your chews stay fresh. We also noted how easy each package was to open and reseal.

What else should pet parents consider?

What are dog dental chews?

Dog dental chews are treats that have teeth-cleaning powers. They also give dogs an outlet to satisfy their craving for a good chew. Since dogs explore the world through their mouths, gnawing on dental chews provides mental stimulation and alleviates boredom.

Dog dental chews come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They typically feature different ridges and dips to provide texture, which helps clean dogs’ teeth while allowing them to better grip the bone.

In general, dental chews last longer than bones. Dog treats can typically be eaten in just a bite while dental chews should last a few hours, depending on the strength and tenacity of the chewer. Since they take so long to chew, they make for fresher breath and can help remove plaque from your pup’s teeth.

Some dental chews are made from cornstarch or other materials that can be easily digested. Many dental chews are flavored with meat or poultry meal. You can also find dental chews that are made from plants, which might be best for pups with any sort of food allergies.

In addition to using dental chews, you’ll also need to brush your dog’s teeth regularly. A yearly professional cleaning is typically recommended, though this guidance varies by breed. You should also regularly take your pup in for periodontal examinations.

Does your pet need dental chews?

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from bad breath and periodontal disease. Dental treats can help clean your pup’s teeth and prevent some of these canine crises. But dogs that are overweight or have certain medical conditions such as kidney troubles shouldn’t eat anything outside of the kibble recommended by their veterinarian. Unfortunately, this includes treats and dental chews.

Benefits of dental chews for dogs

Dental chews shouldn’t replace toothbrushing, but they are a great addition to your regular oral health routine. Your dog will enjoy gnawing on a tasty treat so much that they won’t notice they’re actually working to clean their teeth.

Why dental hygiene is important for dogs

Just like humans, dogs can experience dental problems, like bad breath, plaque and tartar buildup, gingivitis, gum disease, and more.

As mentioned earlier, dental problems also pose a threat to your dog’s overall health. Oral bacteria can enter your dog’s bloodstream and can potentially affect their heart, liver, and kidneys.

Taking care of your dog’s teeth is preventative. Good dental hygiene means delaying or preventing tooth pulling, tooth pain, and costly veterinary bills. Regular veterinary teeth cleanings are also preventative, as veterinarians will remove the tartar that causes bone loss and loose teeth.

Brushing a dog’s teeth every day is the best way to prevent tartar buildup, which is why veterinarians recommend that dog owners brush their dog’s teeth daily with a great dog-friendly toothpaste. However, most dog owners don’t do so. One study by the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry showed that only 2% of dog owners brush their canine companion’s teeth daily.

It’s easy to understand why: There’s only so much time in a day, and even when owners remember, it can be difficult to wrangle an uncooperative dog. That’s why supplementing your dog’s oral hygiene routine with dental chews is a great way to take care of your dog’s dental health.

In addition, you can also supplement with wipes, sprays, and dental water additives.

How to shop for a dental chew

With so many options on the market, it can be hard to find the perfect dental chew. The best way to check for quality is to look for the Veterinary Oral Hygiene Council (VOHC) seal of approval. VOHC recognizes products that meet rigorous safety standards for both dogs and cats.

According to betterpet vet Dr. Erica Irish, most dental chews approved by VOHC are effective at removing plaque and foodstuffs before they harden into tartar.

Additional factors like breed, age, and size can also make one dental chew better for your pup than another. In addition, you may need to take the calorie count of treats and chews into consideration, especially if you have an overweight pup.

When in doubt, you can always ask your veterinarian for their advice and recommendations.

How to use dental chews safely

Always supervise your dog when they consume any type of dental chew. And make sure your dog thoroughly chews any treat you give them. You can also break chews into smaller pieces or hold the treat in your hand while your dog gnaws on the other end.

In addition, you should always select the correct chew for your pup based on their size. And be sure to read the package for any additional instructions.

Potential risks 

Just like any other pet treat, dental chews can contain ingredients that are harmful to dogs. While no dog chew is 100% safe, some are definitely safer than others. Below are a few of the potential risks to watch out for:

  • Oral injuries. If a chew looks like it’s too hard for your dog to dig their teeth into, there’s a good chance that it will cause dental damage. When chews are too hard for your dog, they can cause tooth fractures and oral injuries. If a chew would hurt you if you hit your knee with it, then it’s probably too hard for your pup’s teeth.
  • GI issues. You’ll want to make sure that the option you pick can be easily digested to keep your pup’s teeth and tummy as healthy as possible.
  • Obstructions. Dental chews can result in intestinal obstructions when a dog swallows a large piece. Intestinal obstructions are an emergency and require immediate medical attention.

Warning signs to watch out for

If you notice any of the following signs, it’s time to take your dog’s dental chew away and call your local vet:

  • Blood on the chew
  • Broken or fractured teeth
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Appetite loss

Frequently asked questions

What types of chews are best for a dog’s teeth?

The best types of chews are soft enough to dent yet hard enough to last for a long round of heavy chewing.

How often should I give my dog dental chews?

Factors like your dog’s age, weight, and health conditions will affect how often they can use dental chews, so we recommend asking your vet for their advice.

What are the safest dental chews for dogs?

Look for chews that are approved by the VOHC, which indicates the chew has been clinically tested. Also make sure the chew isn’t hard enough to harm your dog’s teeth or contains any worrisome ingredients.

Are dental chews effective?

Though they aren’t a substitute for toothbrushing and professional teeth cleans, dental chews are a simple way to keep your dog’s mouth in tip-top shape. Plus, your dog will enjoy being encouraged to chew — something they naturally love to do!

What should I avoid in a doggie dental chew?

See if the chew passes the “dent” test. If you can press your finger into the treat and it leaves a little dent, then the chew is safe for your pup. This is important because you’ll want to avoid chews that are hard enough to choke on or could cause a GI obstruction.