Since 80% of dogs encounter some form of periodontal disease by three years old, when it comes to dental care, some things are non-negotiable: daily brushing, safe treats to encourage chewing without damaging teeth, and regular veterinary visits.
But when it comes to toothpaste… where to start? There are plenty of products on the market that claim to have the best, ‘all-natural’, or even chemically-enhanced ingredients for your dog’s mouth. Some of them even taste like chicken, to entice your canine into letting you clean their canines. If you’re overwhelmed by the options (and hearing your wallet cry at the prices), check out this guide to DIY-ing your dog’s toothpaste.
First: Why should you bother brushing at all?
Hopefully if you’re in the “researching toothpastes” phase of puppy parenthood, you already know the dirty details of why brushing your dog’s teeth is so crucial to their overall health. But just in case you’re new around here, a quick refresher. Regular (aka, daily!) tooth brushing:
- Cleans teeth to prevent plaque and tartar buildup. Plaque can get down into the gum line and cause periodontal disease, and tartar can’t be removed without a veterinarian’s help (and requires putting your dog under anesthesia).
- Freshens breath, which isn’t just so you don’t have to endure smelly kisses: dogs with bad breath are at higher risk for all the stages of periodontal disease, starting with gingivitis. In fact, bad breath is often a symptom that, unless it goes away with regular brushing, needs to get checked out by a vet ASAP.
- Prevents inflammation in the mouth, which can be connected to organ damage elsewhere in your dog’s body.
Only 2% of pet parents bother with brushing their dog’s teeth, so even if you start brushing your furry friend’s teeth today, you’re still better than 98% of them (and yes, it is a competition).
Second: Why DIY my dog’s toothpaste?
Quality control! If you want to ensure your dog ingests only the most natural ingredients without additives or harmful toxins, going DIY is a great option. It can also be cost-effective, depending on where you source ingredients.
Third: What ingredients should DIY toothpaste include?
There are so many formulas out there for doggy toothpaste, so this is a great opportunity to experiment. Start simple, and if your dog responds well, you can consider adding to the recipe. One ingredient, though, is essential: baking soda.
Why baking soda? Well, if you’ve ever called your mom in a panic because you’re having trouble removing a tough sweat/wine/chocolate stain from your favorite shirt, then you already know the answer. Baking soda has powerful, but natural, cleaning properties that whiten teeth. When combined with equal parts water, it creates a paste that can get into the nooks and crannies of your dog’s mouth.
All you have to do is take a small scoop of baking soda and add a little bit of water at a time, stirring, until you reach the desired paste consistency.
Fourth: Baking soda tastes gross. How can I flavor my dog’s toothpaste?
So you’ve got the water and baking soda basics down. Here are some options for natural ingredients to add more flavor. (You know, because dogs are the ultimate foodies.)
- Broth: Chicken or beef broth would be great to add flavor, but be mindful of the sodium content in whatever product you pick. (Or DIY your own broth, too!)
- Mint: Some dogs love the fresh taste of minty toothpaste, just like humans. When using mint, make sure to blend the water and baking soda with it so the leaves get ground up very fine.
- Cinnamon or cloves: This is a great way to give a subtle sweet and spicy flavor to the toothpaste without adding sugar.
Other ingredients you can try include coconut milk and turmeric.. Basically, if it’s safe for your dog to eat, you can add it to the toothpaste!
Fifth: This all sounds really labor-intensive. Is there another option?
You bet! If the idea of DIY, natural toothpaste appeals to you, but everything from ingredient-sourcing and making the stuff, to actually brushing your dog’s teeth manually the recommended two times per day makes you wonder if you’ll ever have time for anything else… you should try BARK Bright.
Bright is the first triple-enzymatic dental cleaning system on the market for dogs. It uses enzymes already found in your dog’s mouth and a third, catalyst enzyme, to trigger a chain reaction that is better at cleaning teeth, freshening breath, and preventing plaque buildup than any other product.
It’s gluten free, contains only natural sugars, and your dog does all the brushing themselves. Simply squeeze the toothpaste along the groove of the chew (approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Association) and give to your pup. As they gnaw away, enticed by the real chicken flavor, they’re actually brushing their teeth!
Best of all, it’s just $1/day, and you can get your first one-month supply by adding to your BarkBox or Super Chewer box via your account, subscribing at barkbright.com, or grabbing a kit from Amazon.