Imagine how your mouth would feel if you stopped brushing your teeth.
It’s not a pleasant thought, is it?
And yet, for many of our pets this is a fact of life.
Between commercial foods, table scraps, and tasty treats, our dogs face an uphill battle to maintain a healthy mouth.
However, dental chews can give you the edge, which is why we’re brushing up on two market leaders, to weigh up the pros and cons of Dentastix vs Greenies so you decide which is recommended for your dog.
Gum disease is common…too common.
In fact, experts tell us (*) that by the age of three, most of our dogs have signs of periodontal disease (this is dental disease affecting the gums or tissues securing the teeth in the jaw.)
These problems aren’t always obvious in the conscious dog, but include issues such as deepened pockets between the gum and the teeth.
Of course dental disease can also be very obvious, such as the dog with bad breath that can clear a room.
Other signs include:
If you see these signs your pet already has a problem.
In this case, do not give a chew but get your dog checked out by a vet.
Giving a dental chew to a pet that has inflamed gums, could further damage the gums and cause bacteria to get into the bloodstream.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom, because there is good news.
Now as never before there are a wide range of dental hygiene products, which are a strong allay in the battle against plaque and tartar.
Of these, dental chews have a significant role to play.
Of these, the market leaders by a country mile are the first and original dental chew, Greenies and Dentastix, made by Pedigree Petfoods.
Of course the gold standard when it comes to oral hygiene is daily tooth brushing.
Dogs are no different to people in this respect.
This is because it’s a combination of food debris, bacteria, and minerals, which build up on the surface of the tooth – this is known as plaque.
Over time plaque irritates the gum, leading to inflammation and an entry point for bacteria.
In addition plaque hardens to tartar, which further pushes on the gum and causes them to recede.
From there it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to extremely sore gums and wobbly teeth.
So how do dental chews help?
The idea behind dental chews is that surface plaque is scrubbed away by the natural act of chewing.
In addition, this gentle rubbing action is supplemented by ingredients in the chew which make the mouth a more hostile place for bacteria and decrease plaque formation.
It is only right, since Greenies were the first dental health chew to be given the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s (VOHC) seal of approval.
This prestigious mark of confidence shows that the chew is scientifically proven to be beneficial to good dental health.
This immediately makes Greenies stand out as there are many chew that make claims to benefit tooth health, but without any science to back it up.
Indeed, you can think of Greenies as trail blazers, because they were first in the field and for many years were only available through vets.
Happily for our dogs, these chews are now easily available from a number of retailers including online.
Greenies are made from safe, easy to digest ingredients.
Indeed, if the dog swallowed a Greenie whole, whilst this is not ideal, the chew will eventually be digested in the same way that a large piece of kibble would be broken down.
Those pet parents with long memories may recall some controversy when Greenies first came out.
This was down to a couple of dogs that swallowed large pieces of Greenie which then became stuck in the gut and formed a blockage.
Since then, Greenies have had the formulation tweaked to make them more digestible, in order to minimize this risk.
Given the name “Greenie” it’s hardly surprising that they are indeed green in color.
They also have a distinctive toothbrush shape.
Greenies come in a wide range of sizes from “Teenie” (5 -15 lbs.) to “Large” (50 lbs. upwards).
The knack is to find the size of treat that your dog will chew and chow down on, since the Greenie that is gone in two bites is not a Greenie that does much good.
Fortunately, palatability is rarely an issue, with most dogs only to eager to get hold of a Greenie and chew.
So far so good, now let’s look at Dentastix.
Dentastix are made by the mighty pet food company, Pedigree.
This dental chew has an “X” shape, which encourages the dog to bight down and chews on it.
It also comes in a variety of sizes suitable for small, medium, and large dogs.
They are also available in original flavor, beef, bacon, and ‘fresh’.
The ‘Fresh’ variety contain green tea extract and eucalyptus oil for fresher breath.
The special chewy texture of Dentastix encourages the dog to chew down to the gum line, for maximum cleaning benefit.
Again, the chew is only going to be beneficial if the dog chews on the Dentastix.
They do have a soft texture so some dogs (especially accomplished chewers) tend to make short work of these, so chose the chew size with regard to how good at chewing your dog is.
The first and most outstanding difference between Greenies or Dentastix is their certification.
Whereas Greenies have the backing of the prestigious VOHC, Dentastix do not.
By implication this means Greenies have a better proven track record at tackling plaque, which is the root cause of dental disease, than Dentastix do.
In the world of veterinary science, the buzz words of the moment are “Evidence based medicine.”
In practical terms this means your vet will only recommend treatments that have a proven benefit to your dog.
Extending evidence based medicine to the debate about Dentastix vs Greenies, this would mean that Greenies pass this test but Dentastix don’t.
In other words, if these dental chews were a drug that was used to treat a disorder or illness, then Greenies would have the backing of your vet but Dentastix wouldn’t.
Think about it another way.
If your dog had an upset stomach or a bad cough, would you be happy for your vet to provide an unproven treatment, or would you expect them to use their special training to select therapies which were known or proven to be effective?
An interesting thought, isn’t it?
OK, so the science is all very well, but what if your dog won’t touch the chew or else swallows it down in one gulp.
Of course this matters, because you can have the best dental chew in the world and if your dog won’t chomp on it, then it’s worthless. (Much like having a wonderful drug to treat heart disease but you can’t get the dog to swallow it.)
Factors to consider when deciding between Dentastix or Greenies are things such as how much chewing is involved and how tasty the treats are.
This can come down to things such as the size of the chew and if it’s available in a small (or big!) enough size to encourage your dog to chew, and also the flavor of the product.
With this in mind let’s take a look at what pet parents have found with their dogs.
It seems there are Dentastix addicts out there.
Many dogs have been trained using the lure of a reward with Dentastix, which has to be a good sign these things are pretty tasty.
Indeed, many pet parents report how their dogs know where the Dentastix are kept, and when it comes to that time of day to settle down with a chew, they pace the floor drooling in anticipation.
Well, according to pet parents Greenies are not to be beaten either, with some even describing them as "Cocaine for dogs."
Indeed, even those toy dogs with a reputation for being fussy eaters seem to be suckers for Greenies.
And of course an extra bonus is that Greenies are proven to work.
This means when a dog chews on Greenies (as opposed to swallowing them uneaten) then their teeth will be cleaner.
Many satisfied pet parents were more than happy that their dog had dodged the dreaded descale under anesthetic, because of the difference Greenies made.
So are Dentastix or Greenies miracle products?
Is this the end to dogs ever needing professional cleaning ever again?
If only life was that simple and straightforward!
Of course nothing is ever perfect so let’s take a look at the downside of these products.
The biggest of these is the old reputation of Greenies for being indigestible.
This goes back to the earliest days of Greenies when a couple of dogs encountered serious complications.
This happened when they swallowed chunks of Greenie, which became lodged in their bowel and required surgery to remove it.
Since then, the manufacturers of Greenies have learnt from this distressing episode and reformulated them to be ultra-digestible.
Now, a piece of Greenie is no less digestible than a lump of biscuit or vegetable.
Whilst this may leave you feeling uncomfortable, it’s always salient to ponder who is in the better place: Someone who has faced up to a problem and put practices in place to deal with it, or someone who has never needed to confront an issue head on?
We’ll leave you to ponder on that one.
With regards to Dentastix, one of the biggest bugbears is that many pet parents would dispute that these are ‘healthy’.
This stems from the list of ingredients including substances such as wheat starch, rice flour, gelatin, and gum Arabic.
Now whilst these aren’t toxic or dangerous substances, they are frowned on by some as cheap fillers that stand an increased risk of triggering food allergies.
The significance of the above point depends on your standpoint as an individual, on what constitutes a healthy diet.
If you don’t feel strongly about processed foods, then Dentastix are no different.
If however you are a fan of BARF then you aren’t going to be happy about Dentastix.
The choice is up to you.
One point however, is that if your dog does suffer from digestive upsets and is placed on a special diet by the vet, then be aware that you needs to remember treats are food and as such it may not be appropriate to feed them.
And on a closing note, remember treats, be they Greenies or Dentastix are a food and do contain calories.
Depending on the size of your dog the standard recommendation is giving at least one dental treat per day on a regular basis.
But be aware that this is giving the dog extra calories in addition to their meals.
Take this into account and cut back on their daily ration, which will help avoid unwanted weight gain.
After all, you don’t want to solve one problem (dental disease) only to cause another (obesity!)
Happy chomping everyone.
Dr Sarah Robinson attended veterinary school at Oklahoma State University receiving a D.V.M. in 2008. Sarah’s longtime interest is to help people to better communicate with their pet companions, and in doing so, to help them to strengthen their relationships with their dogs and cats. Sarah has published numerous articles on canine feeding in pet related magazines, veterinary journals and leading natural health web sites.