Doggie breath is caused by a number of things. If you’re lucky, regular brushing with a natural toothpaste should fight bacteria and freshen his breath. Brush as regularly as you feed him. And it should start when he’s a puppy. If you think there may be more serious issues, you should see your holistic vet. But for today, let’s have a look at how to choose the right toothpaste for your dog to prevent those problems.
So here are 8 things you need to know when choosing toothpaste for your dog.
1. Does My Dog Need Toothpaste?
Brushing your dog’s teeth removes plaque, prevents tartar formation and freshens his breath. So a toothpaste that breaks down plaque and destroys bacteria is essential.
If your dog has bad breath, there are several causes. Digestive issues, bacteria in his mouth from food, or problems with his teeth and gums. You want to know what’s causing the bad breath to ensure it’s not something serious. If his teeth and gums are in good shape, you can maintain them with regular brushing. And using a toothpaste helps to do that. It should have antibacterial action that comes from enzymes, not chemicals.
2. Is Human Toothpaste Safe For Dogs?
Never use human toothpaste for your dog!
Many human toothpastes contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is toxic to dogs. Xylitol can cause blood sugar drops in dogs, as well as potential liver damage and even death.
Human toothpastes also usually contain fluoride … another dangerous ingredient for your dog. Fluoride is a neurotoxicant that can affect brain and behavioral development. Ironically, it can also damage teeth, weaken bones and has even been linked to deadly osteosarcoma.
Other undesirable ingredients in human toothpastes include detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate, which is linked to mouth sores. There are humectants like propylene glycol, which is also in antifreeze. And of course, those bold stripes and bright colors mean toothpaste contains artificial colors and flavors you don’t want in your dog’s mouth.
RELATED: Why your dog shouldn’t have fluoride …
3. What’s The Safest Toothpaste For Dogs?
The safest toothpaste for your dog is free from chemicals, dyes, preservatives and artificial additives. Look for toothpastes with USDA certified organic ingredients. There are some natural toothpastes with only 3 ingredients … and that’s a good sign.
You want to be sure the toothpaste for your dog has no foaming agents. That means it’s safe for him to swallow. Sodium laurel sulfate or similar products are ingredients to watch out for. There’s more information on this in a bit, about what else to avoid in your dog’s toothpaste.
You can also make your own toothpaste with recipes that come later on. And home-made tooth powders are an option too.
4. Is Flavored Toothpaste Bad For Dogs?
Commercial toothpastes for dogs are usually flavored with artificial ingredients and chemicals. If you can’t recognize the name of a so-called natural flavor, that means it’s made up of chemicals. Chemicals have approval for use in products for dogs, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for them.
And the ingredients should say peppermint essential oil. If it just says peppermint then you’re not getting the real thing.
But you’ll have a better chance brushing your dog’s teeth if he likes the flavor you’re using. You just have to be aware of the ingredients. Look for natural ingredients … words and ingredients you recognize. It’s hard enough to get your dog used to having your finger or a toothbrush in his mouth. You want to use something tasty to make the experience better. But you want it to be healthy too.
5. Can I Use Baking Soda On My Dog’s Teeth?
Most natural and organic toothpastes for dogs include baking soda. And many recipes for make-your-own toothpaste include baking soda as a main ingredient. And that’s perfectly okay.
Baking soda is a natural cleaner for the home and body. It’s used to whiten, clean and deodorize your dog’s mouth, teeth and gums. Baking soda is also great for killing bacteria along the gumline and between the teeth. Brushing with baking soda helps prevent oral health troubles.
Don’t worry about aluminum in baking soda. That’s a persistent rumor likely due to some packaging labeled “aluminum free.” But baking soda is just sodium bicarbonate, which can be natural or synthetic. Buy the natural kind if you can.
6. Is Coconut Oil Safe For My Dog’s Teeth?
You might notice that many toothpaste recipes for dogs use coconut oil. Online information also suggests brushing your dog’s teeth with coconut oil. But when it comes to your dog’s gut health, it isn’t the best choice. Coconut oil can be inflammatory, damage your dog’s gut lining and lead to leaky gut. It’s probably okay in the small amounts used in your dog’s toothpaste or to brush your dog’s teeth. Check out some healthier alternatives to coconut oil when you get to the recipes.
Now let’s look at the ingredients you might see in commercial toothpaste for dogs.
7. Ingredients To Avoid In Vet-Recommended Toothpaste For Dogs
Label reading is just as important to your dog’s dental care as it is to his food. And the ingredients are just as toxic and chemically-based. These few ingredients listed, and many more, are in toothpastes approved by veterinarians for your dog.
But you want to strive for chemical-free, natural ingredients in all aspects of your dog’s care.
You can start by avoiding artificial sweeteners like dextrose, sodium saccharin and sorbitol. Your dog doesn’t need sweeteners anyway. Alcohol, artificial colours like sodium copper chloraphyilinis and artificial flavors are also big no-nos. As are artificial preservatives like potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate. These link to allergies and organ toxicity.
The FDA banned Tricolsan, an antibacterial, linked to hormone disruption. Yet it is still on some labels for dog toothpaste.
And it might surprise you to learn that there are online toothpastes for dogs that don’t list phosphoric acid in their ingredients. Yet their physical product packaging states “may contain phosphoric acid.” Animal studies show it has toxic effects at moderate doses. At low concentrations, phosphoric acid can cause dry, red, cracked skin with skin contact.
Potassium thiocyanate is in toothpaste and pharmaceutical products. It is a skin and eye irritant. And here’s another one to avoid. Do you want potassium nitrate in your dog’s toothpaste? It’s used in gunpowder, as a fertilizer and in medicine. It can cause eye and skin irritation, and serious effects in high concentrations.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has sodium laurel sulfate listed as an ingredient in almost 1,500 health and beauty products including toothpaste for dogs. It’s a surfactant that causes products to foam and bubble. It’s ranked as “fair” which is a low hazard risk. Yet it’s known to be an irritant to eyes, skin, mouth and lungs. And it’s suspected to be an environmental toxin.
Now for some ingredients that are a little simpler.
8. Best Ingredients To Include In Natural Toothpaste For Dogs
The first thing you’ll notice in natural toothpaste or tooth powder for dogs is that you can pronounce all of the ingredients on the label. And the reasons for including them are pretty straightforward and understandable. You won’t need to spend hours Googling definitions.
Here are a few ingredients you’ll recognize and have probably used to support your dog’s wellbeing in other ways.
Baking soda is used in many health and household applications. When it comes to your dog’s teeth, it has whitening properties and is a mild abrasive. And it creates an alkaline environment in his mouth to prevent bacteria from growing.
Next is aloe vera. You’ll see it used for oral health and to aid digestion. It’s also cooling and very soothing in your dog’s mouth.
You’ll like olive leaf extract for its natural antibiotic properties. And if you see sea salt in the ingredient list, it’s being used as a gentle abrasive.
It’s always a positive when you see enzymes listed. They reduce bacteria in the mouth and that leads to a healthier microbiome for your dog.
Essential oils like thyme, clove and eucalyptus have the ability to reduce plaque and gum inflammation. Peppermint essential oil fights oral bacteria and has a cooling effect.
These are other ingredients you might see: lecithin as an emulsifier; glycerin as an emollient; and neem oil for its properties as a fungicide.
It’s quite simple to make your own toothpaste to suit your dog’s taste preferences and health needs. Here’s how.
9. How To Make Natural Toothpaste For Dogs
When you make toothpaste for your dog, you have total control over the ingredients. And you’ve probably got everything on hand. It’s also more affordable compared to the $8 to $44 (yes $44!!) charged by commercial brands.
There are extra things you can add to take it up a notch as well.
Your dog might have plaque or tartar and the bacteria that comes with it. If so, you can add 1 Tbsp of either a good soil-based probiotic, or bentonite clay to the following recipes, with extra liquid as needed. It’s great at binding to pathogenic bacteria. And it all leaves your dog’s system when he poops.
You can create your own toothpaste from this list of suggestions.
- A liquid or oil such as MCT, olive, avocado or hempseed or ghee or aloe vera gel (without aloin)
- An exfoliate like natural baking soda or sea salt
- Flavorings like natural broth
- Herbs like mint, parsley or calendula
- Calendula tincture
- Probiotic powder
- Extras like kelp, turmeric or cinnamon powder
Tooth Powder Vs Toothpaste For Your Dog
If you’ve ever made toothpaste for your dog, you start by making a tooth powder … just like they did hundreds of years ago. The ingredients for a homemade tooth powder are basically the same as toothpaste. Liquid or an oil is added to dry ingredients to make a paste.
Toothpastes for people came on the scene in the 1900s and later all the additives and thickeners were added. Tooth powder is still easy to make, easy to use and even more effective at removing plaque.
Try these toothpaste recipes for your dog. And there’s not an artificial sweetener, binder or fake flavor in any of them. You can use any of the recipes to make a tooth powder by leaving out the fat and liquid.
Homemade Natural Toothpaste Recipes For Dogs
Many toothpaste recipes for dogs use coconut oil but, as mentioned earlier, it’s not great for your dog’s gut health. Instead, use organic MCT oil or organic ghee (clarified butter). If you choose MCT oil, use a brand without lauric acid.
Or leave out the fats and liquids to make a great homemade tooth powder.
Cool & Calming Toothpaste For Dogs
- 3/4 cup aloe vera gel (organic, organic without aloin)
- 3 T baking soda
- 3 T ghee (organic, unsalted)
- 1 T soil-based probiotics or bentonite clay
- 2 tsp crushed eggshells (from pastured eggs)
- 15 minced fresh mint leaves
or ¼ tsp culinary peppermint extract (organic, unsweetened)
or 2-3 drops peppermint essential oil
Blend well in a blender. It should have the consistency of sour cream. Scoop out enough for each daily brushing. Then you won’t be dipping in and contaminating the entire container with bacteria from your dog’s mouth. Refrigerate for up to a week or freeze in an ice cube tray.
Kelp & Turmeric Toothpaste For Dogs
- 1 cup ghee (MCT oil can be used but it will be more liquid than with ghee)
- 2 T baking soda
- ½ tsp kelp
- ¼ tsp dried parsley
- ½ tsp turmeric (with high curcumin level)
Mix all ingredients. This will probably go a long way. Refrigerate or freeze in an ice cube tray. Each cube should last several days of brushing.
Bone Broth Toothpaste For Dogs
- 6 T baking soda (add more to thicken as needed)
- 1 cup bone broth
- 1 tsp dried parsley or 6-8 minced fresh parsley leaves
Mix all ingredients. This will also last a while so freeze in an ice cube tray. Each cube should last several days of brushing.
Fresh Breath Toothpaste For Dogs
- ¼ tsp dried or 4-5 fresh minced parsley leaves
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp water (or as needed)
- 2 ½ Tbsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp dried or 2-3 fresh minced mint leaves (optional)
Chop the herbs finely and crush them well to release the oils. Then combine all ingredients and watch it turn a vibrant green. You can add some ghee or oil to make it a bit more spreadable. Let it sit for about an hour before using it for the first time. Scoop out enough for each daily brushing. Refrigerate for up to a week.
Baking Soda Toothpaste For Dogs
- Healthy oil like MCT, olive oil, avocado oil or ghee
- Equal amount of baking soda
- Additions like fresh parsley or mint leaves (10-12 leaves per cup of oil or liquid)
So if you’re using half a cup of oil, use half a cup of baking soda and 6-8 leaves. Melt the oil if needed. Combine everything. Scoop out enough for each daily brushing. Refrigerate for up to a week or freeze in an ice cube tray. It will keep longer if there aren’t any fresh herbs included.
And the last thing you’ll need to know is how to brush your dog’s teeth with toothpaste or tooth powder.
How To Brush Your Dog’s Teeth
It’s hard to get your dog used to having your finger or a toothbrush in his mouth. Ideally, you start when he’s a pup. But if that didn’t happen, it’s your job to make teeth brushing a fun, new activity.
Treat teeth brushing as snuggle time. Start by using a flavor your dog enjoys — like bone broth, or almond butter or kefir. With your dog’s head on your lap, dip your finger into the tastiness. Reach from behind his head or the side and extend your finger for him to lick. Do this consistently every night for a week. You’ll want to start working in the toothpaste flavor for a few days in the same way.
Then get some mildly abrasive gauze from the pharmacy. Wrap it around your finger and dip it in the toothpaste. Massage your finger plus gauze all over your dog’s teeth and gums. There’s no need to pry the jaws open … just push the lips up. You can feel the molars way at the back. Don’t forget to rub over them too. This is a great way to remove accumulated plaque daily. You don’t want to give plaque an opportunity to develop into hard tartar.
If you’re using tooth powder, wet your gauze-wrapped finger and dip it in the powder. Then rub it into your dog’s teeth and gums rather than brushing it in. More gets applied to your dog’s teeth with less sticking to the brush.
Make an effort to spend 10-20 seconds a day removing the daily food particles and plaque before bedtime. This will go a long way in protecting your dog’s teeth and preventing periodontal disease in the future.
When your dog accepts the feeling, you can switch to a finger toothbrush or a natural toothbrush with really soft bristles. (Bamboo is a good option.) Brush your dog’s teeth in an up and down, then side to side motion.
Soon, teeth brushing time will become a bonding time for you and your dog.
Adams, S. E. et al. A randomised clinical study to determine the effect of a toothpaste containing enzymes and proteins on plaque oral microbiome ecology. Sci. Rep. 7, 43344; doi: 10.1038/srep43344 (2017).