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- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Dog mouthwashes and dental water additives have exploded on the pet market recently—with products claiming to easily clean your pup’s teeth and freshen their breath. Some even tout that they can replace brushing at home altogether. But how effective are these claims? And are dog mouthwashes and dental water additives even safe to give your pup?
To understand the complete range of their efficacy, we dive deep into the purported benefits of dog mouthwashes and turn to the experts for advice.
Do Dog Mouthwashes Work? An Expert Reviews
Dog mouthwashes and dental water additives claim to work by using enzymatic ingredients to break down tartar and eliminate bad breath.
And they do this to some extent, according to Monique Feyrecilde, a licensed veterinary technician and behavior specialist at Mercer Island Veterinary Clinic—which offers advanced pet dentistry in Seattle, Washington.
“These products work in a few ways,” she says. “Bacteria living in the mouth create a coating on the pet’s teeth called a ‘biofilm.’ Some of the ingredients work to break down the biofilm, while other ingredients are meant to kill the bacteria themselves.”
Feyrecilde says that dog mouthwashes and water additives are usually safe, noting that pet parents should always check the label to make sure they’re free of xylitol or birch sugars, which are toxic for dogs. She also advises using mouthwashes that have been researched and accepted by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC).
“These products should not have side effects, but be sure to choose a VOHC-approved product,” she says. “There are many unapproved products on the market which have not been studied or scrutinized in any way to make sure they’re effective. Any approved product will have the VOHC seal right on the label.”
And of course, it goes without saying that pet parents should only use mouthwashes specifically designed for dogs (no human rinses!). It’s also a good idea to talk to your vet before introducing anything new into your dog’s wellness routine.
Are dog mouthwashes so effective that you can skip brushing?
While Feyrecilde says dog mouthwashes can be a great addition to your overall dental health care plan, they can’t effectively replace the benefits of frequent brushing, professional vet dentistry, or even dog dental chews.
“Water additives and mouthwashes will not take the place of brushing, but are a good adjunct to a comprehensive home care plan,” she says. “Just like with humans, we brush our teeth daily (hopefully!) and still need to visit the dentist for X-rays and professional cleanings regularly.”
Different Types of Dog Mouthwashes
What type of dental water additive you choose will come down to your dog’s specific needs and your daily habits.
If you’d like to take a broader approach and target other wellness issues in one bowl, some dog mouthwashes have entire product lines dedicated to specific health issues. For example, TropiClean offers a variety of formulas, including versions designed to help your dog’s hip and joint health, promote shiny skin and coats, or offer digestive support. There are even mouthwashes for puppies and advanced teeth whitening.
For picky pups and dogs with assertive snoots, you’ll want to choose a mouthwash that’s free of odor and taste—like the Dechra Vetradent Water Additive. Pet parents say that their dogs don’t seem to notice it in their water bowls, adding that they’re happy with the results it produces. Made with Biotrate Technology, this dental water additive helps maintain the pH balance in your dog’s mouth and reduces the bacteria that cause plaque and tartar.
Do you shudder every time your dog opens his mouth? Then look for mouthwashes that offer a mild flavor to specifically target bad breath. For instance, the Naturel Promise Dental Water Additive is odor-free but includes green tea leaf extract to help freshen breath. Reviewers confirm seeing a noticeable change in their pup’s bad breath after using the product, saying it’s one of the easiest and most effective methods they’ve tried.
So Do Dog Mouthwashes and Dental Water Additives Work?
When added to your overall home care plan, yes, dog mouthwashes and dental water additives can help keep your dog’s teeth clean and breath smelling fresh. In particular, they’re great for:
- Aiding in your brushing routine at home
- Taking your dog’s overall dental care to the next level
- Freshening breath by keeping bacteria at bay
- Helping serve as an interim option when pups can’t brush (e.g., after dental surgery)
Dog mouthwashes, however, are not a cure-all or a replacement for frequent brushing and regular vet visits. Some dogs might even find the odor or taste offputting. In that case, there are alternatives that can help boost your brushing routine, including:
- Quality dog dental chews
- Longer-lasting chews
- Tartar-control dog food
- Rubber dental toys