We get it—you lavish your dog with toys, treats, (and love!)—but did you know that some commonly found toys and treats found in pet stores could silently threaten their dental health? As devoted and responsible pet parents, it's super important to educate yourself and make choices that protect the dental health of our soulful sidekicks.
If stinky breath's got you down and you're looking for solutions, give this a read before you hit the pet store. A little education beforehand can save you stress and money in the long run!
Author's note: Always consult your vet before purchasing any products for your pet. Our recommendations should not be taken as pet medical advice.
The dangers on pet store shelves and safer alternatives
1. Hard bones and antlers
While chewing is beneficial for your dog’s chompers, overly hard bones and antlers can lead to broken teeth or splinters. Go for safer alternatives that still offer dental benefits, like specially designed dental chews with natural ingredients. Durable rubber toys are another good choice, massaging gums without the splinter risk.
2. Cheap plastic toys
Watch out for toys that might break into sharp pieces, putting your dog’s gums and teeth at risk. Swap them out for tough, non-toxic alternatives that can handle their boundless energy. Think durable rubber toys that aren't just long-lasting but also safe.
3. Sugary dog treats
Dogs—they’re just like us: excess sugar can harm their teeth. Choose treats with minimal added sugars or consider alternative options like dental chews to support their oral health. It's a simple way to keep their smiles healthy without sacrificing treat time.
Though popular, Greenies might be hard on your pet's stomach. Particularly if they are sensitive to gluten, they may not be able to tolerate these brush-shaped pet store faves.
Check with your vet for confirmation, and in the meantime, explore other dental treats that won’t cause tummy troubles.
5. Improperly-size kibble
Your dog’s food needs to be appropriate for not only their age but also their size. Kibble that’s too big for your pup could damage or crack their teeth, leading to a major ouch for both them and your wallet!
Chat with your vet to choose a high-quality diet that supports dental health and is tailored to your pet's size and age to avoid potential issues down the line.
6. Tennis balls (specifically those made in China)
Surprisingly, a popular dog toy might be hiding more than just fun. According to a landmark study, tennis balls specifically designed for dogs and manufactured in China have been found to contain concerning levels of lead and other heavy metals, posing unexpected risks to your dog's health.
"Researchers discovered that tennis balls made specifically for pets were more likely to have lead than “sports” tennis balls...Curiously, none of the “sports” tennis balls tested contained any lead," says the Wildest.
But beyond these studies, the outer layer of this sporty green ball is pretty abrasive on our pet's enamel. That means it can lead to damage, even if you find one that's not toxic.
To be safe, stick to toys made in the USA and better yet, tried and true brands that are both safe for dental health and free of heavy metals.
7. Synthetic stuffing toys
Plush toys are awesome for keeping your pet entertained but keep an eye on them to avoid any stuffing ingestion. Stuffing, even "pet-safe" kinds, isn’t truly digestible and can get stuck in your pup's dog’s teeth - irritating their gums - or can cause blockages which might lead to expensive surgery.
Dental health tips for pearly whites
No cavities here: Yup, pets can really benefit from regular brushing. Invest in a pet-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste to support their pearly whites.
The dentist = your pup's BFF: Just like us, our pets need regular dental check-ups. This way your vet can catch any potential issues early on.
Smart swaps: Edible dental treats made from digestible ingredients and interactive toys dispensing treats keep your dog engaged while keeping your pet’s dental health in mind. If you’re a “crunchy” pet parent, chop up some carrots or sweet potatoes for a healthy treat.
Remember, a proactive approach to dental care can save you money in the long run by preventing costly vet bills.
Don't sleep on your pet's teeth
Knowledge is power when you’re a pet parent. By understanding the potential hazards lurking on pet store shelves and embracing safe alternatives, you become a true guardian of your pet's dental health—and overall health and happiness.
Aimee Ellis is a New Jersey native living in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and crew of four cats. When she isn't writing for Figo, you can find her drinking seltzer, crocheting, and watching reality TV.