This post may contain affiliate links. If you click and buy something that I recommend, I might receive a small commission.
If you are a dog owner, then you are probably familiar with Greenies for dogs, the green toothbrush-shaped dental chews found in most big-box pet retailers like Petsmart and Petco.
Greenies for dogs is one of the most popular “dental treat” brands.
But, should they be so popular? Is their product really that great, or is it a result of clever marketing and packaging?
What if I told you giving your dog Greenies dog treats for dental care, is actually doing more harm than good?
Greenies & Dog Dental Care
The main reason why pet parents purchase Greenies dental chews is for the “dental care benefits” that Greenies boasts their product provides.
On their website, Greenies.com states:
“Dental treats or dental chews work with mechanical action similar to how your toothbrush works, where it will scrape the surface of the tooth and help brush away plaque and tartar that can accumulate that can lead to more serious problems.”Greenies.com
This entire statement focuses on the benefits of chewing, but fails to address the most important topic “What is your dog actually chewing on.”
Greenies also brag about their seal of approval from The Veterinary Oral Health Council.
However, on the first page of VOHC’s website, they state:
“When VOHC authorizes the use of its Registered Seal, VOHC makes no certification, representation or warranty as to the safety and certifies only that, upon application for the right to use the Registered Seal, the product met VOHC’s Standards for effectiveness in retarding plaque and tartar when used as directed. “VOHC Website
There is no denying that chewing or gnawing has proven to be an effective method for keeping a dog’s teeth clean, gums healthy, and freshen breath.
However, it is important to understand that dogs are consuming what they are chewing on.
So yes, chewing on say, a shoe, may be beneficial for your dog’s teeth and gum health, but that doesn’t mean it is healthy for your dog to be consuming shoes.
Moreover, consuming some ingredients, sugars, and carbohydrates specifically, can actually promote plaque and tartar build-up.
So, in the short term, dental chews like Greenies dog treats might effectively remove plaque and tartar from your pup’s teeth.
But, in the long term, they are actually contributing to the overall plaque and tartar problem.
The Ingredient Label Of Greenies Dog Treats
Consumers have become savvier and more informed about the ingredients they are giving their pets.
Many are refusing to buy products with ingredients such as meals, by-products, and cheap fillers.
To replace these lower-quality products, things like grain-free pet products have grown in popularity.
Because of this, pet product manufacturers have been looking for ways to replace those cheap fillers and grains that consumers have identified as “undesirable” with something more appealing.
So, what did those manufacturers do?
They took out the cheap grain fillers (previously wheat flour and wheat gluten in the original Greenies) and replaced them with pea flour and pea protein (another cheap filler).
The marketing team slapped a “grain-free” label on their new product and started pushing it out to retailers nationwide.
Don’t believe me?
Check out this Original Greenies ingredient label (below) and compare it with the Grain-Free one (above).
Why is pea flour/pea protein bad for my dog?
It is important to understand that pea protein is a vegetable protein, not an animal protein.
Because of this, pea protein is harder to digest for dogs.
Your dog’s body won’t be able to break down and absorb all of the protein they are consuming.
So, most of the protein they are consuming is wasted.
Pea flour isn’t just a bad source of protein, it is also full of carbohydrates.
When digested, the carbohydrates found in pea flour are broken down into sugars in the mouth which fuel plaque and tartar build-up on your dog’s teeth.
Pea flour is nothing more than a cheap filler disguised as a protein that actually makes your dog’s dental health worse.
So, why is it found in your dog’s chew?
Manufacturers add pea protein to artificially “inflate” the protein percentages in grain-free pet products.
The protein found on the label is not the actual amount of protein that your dog is able to digest and use.
The remaining undigested protein serves no purpose for your dog, no nutritional value, and will eventually leave your dog’s body as waste.
“You won’t find pea fiber in high quality commercially available pet foods, nor will you find it in healthy recipes for homemade pet meals. Where you will find it is in very affordable, highly processed, low-quality pet food,” said Dr. Karen Becker, DVM
Once again, pet product manufacturers have found a new way to trick pet parents into thinking their products are better and healthier than they actually are.
Gelatin isn’t a horrible ingredient for your dog to consume. Actually, it can be quite beneficial (assuming it’s sourced safely and naturally).
Gelatin comes from collagen which is rich in animal protein and amino acids.
Greenies manufacturers add it as a gelling agent which causes their product to be gummy and ‘“chewy”.
You can provide your dog with a natural source of gelatin by feeding bone broth (which you can make at home). 🙂
If your dog has ever had an upset stomach after consuming Greenies, then glycerin is likely to blame.
Glycerin is a form of sugar alcohol that dogs (and humans) cannot fully absorb. It offers the same nutritional benefits as sugar, with even more calories.
Glycerin attracts water like a sponge. When consumed, glycerin’s moisture-attracting properties pull water from the body into the colon, acting as a laxative and stimulating bowel movements (i.e. gas and diarrhea).
If diarrhea wasn’t bad enough, the sugar in glycerin is also very bad for your dog’s dental health. The high carbohydrate content directly fuels plaque and tartar build-up, further worsening the overall health of your dog’s teeth and gums.
So, why is it found in your dog’s chew?
Because glycerin has that moisture-attracting property we talked about earlier, adding glycerin to foods helps them stay moist.
Generally speaking, glycerin is widely used in food manufacturing as a preservative.
Although glycerin helps the manufacturer control the moisture content in their product, it offers no nutritional benefit to your pet.
It is just a moisture-absorbing sugar.
Dried potato is another starchy filler that is very similar to pea flour. It offers little nutritional benefit for your dog.
Just like glycerin and pea flour, the carbohydrates found in potatoes also break down into sugars that fuel plaque and tartar build-up.
This actually works AGAINST your dog’s teeth and gum health.
Alternatives To Greenies Dog Treats
Unfortunately, Greenies’ success is likely the result of well-designed packaging and clever marketing. Not because their product is of high quality.
Now, just because Greenies for dogs are off the list, that doesn’t mean you are out of options.
There are lots of other safe and healthy for you to give your dog.
Here are 5 ways you can control, reduce, or eliminate plaque and tartar in your dog’s mouth:
1. Healthy Diet
The foundation of a healthy mouth starts with a healthy diet.
It is important to avoid foods with highly processed ingredients such as corn and potatoes.
Bacteria are known to thrive on carbohydrates (namely sugar and starches).
So, when your dog’s food gets stuck in their teeth, it provides a place for plaque to feast and tartar to develop.
By feeding your dog a balanced, high-quality diet, you can drastically reduce the risk of canine periodontitis developing.
When you are looking for products to give your dog to promote dental care, I recommend looking for single ingredient products.
I typically recommend products like bully sticks or beef tendon.
These products offer the same benefit as mechanical chewing: clean teeth freshen breathe, and healthy gums.
Without contibuting to the problem with filler ingredients which feeds dental disease.
Along with providing single-ingredient chews, It is important that you continue to regularly brush your dog’s teeth to prevent canine periodontitis.
Avoid These Chews
- Greenies Dog Treats
- Flavored Dental Chews (Like Dentastix)
- Antlers, Horns, Hooves
- Himalayan Yak Chew
Give These Chews Instead
- Beef Pizzle (Bullysticks)
- Pig. Lamb, or Cow ears
- Duck or Chicken Feet
- Beef Tendon
- Beef Trachea
- Turkey Necks
Always supervise your dog when they are chewing. All chews are choking hazards.
These alternative chews can typically be found at your local ethnic food store or butcher shop.
The key to success is to find a single-ingredient chew that is not heavily processed and has little to no carbohydrates or sugars.
There are also companies like Farm Hounds that deliver natural single-ingredient dog treats and chews straight to your door.
You can make individual purchases, or they offer a convenient monthly subscription box service.
3. Meal Additives
A great way to combat plaque is to stop it at the source by using a meal additive — such as Plaqueoff (or kelp/seaweed).
Plaqueoff is made from 100% natural seaweed which has been shown to significantly reduce plaque and tartar build-up in dogs.
It inhibits the plaque from ‘sticking’ to surfaces in the mouth as well as softens the already existing tartar.
Solutions like additives don’t work overnight – but improvements should be seen anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks.
We all know that the best way to clean teeth is to brush them. After all, isn’t that how we clean our own teeth? Ideally, a dog’s teeth should be brushed twice a day.
Homemade Doggy Toothpaste
– Baking Soda (2 tbsp)
– Coconut Oil (2 tbsp)
– Peppermint Oil (1 drop) *optional
5. Dental Cleanings
For many dogs, periodontal disease has already set in under the gum line — and no amount of brushing, chewing, or meal additives will help.
At this point, it is best to take your dog in for an oral exam, x-rays, and cleaning with a licensed veterinarian.
There are always risks associated with anesthesia, but the risks of canine periodontitis far overshadow the risks involved with anesthesia.
If a vet recommends a dental cleaning for your pet, it is always in their best interest to get one done.
There is no room for excuses!
It is time to throw that box of Greenies away and make the switch to single-ingredient chews that are actually going to improve your dog’s dental health long term.
Many pet product manufacturers have caught on to the fact that their consumers are becoming more educated and aware of the products they are buying.
In turn, manufacturers have learned how to present their products as seemingly healthy by using terms like, “high-protein”, “grain-free”, and “all-natural”.
For things like dental chews, you should always strive to stay away from products that have sugars and carbohydrates and instead look for single-ingredient chews that are not processed or bleached.
In the end, chewing and gnawing are only part of the dental health solution.