APRIL, 2017


Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Dental Care – The Most Neglected Area of Pet Health

According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), dental care for dogs and cats is one of the most neglected areas of pet care. A recent AAHA study revealed that approximately 2/3rds of pet parents do not provide recommended dental care for their pets.  Other studies by the American Veterinary Dental Society recently reported that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of periodontal disease by 3 years of age.  Altogether, these findings are unsettling, but also point to significant opportunities for improvement.  In fact, small steps in oral care can lead to big improvements in overall health. Dental care for our feline friends is equally important, but this article will focus on periodontal disease in dogs.

When we think about dental health, we tend to focus only on the mouth.  In fact, the mouth is considered part of the entire digestive tract which includes the:

Small IntestineColonAnus
When you consider the mouth as part of an entire system in the body, it’s not difficult to understand how dental disease can lead to more serious health problems. While your veterinarian is well trained in conducting dental examinations and procedures, most of the responsibility rests in the hands of guess who…the pet parents.

Image of the dogs digestive tract from mouth through the anus
Advanced Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Image of Advanced Periodontal Disease in Dogs

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease in dogs:

Whether in humans or animals, periodontal disease is simply an infection of the tissues surrounding the teeth.  Bacteria in the mouth form a sticky film on the teeth called plaque.  When the bacteria die, calcium in saliva combines with the plaque forming a rough hard substance called tartar.  When plaque first forms, it is pliable and easy to remove.  Tartar starts to form within hours on a tooth surface that is not kept clean. once it becomes calcified, it creates an increasingly rough surface on which new plaque can easily adhere.  Once tartar begins to accumulate it is difficult to remove without dental instruments.

We are all likely familiar with bad dog breath, which is certainly the most recognizable result of poor dental care.  Pets can also experience mouth pain which can affect their ability to eat. Over time, if left unattended, the buildup will begin to develop below the gum line.  Gingivitis occurs when the gums become swollen, inflamed and may bleed.  If the spread continues, the plaque will eventually reach the root of the tooth, which can lead to a systemic infection, spreading to vital organs in the body. Once the bacteria enter the bloodstream they are filtered out by the kidneys and liver, which can lead to secondary kidney disease. When the bacteria lodge in the heart or respiratory system, heart disease and respiratory disease can result.

The Good News…

Whether animals or humans, it’s easy to prevent.  As long as the tooth surfaces are kept clean, the gums remain healthy.

So, what’s a pet parent to do?

Start with a good exam by your veterinarian as a baseline.  If you’re lucky to be working with a puppy, this is the ideal time to introduce him to a daily routine that takes just a few moments.  It can even be part of the fun time you spend together and will go a long way towards establishing good manners in your home. After all, dogs can’t take care of their own teeth, it’s up to us to be the pack leader.

Once your vet checks for periodontal disease, broken or infected teeth, and gives you the all clear, you can begin trying some or all of these home based oral care techniques.


Affiliate link to Natural Wonder Pets

Image of veterinarian holding a puppy and evaluating his condition

Somewhere along the line we were led to believe that eating hard kibble accomplished the same result (scraping plaque off the teeth).  Unfortunately, that is simply not the case.  First, how long does it take most dogs to consume a bowl of kibble?  In many cases, it’s only seconds.  How much dedicated chewing do you think is actually taking place? If the vomited stomach contents I’ve seen are any indication, then very little chewing is happening.

Take this one step further and consider the high levels of carbohydrates in commercial kibble.  Typically, commercial dry dog food contains about 40% carbohydrates which quickly convert to simple sugars, a readily accessible food for plaque bacteria. A raw diet, on the other hand is full of natural digestive enzymes and does not stick to the teeth.

Feed a Raw Diet

Feed a raw diet including raw bones.  The topic of raw feeding is too extensive for this post, but the benefits are many.  From a nutritional standpoint, a raw diet most closely represents the dog’s natural diet, which included bones, organs, skin and other parts of their prey.  Calcium from the ingested bone works to balance the high levels of phosphorus in muscle meat.  Aside from the nutritional value, there’s the mechanical benefit from chewing.  Have you ever watched a dog chewing on a bone?  They are intently focused using every part of their mouth to break the bone into smaller and smaller pieces.  All the while, the hard surfaces of the bone are working like nature’s tooth brush to scrape plaque off the surface of the teeth.

Affiliate link to buy from Tru Dog 

Chew Toys

Making available a variety of quality chew toys also encourages your dog to exercise his mouth.  Rubber or cotton toys are better than plastic which may contain chemical residues.  Natural chew sticks, like bully sticks are high value treats and generally a big hit.  In fact, our dogs will consume the entire bully stick in one sitting, so we generally limit the time, or offer smaller pieces.  Companies like Best Bully Sticks provide a wide variety of high quality bully sticks and other natural bones and chews.  You can check them out in the MaxxNaturals store.  While we don’t stock their products, the listings in the store will take you directly to those products on the Best Bully sticks site.  MaxxNaturals pups have been customers of Best Bully sticks for over 10 years and continue to love their quality of products and service. While many other reputable companies also sell similar products, be aware that they can also be imported from overseas where quality control standards are less stringent than in the US.  MaxxNaturals recommends checking with the vendor as to the country of origin for the product.

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Oral Care Products

In addition to an improved diet, there are a variety of oral care products that can be beneficial in maintaining good oral health.  While pet suppliers offer a wide selection of tooth brushing devices and chews, the incidence of dental disease suggests that pet owners find these methods ineffective, difficult to implement, or both.

So What’s a Pet Parent to do?

Let’s look at some products specifically developed to help pet parents adopt an easy at-home oral health routine.  The following products are generally formulated as oral gels or sprays for direct application, but may also consist of herbal tinctures, or concentrates for dispensing in the dog’s drinking water. The following list represents the most popular products available via pet retailers (storefront and online). This list does not include products available only through veterinarians. All the products listed below contain affiliate links

The first four products are very similar, so we will look at them as a group.  This list includes Dentasure, Petzlife, Plaque Attack and Trudog. The table below identifies the specific ingredients in each formulation for comparison purposes.


Grain AlcoholNoYesYesYes
Grape Seed ExtractYesYesYesYes
Grapefruit Seed ExtractYesYesYesYes
Neem OilNoYesYesYes
Peppermint OilNoYesYesYes
Bee PropolisYesNoNoNo
Rosemary OilNoNoYesYes
Thyme OilNoYesYesYes
Xanthan GumYesNoNoNo

Ingredient Profiles

Grapefruit Seed Extract

Made from the seeds and pulp of the grapefruit, this extract has been used clinically for over 25 years. It has been proven to be safe and effective broad spectrum compound being successfully used (humans and animals) to fight both internal and external infections.  GSE contains high levels of vitamin c and E and bioflavonoids.  It enhances and supports the immune system and serves as an antioxidant neutralizing free radicals that damage cells. GSE also helps in alkalizing the blood, a very important health benefit as disease causing organisms (bacteria, virus, fungi) cannot survive in an alkaline environment.

Products formulated with Grapefruit Extract


Grape Seed Extract

Grape Seed Extract helps prevent dental plaque and mitigate oral and gum diseases. In addition to healing teeth and gums in animals and humans, its powerful antioxidants strengthen blood vessels, improve skin, aid in circulation, and reduce the risk of cancer. In Europe grape seed extract is commonly prescribed for the prevention and treatment of gum disease and tooth decay.

NOTE: While it is well known that grapes and raisins are harmful to dogs, the chemical makeup of grape seed extract is distinctly different than the pulp of the grape.

Products formulated with Grape Seed Extract


Neem Oil

Neem Oil helps prevent bacteria from adhering to teeth. Helps prevent and reverse gum disease and acts as a natural breath freshener with antibacterial properties. The products of the Neem tree are known to be anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic.

Products formulated with Neem Oil


Thyme Oil

Thyme Oil helps to control pathogenic organisms which can be responsible for tooth decay, gingivitis and bad breath with natural antimicrobial properties. Thyme essential oil contains up to 54% thymol, a compound with antimicrobial and antibacterial activity which constitutes the main active ingredient in Listerine and similar antiseptic mouthwashes.

Products formulated with Thyme Oil


Peppermint Oil

­Peppermint Oil makes a very potent antiseptic, helps battle bad breath bacteria, contains omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Menthol, its main constituent, has antibacterial properties.

Products formulated with Peppermint Oil


Rosemary Oil

Rosemary Oil helps prevent plaque from adhering, natural enzyme helps to fight bad breath. According to the official Pharmacopoeia Europaea, rosemary essential oil shows antimicrobial activity against numerous bacteria, yeasts and fungi and increases skin circulation.

Products formulated with Rosemary Oil


Bee Propolis

This miracle mixture often called bee glue is one of nature’s ultimate antibiotics. Propolis combats harmful bacteria without destroying friendly bacteria the body needs. Research in both human and animal dentistry show the antimicrobial properties in Propolis actively prevent cavities by protecting against tooth decay and other forms of oral disease. Propolis has undergone more than 800 peer-reviewed, published, mainstream scientific studies of its medicinal uses. Several such studies have focused on its effective antibacterial treatment for Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), the organism implicated in many cases of peptic and duodenal ulcers.

Products formulated with Bee Propolis



Stevia is a natural herb used as calorie free sweetener.  It is frequently used in dog foods because it doesn’t raise blood sugar levels. In addition, stevia inhibits the growth of bacteria that cause periodontal disease.

Products formulated with stevia


Xanthan Gum

Xanthan Gum – the Dentasure gel product uses a Kosher, vegan, gluten-free Xanthan Gum as a thickener.

Products formulated with xanthan gum


Other Products

Leba III

Leba Labs, maker of Leba III provides little information outside of the following. The product is an herbal blend of Mints (latin name Lamiaceae) and Roses (latin name Rosaceae) in trace elements (small amount), stabilized in Ethyl alcohol 25% & distilled water. The herbs are the active ingredients, they stimulate the enzymes & change the chemistry in the mouth. The tartar will soften and fall out. The trial results can be seen on the website: www.lebalab.com

Only Natural Pet All Smiles Oral Care Spray

Only Natural Pet, makers of Only Natural Pet All Smiles Oral Care Spray describe it as an herbal dental spray to remove tartar and prevent plaque buildup. The product features a formulated blend of Peppermint Leaf (Mentha piperita), Wild Indigo Root (Baptisia tinctoria), Echinacea Angustifolia Root (Echinacea angustifolia), and Spilanthes Plant (Spilanthes oleracea) to help combat bad breath and plaque build.  The spray is a pure herbal extract with NO artificial colors or preservatives and may contain sediment from the herbs. No additional information is provided as to the method of action for this herbal formulation.


Concerns and Considerations

Alcohol Content

Frequently, herbal tinctures, some homeopathic remedies and most oral care products contain up to 25% ethanol as a stabilizing agent.  Periodic use of such products is not likely to cause concern.  But just like people, some pets are less tolerant of alcohol in even small doses.  Some pet owners report vomiting, diarrhea which subsides when these products are discontinued.  Bottom line, consumption of alcohol can affect blood pressure, body temperature, blood sugar levels. And according to Pet Poison Helpline, intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure.  See MaxxNaturals “Never Foods” post for more information about alcohol.

Alcohol Content by Product

Product% Alcohol
Leba III25%
Only Natural Pet15%


There are times when anesthesia must be administered for safe and effective dental cleaning and other procedures.  Understandably so, some pet owners have concerns about the safety of anesthetic used for dental procedures. Modern anesthesia is quite safe, and along with proper pre-anesthetic evaluation should be seen as a necessary component of veterinary dentistry. Talk with your veterinarian about options.  While pre-anesthesia evaluation doesn’t eliminate risk, it does provide a level of reassurance that certain medical conditions will be identified in advance of any procedure.


Summary Thoughts

Prevention is the key to effective management and prevention of periodontal disease.  Simple dietary changes go a long way toward preventing the buildup of plaque and tartar. Incorporating raw bones into the diet not only introduces digestive enzymes and other vital nutrients, the mechanical action of chewing serves as natures toothbrush.

Several products are now available that assist in minimizing the buildup of plaque and to support optimal oral health.  Review the list of ingredients (defined earlier in this article) to determine which product might be best for your dog.  Be advised some dogs do not tolerate alcohol based products. MaxxNaturals online store does not stock these products, but will take you to merchant storefronts where some of these products are available.

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