THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED ON RODALE’S ORGANIC LIFE.
The recommendation to brush your dog or cat’s teeth every day is like the advice to eat 8 servings of produce or stop using electronic devices an hour before bed. Super beneficial—but not always realistic.
While it’s definitely a good idea to bust out the pet toothbrush whenever you can, there will probably be (plenty) of nights when you don’t have time. Or you forget. Or your furry friend decides he just doesn’t feel like sitting still while you rub a plastic stick around his mouth.
When that happens, you’ve got some options: You could reach for a toy or chew that helps clean your pet’s teeth. Or, you could give him a snack that’ll help scrub away plaque and keep yucky bacteria at bay. Like one of these tasty picks.
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Crunchy fruits and vegetables
Try giving small pieces of apples, carrots, celery, or even broccoli stalks as a snack. Unlike store-bought treats, fruits and veggies are free of the added sugar that can lead to dental decay. But that’s not all. The hard, abrasive texture can help scrub away plaque on your dog or cat’s teeth to prevent buildup, says holistic veterinarian Anna Maria Gardner.
Like crunchy fruits and vegetables, chewing on raw bones can sweep away plaque and buildup. Plus, they’re loaded with nutrition: Both the bones and bone marrow serve up calcium, which helps keep your pet’s teeth healthy and strong, Gardner says.
Just be sure to supervise your dog when he chews, and never give him cooked bones. Bones—especially cooked ones—can splinter and break while your dog chomps. And swallowing a broken-off piece could cause an intestinal blockage or even puncture the lining of your dog’s gut. (Check out these 5 first-aid essentials every pet owner should know.)
Yogurt’s beneficial bacteria could help fight bad bacteria in the mouth and reduce the risk of cavities, some studies have found. So it’s not much of a stretch to imagine that the creamy stuff might be good for your dog or cat’s mouth, too, says Gardner. As an added bonus, yogurtdelivers calcium and vitamin D to promote strong, healthy teeth.
Of course, you should always pick plain: The added sugars in flavored yogurt are bad for your pet’s teeth, and the artificial sweeteners in light yogurts could put their health at risk. Plus, they could put him at risk for gaining weight. If your dog or cat doesn’t tolerate cow’s milk yogurt, goat’s milk yogurt may be easier on the stomach.
Whether it’s beef, chicken, or salmon, all types of jerky have one thing in common: A rough, abrasive texture that’ll help scrub your pet’s pearly whites, Gardner says. Of course, the cons of added sugar outweigh the potential tooth-cleaning benefits. So look for jerky that’s made with 100% meat and no added sweeteners (like Tylee’s Human Grade Turkey Jerky or Waggin’ Train Chicken Jerky Tenders), or make your own sugar-free jerky at home.