A: The best way to prevent periodontal disease it to brush your pet’s teeth using proper technique and a good-quality pet toothpaste… every day. A study published in 2001 demonstrated that brushing any less than every other day really doesn’t help, so brushing less often than that is a waste of time. (I always shake my head when I hear about people paying a groomer to brush their dog’s teeth every six or eight weeks. That’s just a waste of money.)

Now it’s confession time. I don’t brush my dogs’ teeth. It just doesn’t fit into my daily routine. However, I have two senior dogs that have never needed dental extractions and have very healthy mouths. As a veterinarian, I know how important oral health is to protect the overall health of the body. Routine dental care has been shown to add anywhere from two to five years to a pet’s life expectancy! Without brushing my dogs’ teeth, how do I look out for their oral health?

When brushing is not an option, the next best thing is a daily dental chew. In the past, I have advised using any product approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). The VOHC is responsible for looking over scientific data that proves the approved product actually reduces plaque, tartar, or both. A complete list if VOHC-approved products can be found at VOHC.org. More recently I have become particularly excited about one specific oral health product. It’s rare for me to endorse one particular product, but the research behind this one is too convincing to ignore.

For over a year now, my dogs have been getting an OraVet chew once daily. These chews look a little bit like the popular “Greenies” chews, that also have VOHC approval. However, OraVet is the only veterinary oral health chew with the active ingredient delmopinol. Delmopinol is used in human dentistry to treat chronic gingivitis and heavy plaque. The research behind it is nothing short of amazing.

A multi-country study published in the dental journal, Oral Diseases, demonstrated a 35% reduction in plaque formation and a 36% reduction in gingival bleeding in adults using a delmopinol oral rinse. Multiple additional studies in humans have shown that delmopinol disrupts existing plaque, reducing its adherence to the teeth, and making it easier to remove. Delmopinol has also been shown to reduce the ability of bacteria to adhere to plaque, and bacteria have not been shown to adapt to delmopinol the way they do to some other active ingredients, like chlorhexidine.

Delmopinol’s availability for dogs just may be a game-changer for canine oral health. The results that veterinarians are seeing in the exam room are truly remarkable. I like to use a black light to show dog owners the delmopinol adhering to and softening the plaque in their pet’s mouth – even after just a single chew. Since OraVet is not a prescription drug, veterinarians can dispense the product to any pet owner – even for dogs they haven’t examined. To be most effective, OraVet really should be used every day. To encourage ongoing use, my practice offers an ongoing special; when people buy a ninety-day supply, they get a fourth month for free (after rebate).

Since OraVet contains an active ingredient, we suggest only giving it to dogs once daily and being sure to dose appropriately by weight. While the chews are completely digestible, I always recommend close supervision when using any dental chew for dogs. You want to be sure your best friend doesn’t try to swallow it whole. Also, if a dog is close to the weight cutoff between sizes, I encourage pet owners to go up to the larger size. I don’t like to use OraVet in dogs with loose teeth, including puppies, or in dogs with allergies to wheat or soy. Other than that, I think just about every dog that isn’t having a daily tooth brushing could benefit from the daily use of OraVet.