I get some great questions from clients. They inspire me with article ideas and keep me in tune with diabetic pet owners. I enjoy interacting with our readers, and sometimes the questions are worthy of a newsletter. I bet if one person has this question and takes the time to write me, there are likely lots of folks with a similar question. Let’s jump right in and talk about this one about dental chews:

Question: Hi Dr. Joi! I love reading your newsletter. It is very informative and helps me manage my diabetic dog’s health on a daily basis. My baby, Louis, won a costume contest at his Vet! He was a Sheriff. They gave him a wonderful prize pack that included dental hygiene chews. I tried to look up if these were ok for diabetic pets but didn’t really find much. I was going to call my Vet but they don’t specialize in diabetics as you do so I thought I would just go straight to the expert! It says only 1 per day, but are these chews ok for diabetic dogs?

Answer: I love when folks dress their pets in silly outfits. I also love dental chews for dogs! Oral disease is a problem for pets in general, but dental is especially important for diabetic pets. Germs and infection in the mouth not only cause bad breath, they can cause insulin resistance. I feel like I’m always harping on diabetic pet owners about cleaning the pet’s teeth. It’s a lot of elbow grease brushing your pet’s teeth every day, and dental cleanings are not inexpensive. Few of my clients brush their pet’s teeth. So what else can we do? Veterinarians can suggest dental diets, chew toys, raw hides and specialty dental chews. When given daily, chews have been shown to cut plaque build-up by 42% and decrease tartar build up by 53%. That’s impressive.

I think the key to giving a diabetic dog a treat is to give it at the time of the meal rather than mid-day when there is less or no insulin in the body to control the calories. Some chews are made up of 46% protein and 32% carbs based on metabolize lie energy, so they are not low in carbs. In fact, they have a sweet taste like vanilla. They are low in fiber. Nonetheless, dental chews for dogs have ‘Rockstar’ data on plaque and tartar reduction. I feel they are worth a little carbohydrate for the improved dental care!

Just be sure to:

  1. Cut back on the amount of regular food fed for the meal when you give the treat and,
  2. Check a blood glucose curve a week or so after giving it.

Most of the manufacturers recommend giving them daily because it takes 24 to 48 hours for plaque to calcify into tartar. Daily use makes sense for diabetic dogs as well since we wish to keep day to day variations in diet to a minimum for best glucose regulation. You may need to adjust insulin dosage after ANY diet or treat change. Dental chews are not low in calories. Decrease the calories fed of the regular diet by the number of calories in the chew for the meal when it is given.

Examples of a leading brand

Extra small: 26.8 calories
Small: 47.7 calories
Medium: 80.5 calories
Large: 128.2 calories

I do a lot of dentals at my practice and send a treat bag with a few dental chews in every “dental kit” that goes home with my patients. Clients also get a sample of each of the dental prescription diets, a tooth brush, and a toothpaste sample. I never know just what a pet or the human will tolerate, so I give them the tools I find work. Nothing, and I mean nothing, works quite as well as brushing the teeth.

The gold standard for dental care is to brush your pet’s teeth. I think that makes perfect sense to us all. When clients make faces when I suggest they brush their pet’s teeth, I remind them that they brush their own teeth daily and still go to the dentist twice a year. Or, as I heard a dentist once say, “Only brush the ones you want to keep!” I understand that some folks are less likely to brush their pet’s teeth than they are to visit the moon. So even if there is a bit of carbohydrate in a dental chew, I think it is the next best option! Most of us give our pets a treat anyway. Why not make it useful! Again, the trick is to give it at mealtime when you are giving insulin.

Be sure to weigh your pet over the coming weeks if you and your vet decide that adding a daily dental chew is a good choice for your pet. Fresher breathe and less tartar are great, but we don’t want Fluffy packing on the pounds. Obesity can cause insulin resistance just as dental infection can!

Have a question or comment? Post below or email me at joi.suttondvm@adwdiabetes.com. I always enjoy hearing from my readers!


NOTE: Consult your veterinarian first to make sure my recommendations fit your pets special health needs.

Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr. Joi Sutton is a 1993 graduate from Oregon State University. She has practiced both in emergency medicine and general practice. Dr. Sutton has done extensive international volunteer work and is the President and Founder of Veterinary Ventures, a nonprofit organization that takes teams of veterinarians to undeveloped countries for humane medical care. She also runs a small animal practice in South Florida.
Dr . Joi Sutton

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