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Ask the Veterinarian/Brushing Teeth



As a vet tech, I'm hoping you have an answer to my question.

I brush my two dog's teeth nightly, it's something I've done with all dogs I have owned, and I believe it's contributed to them living very long lives.

Over the years the price of enzymatic dog toothpaste has sky rocketed, and it takes a lot of time searching the Internet to find it online for less than $8 for a six ounce tube.

I was wondering about alternatives to toothpaste manufactured especially for dogs.
There's a lot online about using Coconut oil orally, but very little from reputable medical organizations. I found at WebMD this article on "oil pulling" and I was wondering if you could look over the following article:

Of course my dogs wouldn't be gargling with the oil, I would apply it with a toothbrush. Do you think this would be a substitute for an enzymatic dog toothpaste?

I was also wondering if a natural human toothpaste that didn't contain Fluoride or Xylitol, and didn't foam or need to be rinsed would work for dogs. I found Desert Essence Natural Tea Tree Tree Oil & Neem Toothpaste (which I can't believe is cheaper with more ounces in the tube than a dog toothpaste!) could you please look this over and let me know if you feel it's safe for dogs?

If you happen to know of a different human grade toothpaste that fits the bill, or have any other suggestions, I'd be happy to hear them!

Thank you sooo very much for your time. I really appreciate it.

ANSWER: I must commend you for brushing your dogs teeth- very few people do it and it's so very important for their health! You are correct about that.

This toothpaste- Natural Tea Tree Oil & Neem Toothpaste- has baking soda in it and that is toxic to dogs. I wouldn't ever recommend Tea Tree oil either as it know it's toxic to cats- not sure about dogs.

Coconut oil is not toxic to dogs and certainly can be used with Bentonite clay to make a toothpaste for dogs. Adding some low sodium bullion like beef or chicken would make it more palatable to the dog.

But steer clear of anything with baking soda as well. I don't use fluoride myself so I buy Natures Gate toothpaste but it also has some baking soda in it.

It's not cheap but it was $5.98 a tube.
This search on Amazon turned up a lot of different brands of toothpaste for dogs:

Just remember that if you make your own, do NOT use baking soda or powder. But Coconut oil, and bentonite clay will be safe for your dog. Good for you as well!

Here's a recipe for toothpaste from Dr. Axe that I think is safe for dogs:
Homemade Probiotic Toothpaste
Total Time: 2 minutes
Serves: 20

   1/4 cup coconut oil
   3 tbsp Bentonite Clay
   2 capsules of Live Probiotics
   10 drops of peppermint essential oil- Leave out for dogs!
   Toothpaste Tube


   Mix all ingredients together
   Put into rubber tube or sealed glass container
   Brush teeth for 2 minutes 2-3x daily

I would leave out the peppermint drops and you can leave out the probiotics as well if you want, but this will work for dogs as well.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.

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QUESTION: Hello again,

Thank you for your response!

Are you sure baking soda is unsafe for dogs? Since writing to you yesterday, a vet suggested I skip toothpaste completely, and just brush their teeth with only baking soda. So I've been doing a lot of reading on the subject, and things I've read say baking soda is not safe if ingested in LARGE quantities. At the ASPCA's website, they recommend using either a dog toothpaste or a paste made from baking soda:

Do you have any idea what's truth here?

One of my dogs has a heart murmur, and I'd rather not kill him.



Well you are correct Patti, in large quantities it is very toxic. I am of the ilk that if it's toxic, then why mess with it?

But if you feel that what your vet said is fine, then use it. I just would be concerned about daily usage is all.

That's why I gave you the recipe for toothpaste that has no baking soda in it.

Just remember that they do swallow toothpaste more than we do.  

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Jana Connell RVT, CVT


PLEASE READ BEFORE SUBMITTING TO ME: I am NOT a vet and do NOT diagnose diseases. That is only for a licensed Veterinarian to do. I will give you suggestions and steer you toward calling your vet for help. You can call the vet's office and talk to the technician there or the vet at times. Don't be afraid to call them! If you have a serious issue with your pet please post it to one of the veterinarians in here- I will tell you the same thing in my answer. IF your pet is injured or in an emergency situation, CALL YOUR VET- Do not wait and post in here. Just call the vet's office and get them in to see the vet right away. Critical treatment time is lost if you seek answers here when you should have your precious pet at the vets!! Don't sit at home waiting for an answer when your pet is critically ill or injured!! I can answer most questions about small animal and wildlife care as well as small animal nutrition. I can also answer questions about all phases of dental care for small animals. I DO NOT answer questions about birds (unless it is wildlife or songbirds) or HAMSTERS/GERBILS/CHINS/GUINEA PIGS/REPTILES/FROGS/RABBITS/PET BIRDS OF ANY KIND so please submit these questions to the appropriate sections. I, as well as other experts in here, do NOT do homework questions- that is for YOU to do! Please respect these rules for all of us. Thanks!


I have over 42 years experience in the field of veterinary medicine. I specialized in small animals and did wildlife rehab for over 25 years, mostly raptors, squirrels and opossums. I am a Small Animal Nutritional Consultant with 6 certificates from Hills Pet Foods, CNM and Purina. I also specialized in Small Animal Dentistry which is a field I truly love. I also Teach Veterinary Technology to working technicians who are studying to take their California Tests to become Licensed Technicians. They have to take both the VTNE (Veterinary Technician National Exam) and the California boards.

Audubon,World Wildlife Federation, American Society of Veterinary Dental Technicians.


Licensed with California and Oregon, RVT and CVT. Certified Veterinary Dental Technician Have over 1500 logged hours of Continuing Education Credits(that means I keep up to date!).

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