Pedigree Dentastix and Dentaflex are Mars bars. That’s right, the company that provides us with chocolate bars owns the brand Pedigree. Now that wouldn’t necessarily mean the products are bad and unhealthy, but we’ll share some facts below that show otherwise.
But, the vet said…
Pedigree designs Dentastix specifically to clean your dog’s teeth. That’s what the doggy dentist in the commercials says, so it must be true, right? Well, that’s debatable. Did it ever occur to you that the person dressed in a white lab coat might simply be an actor? And even if he were a vet, most veterinarians (sadly) aren’t educated in nutrition subjectively. No wonder they’d advise us to feed these chews, they just don’t know any better!
We talked to the veterinarians and assistants working at the vet’s office that we visit with Mojo. They could barely remember the last time they learned anything about canine nutrition. All that they were able to tell us, is that they visited a day course hosted by a pet food brand that they sell in their office. No wonder the vet would advise us to feed these chews, they simply don’t know any better!
Pearly white teeth
Sadly, the majority of dogs above the age of 2 suffer from dental disease. Most forms of dental discomfort start with buildup of tartar and plague, in which diet plays a major role. Pedigree recommends to feed Dentastix and Dentaflex in order to keep your dog’s gums and teeth healthy and strong, and tartar free. These treats are flexible and have a slightly abrasive texture, and are supposed to work as an edible toothbrush. However, we find it questionable whether these chews have a positive influence on dental hygiene.
Mojo has never eaten any of these chews, nor have we ever brushed her teeth. Despite being close to celebrating her third birthday, her teeth are still plague and tartar free. We believe that this is caused by the type of diet, rather than the snacks we feed her.
A dry food diet could be the cause behind the high amount of dogs with dental issues at such a young age. The most popular pet food in the United States is Pedigree Adult Mini. Perhaps, Pedigree offer these chews to resolve an issue of which they are the cause.
Would this treat clean all teeth equally?
Since dogs are a predatory species, their jaws are designed around eating prey animals. The incisors and canines can rip off pieces of meat, and dogs use their molars to crush bone and chew through tougher parts like tendons. Since a dental chew, like Dentastix, is small, there’s no need to rip and tear, so the front teeth don’t come into play. The molars are the only teeth that these dental chews touch.
Many dogs only take a few bites before swallowing the treat. That doesn’t surprise us. Dogs’ molars can crush bone with ease, so a simple and flexible treat made of cereal and other plant material isn’t hard to chew through.
Although some dogs might chew on them properly, we doubt they actually work as a toothbrush. The structure of dental chews is usually quite tough, but when moistened, they turn into a sticky substance that gathers in the molars. In our opinion it is questionable whether any leftovers that remain there, could actually cause issues in the long run.
Dogs’ bodies suit a diet high in protein, fat, and moisture. Dental chews lack those nutrients and are high in carbohydrates. Sadly, Pedigree do not share nutritional information about their dental chews on their website (suspicious, right?). We used the Pets At Home webshop to gather more information.
A quick glance at the ingredients shows a high amount of plant material. There is a lack of specificity amongst all ingredients. There is no clarity about which cereals and which types of animal material in these products (aside from 4% chicken in Dentaflex).
Carnivores, to which the dogs belong, actually prefer to use fat as their main source of energy. A high amount of carbohydrates in their diet will cause weight gain and has no positive effect on a dog’s body condition. Additionally, high amounts of simple sugars can cause hyperactivity and behavioral issues. So I would like to ask you here, would you consider these dental chews to be a healthy choice?
Feeding recommendations and weight gain
Pedigree recommends feeding two Dentaflex chews a week, and an additional Dentastix once daily. For a medium sized dog, the recommended amount would equal to 160 grams Dentaflex and 180 grams Dentastix. This sums up to a weekly 340 grams of snacks for dogs weighing anywhere from 10-25 kilograms, totaling 246.36 grams of carbohydrates (or simple sugars) a week.
I have helped a few people in their dogs’ weight-loss process over the past few years. One owner in particular felt sorry for her dog. She thought it wasn’t fair to feed her dog less than he was used to. We’d been tracking a steady weight loss for weeks and suddenly she told me the dog had gained some weight. It turns out that she had started feeding Dentastix every day, like she used to, for two weeks straight. After a good conversation, she agreed to cut them out of his diet for good. He didn’t eat a dental chew since, and is back on track.
You could decide to cut back on a dog’s normal daily food to decrease the chances of unwanted weight gain. But dog food, be it kibble, canned, or raw, contains the minimum requirements for a dog to survive. If you were to partially replace this food with a treat, your dog could miss out on some essential vitamins. This could cause damage in the long run, depending on how much food you replace.
Pedigree fail to include a warning about potential weight gain. A dog owner can only follow their guideline, and feed 9 treats a week, simply because they don’t know better.
Now, it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to feed commercial dental chews, such as Dentastix. If you choose not to – Hurray! – here’s a list of alternative things to use to clean your dog’s teeth:
- Bully sticks (use code ‘mojoandfriends’ for a 10% discount via Natural Dog Company)
- Dehydrated (natural and unbleached) rabbit, pork, or beef ears
- Raw edible bone, such as turkey necks, duck wings, ox tails
- Raw beef knuckle (you can get these from the butcher’s)
These products are natural for your companion to eat, as they contain nothing but animal material. In order to keep your dog’s diet balanced, we would recommend introducing one of these items into your dog’s diet once weekly. This will help maintain their dental health. If you choose to feed one of the treats we listed above and your dog is sensitive to weight gain, you can slightly lower the amount of dinner you feed that day. Replacing a small amount of food with one of these treats on a weekly basis should not cause any issues.
Additionally, it’s an option to manually brush your dog’s teeth with natural dog toothpaste, once or twice daily. Does your dog have advanced dental disease, a thick layer of tartar, or any other dental discomfort? We advise to check in with your veterinarian.
Make some changes!
You might have already known the truth about dental chews. If that’s not the case, then you have hopefully learned a thing or two, today! We sincerely hope that this explanation helped you realize that these chews are not just ‘edible toothbrushes’, they’re unhealthy, calorie laden treats.
Have you fed Detastix or similar products before? Would you be willing to switch to a more natural product? Let us know!
Interesting fact Pedigree is actually not the only brand owned by Mars that’s directed at pet care. Others include Eukanuba, Iams, Nutro, Cesar, Royal Canin, Sheba, and Whiskas. Another massive company that influences the pet food company, is Nestlé. Watch the Pet Fooled documentary on Netflix for more interesting facts!