Pet Dental Care Products 101: Avoid These Ingredients
By: Ian Nicholson | Aug 1, 2022
As a pet parent, you take your furbaby’s health seriously. Daily teeth brushing is a vital part of dental care, but you must use pet-safe dental care formulas. Human toothpaste just won’t cut it — in fact, it can be dangerous for your furry friend. Yet even with dog- and cat-specific items on the market, it pays to read labels carefully. Keep reading to learn about several ingredients to avoid in pet dental care products.
Why Can’t I Use Human Toothpaste on My Pet?
Human toothpaste has several ingredients that are harmful to dogs and cats. Xylitol, a sugar alcohol sweetener, is at the top of the list. Merck Veterinary Manual explains that xylitol triggers a rapid release of insulin, which may lead to severely low blood sugar in both cats and dogs. Symptoms of xylitol poisoning include vomiting, drooling, lethargy, and seizures.
Fluoride can also cause significant problems if your pet ingests it. Manufacturers typically add tiny amounts to human toothpaste, but these low levels are still enough to make your pet sick. Animals’ bodies work overtime to excrete fluoride, putting strain on their kidneys. Fluoride poisoning can cause muscle weakness, drooling, stomach upset, and difficulty breathing.
Other ingredients to avoid in pet dental care products include salt and baking soda. While they may be present in some human toothpaste, they can upset your pet’s stomach. Salt can even be toxic at elevated levels.
Why Do Some Dental Care Formulas Contain Propylene Glycol?
Propylene glycol is a water-soluble alcohol compound. This solvent absorbs excess water and sometimes imparts a mildly sweet flavor. The United States and Canada regulate its use, allowing it at lower levels in foods and beverages. Dr. Joe Schwarcz of McGill University mentions that it is toxic to cats, but its effects on dogs have not yet been studied. For now, it is best to avoid items with propylene glycol.
Are Products With Aloe Vera Juice Safe?
The ASPCA Poison Control Center lists aloe vera as toxic for cats and dogs. Do not use dental products with aloe vera on your pet. Signs of toxicity include vomiting, lethargy, and diarrhea.
Is Mint Toxic to Cats and Dogs?
Whether applied topically or ingested, mint can be dangerous for your pets. Miniscule amounts of mint may lead to gastrointestinal upset, but larger quantities can cause serious harm. Several symptoms point to possible mint toxicity:
- Uncoordinated walking
- Excessive drooling
- Breathing difficulties
- Weakness or lethargic behavior
- Muscle tremors
The ASPCA has also placed mint on its toxic plant lists for dogs and cats. You may see these listed as mentha piperita or mentha spicata oils. Although some manufacturers use tiny concentrations to flavor their products, it is best to avoid those containing mint.
Is Tea Tree Oil Safe for Dogs and Cats?
Research conducted in 2013 examined tea tree oil toxicosis reports sent to the ASPCA Poison Control Center. Incidents in Canada and the United States revealed clinical signs of poisoning from 100% tea tree oil in various amounts.
The effects of tea tree oil in dental care items for pets have yet to be studied. Most dentifrices with tea tree oil have low concentrations. Given the ASPCA’s toxicity reports, you may wish to pass up these items. If you choose one, follow the package instructions carefully. Report any unusual symptoms to your vet right away.
Safe and Healthy Pet Dental Care
When choosing teeth cleaning formulas for your pet, you must do your homework. By knowing which ingredients to avoid in pet dental care products, you can read labels diligently and avoid potentially harmful items. In the next part of this series, we’ll help you demystify other ingredients you may find on pet dental formula labels.
Disclaimer: healthcareforpets.com and its team of veterinarians and clinicians do not endorse any products, services, or recommended advice. All advice presented by our veterinarians, clinicians, tools, resources, etc is not meant to replace a regular physical exam and consultation with your primary veterinarian or other clinicians. We always encourage you to seek medical advice from your regular veterinarian.