Why should I look for the VOHC symbol (Veterinary Oral Health Council) in selecting a dental chew toy or treat for my dog?

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A few decades ago, many products came onto the market claiming to help prevent or treat periodontal disease in dogs and cats. Often these claims were made with no scientific support. Concerned that unsubstantiated claims and the casual endorsements of “pet experts” would lead to confusion and conflicts, a group of thought leaders began discussions on devising methods of objectively assessing a product’s claims and eventually, the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) was officially launched.

In order to receive this organization’s Seal of Approval, a manufacturer must back up any claims with scientific proof.

According to VOHC, approved foods, treats, and chews must reduce plaque or tartar by at least 10 percent to achieve the VOHC seal of approval. If a chemical anti-plaque agent is used, it needs to reduce plaque or tartar by at least 20 percent. Go to http://www.vohc.org/accepted_products.htm to see which products have received the VOHC seal of approval. VOHC recommends that all of the products on its VOHC accepted list are used as recommended by the manufacturer and that treat products are given when the pet can be observed by the owner.

That said, dental chews and treats can be an important part of your dog’s dental hygiene. In fact, there are a lot of benefits. Dental chews can reduce or eliminate bad breath and it can also reduce the buildup of saliva, bacteria and food on the teeth.

Some types of dog dental treats and diets can reduce plaque by nearly 70 percent, because just the mechanical action of chewing can make a difference. In one study, increasing the diameter of kibble by 50 percent led to a 42 percent reduction in tartar.In the same study, coating the products with a substance called polyphosphate further reduced tartar by 55 percent. It prevents plaque from turning into tartar by isolating calcium on teeth, but they aren’t all created equal. Some are more effective or safe than others.

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