Can you use human toothpaste in dogs? It’s a legitimate question. Many of the medications which veterinarians prescribe for dogs are human drugs and can be obtained from a human pharmacy. We share almost everything with our dogs, from our deepest thoughts to our pillows. And while we might draw the line at sharing our toothbrush, does it really matter if we share toothpaste? Turns out, the answer is yes. It matters. Do not use human toothpaste for your dog.
Human toothpaste poses a health hazard for dogs.
3 critical reasons why human toothpaste is dangerous for dogs
There are three components present in most human
Fluoride, in high enough doses, is toxic to dogs. Human toothpaste is designed to be rinsed out of the mouth, not swallowed. Do you know how hard it is to convince a four-year-old not to swallow toothpaste, let alone a Labrador?
While acute fluoride toxicity is possible (a large dose of fluoride consumed at once), the more likely scenario is a chronic toxin exposure, where the fluoride ingestion from frequent use (over the course of months to years) eventually reaches toxic levels in the dog’s body.
The symptoms are considerably different in the two scenarios.
Signs of acute fluoride toxicity from a dog ingesting human toothpaste include:
- fecal and urinary incontinence
- weakness and even seizures.
Symptoms of chronic toxicity from a dog ingesting human toothpaste over time include:
- discoloration and mottling to the teeth
- intermittent limping. (Two of the strangest combinations of clinical signs I’ve ever written about in a dog health blog post!)
The bottom line is this:
Even pet toothpaste may contain fluoride
Pet toothpaste, on the other hand, is formulated to be swallowed. However, you still need to check the label before purchase because there are doggie
2. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
To create the foaming action, manufacturers add a chemical called Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). SLS is present in soaps, shampoos, laundry detergents, and
In dogs, SLS can cause gastrointestinal upset if swallowed in sufficient quantities. Now you know “the rest of the story” on why pet toothpaste doesn’t foam, and another reason why “no” is always the answer to the question, “Can you use human toothpaste on a dog?”
You may have heard about xylitol, an increasingly common sugar substitute in human foods and hygiene products. Ironically, xylitol has been associated with preventing tooth decay in
I think it might surprise you to learn how prevalent this dangerous chemical is in toothpaste, including some well-known “holistic” brands such as Tom’s of Maine ®, Trader Joe’s ®, and Young Living™. For a comprehensive list of products containing xylitol, please refer to this article from Preventive Vet: Which Products Contain Xylitol? Here’s a List!
Sadly, xylitol is killing dogs. It can cause two problems for a dog’s system: low blood sugar and irreversible damage to the liver, both of which can be fatal.
Please get in the habit of checking the label for everything you give your dog and watch for xylitol in the ingredient list.
To learn more about the poison in your pantry, read my blog post: Xylitol and Dogs: Why Your Dog is Counting on You to Read This and remember that xylitol is a critical reason why we cannot use human toothpaste on dogs.
How valuable is dog toothpaste for your dog’s dental health?
Here’s the truth: the real benefit in routine home dental care isn’t from the toothpaste. It’s the physical act of brushing—the repetitive motion of the bristles scrubbing away food particles and plaque deposits in the mouth—that makes brushing your dog’s teeth so valuable.
When you take your car to the DIY car wash, is it the pink soap that cleans the dirt and debris from your car, or is it your elbow grease? Consistency and good technique are far more valuable than the animal-safe toothpaste you use. Brushing with plain water is reasonable.
So why do we even use pet toothpaste for dogs?
The manufacturers claim that pet toothpaste does help reduce plaque, but I don’t know of any scientific research that proves this. The real benefit of using dog toothpaste when brushing your dog’s teeth is the flavor. Supposedly, animals don’t like the taste of human toothpaste (mint), but veterinarian-recommended pet toothpaste comes in such decadent flavors as poultry, malt, beef, and seafood.
Recently, one of my veterinary clients told me she was surprised by how much her dog liked the taste of the dog toothpaste. In fact, her dog seemed to enjoy having his teeth brushed because of it.
That’s the real advantage of doggie toothpaste—keeping the experience a positive one for your canine companion.
Finally, when someone asks you, “Can you use human toothpaste on dogs?” I hope that you’ll respond with an emphatic “No!” and explain the dangers of using human toothpaste. Kudos to anyone enthusiastic about brushing their dog’s teeth, but remember to read the label on over-the-counter pet toothpaste before use, or buy from your veterinarian to protect the health of your dog.
What questions do you have about brushing your dog’s teeth?
Please comment below.