Confessions of a Pug Mum: Dental Hygiene for Pugs

Confessions of a Pug Mum: Dental Hygiene for Pugs

I have to say, I think I handle my pugs health pretty well. However, there is just one area that I struggle with and only with Ref. His teeth! Dental hygiene for pugs can be challenging to say the least. I have tried many different ways of keeping those teeth free from tartar and some that are common practice amongst a large percentage of dogs, are just not effective.

As pugs have those squishy faces, their teeth can be rather problematic. They have 42 teeth squished inside their little mouth that just doesn’t have enough room for all of them. So needless to say, it is highly common for pugs to need to have teeth removed. I’ve had this discussion with several different vets and that is the one thing they are consistent with. So having good dental hygiene practices in place are so important.

Now the dental hygiene practices that a lot of vets recommend is where I disagree with them on some levels. The number one thing recommended to keep pugs teeth cleaned is feeding dental chews like Dentastix and Greenies. My number one issue with these is that they are highly processed. Before I learnt all about a natural approach to pug health, I used to feed Ref a Dentastix every single day. Because it is so highly processed, I’m positive it was one half of the contributing factors to him not being able to lose weight. To be honest, I had no idea at all of the ingredients in Dentastix. But I wasn’t worried cause my vet said it would clean my pugs teeth.

Confessions of a Pug Mum: Dental Hygiene for Pugs

What makes shark cartilage and other natural chews better than Dentastix and the like is that it takes longer to chew making it much more effective at rubbing off the plaque to prevent tartar build up.

Fast forward 4 years to a change in vets and a pug mum who was now more educated. I stopped feeding those Dentastix. One because I stopped feeding highly processed food and took a natural approach to feeding. Two because they were bloody useless. This highly processed treat was shaped like a star that was supposed to clean my pugs teeth. Just feed once a day and you are good. You don’t need to worry about anything else. Well except that your pug will still end of with tartar build up and need to have teeth pulled. Yep, you read that right. 4 years of feeding a dental chew every single day to keep Ref’s teeth cleaned meant he needed to have not one but eight teeth pulled. Eight teeth! I felt terrible.

So why did that dental chew have no effect? Because Ref inhaled it in 30 seconds flat. We know cleaning our own teeth isn’t effective if we only do it for 30 seconds a day so why would it be effective for a pug as their only teeth cleaning source? Ref having 8 teeth pulled made me realise this. I actually felt so naive about the whole thing.

Confessions of a Pug Mum: Dental Hygiene for Pugs

Ref chewing on a raw meaty bone naturally cleans his teeth. He spends on average 20-30 minutes pulling the meat off his roo tail every week.

At that time, I had a vet who wasn’t pro raw feeding but was understanding of the choices I made and supported it with tips that aligned with it all. I remember her saying that raw meaty bones would be good along with brushing his teeth. Now I really tried the whole brushing teeth thing but it was one of the most painstaking events that was right up there with nail clipping. Ref hated it so much. That just wasn’t going to be effective at all.

He was getting chicken necks at the time. Raw meaty bones was recommended but it wasn’t effective just like the dental chews because Ref barely chewed them and was swallowing them whole. Now that freaked me out cause some of those chicken necks were big. One day he even choked on one so that was the end of that. Time to find another option for cleaning his teeth. I went with bigger raw meaty bones like duck wings and duck necks. I was happy with those cause it took him a good 10-20 minutes to eat them, until he started inhaling those too. Argh, pugs {insert eye rolling}.

Confessions of a Pug Mum: Dental Hygiene for Pugs

Raw meaty bones are a natural teeth cleaner and most dogs won’t need any other dental hygiene practice when give a raw meaty bone once a week.

At some point I had introduce Atlantic Kelp Powder. It is the active ingredient in products like Plaque Off. I wasn’t keen on the added extras in products like that so I sourced straight Atlantic Kelp Powder. It helped reduce the plaque but it wasn’t enough on its own. Then I had trouble sourcing it.

I made the switch from duck wings and duck feet to lamb shanks. Now whilst most people do not recommend feeding weight bearing bones, this was the perfect thing for Ref. He would spend a good 30 minutes pulling the meat off the shank. I was happy. It helped clean his teeth and made him tired. Now when I feed weight bearing bones, I always supervise. I need to make sure they don’t break off any bone from it cause one they can break teeth and two they are too dense for them to digest. So it’s all about watching them and then removing the bone once they have cleaned the meat off. It is a great enrichment meal as well as cleaning their teeth.

The raw meaty bones have helped with Ref’s teeth so much. We have managed to go 3 years between dentals. But we did still need it. Pug genetics suck sometimes. 12 months ago at Ref’s annual check up, he had a very small amount of tartar build up. I hoped the lamb shanks and then roo tails would be enough to keep the tartar at bay. I started giving shark cartilage 1-2 times a week as an extra dental chew. I have a hard time checking Ref’s teeth. He won’t let me look in his mouth. So when I found, actually Serina found, a tooth on the floor (and tried to eat it), I knew we had to bring Ref’s annual checkup forward and have his teeth checked. Needless to say, Ref needed to have a dental clean & scale.

Confessions of a Pug Mum: Dental Hygiene for Pugs

Our current dental hygiene practices include raw meaty bones like roo tails once a week, shark cartilage 1-2 times a week, kelp added to dinner daily and Hexarinse used nightly.

I was relieved that when Ref had his dental clean & scale that he didn’t need any further extractions since he is already down 9 teeth. But what I did need was a way to ensure that he doesn’t need another dental. So whilst I have a number of natural remedies in place, I felt this time I needed to include a conventional option in the mix to ensure his teeth stay good. A regular dental clean & scale should never be the only form of dental care. So we have introduce Hexarinse. It is a bottle that contains liquid that you just place into the side of their mouth and give a little squirt. This helps prevent tartar build when used on a daily basis. Every night when we go to bed, I make sure I use the Hexarinse in Ref’s mouth. It isn’t painful like trying to clean his teeth or using a spray that I had tried too. It is quick, easy and painless for both of us.

The thing I find most interesting about all of this is that I knew Ref had some tartar build up. I talked about it with our vet and it wasn’t urgent but needed to be done in the next couple of months. But that tooth falling out showed just how little we can ourselves and if we don’t look after their teeth, the damage that goes on in the gum. The photo below shows what I could see below the gum line and what was really going on. It freaked me out a bit so it was important to get the dental done and then put into practice everything I mentioned to make sure this doesn’t keep happening.

Confessions of a Pug Mum: Dental Hygiene for Pugs

Now that I have not one but four dental hygiene practices in place for Ref, I am hoping that he won’t need to have another dental clean. And keeping those teeth clean and healthy means I am keeping the rest of his organs and body healthy too as gum disease doesn’t just effect the teeth and gums but it spreads toxins throughout their little bodies and effects the organs. I certainly don’t want any of that. I know how important it is to keep teeth tartar free and how difficult it can be. So tell me, what do you do to keep your pug’s teeth clean? Do you struggle with it like I do? Can I do something to help? Tell me in the comments.

Confessions of a Pug Mum: Dental Hygiene for Pugs

What makes shark cartilage and other natural chews better than Dentastix and the like is that it takes longer to chew making it much more effective at rubbing off the plaque to prevent tartar build up.

The following two tabs change content below.
Kristy Beck

Kristy Beck

Owner & Content Producer at The Pug Diary
Kristy is the founder and editor of The Pug Diary, a photographer and pug mum extraordinaire to Ref + Serina. Kristy has combined her passion for photography with the love of pugs to bring you all of her knowledge of pugs and more to you through The Pug Diary.


  1. Avatar Sonny on February 4, 2019 at 5:32 am

    Have you tried odor-free bully sticks or deer antlers for dental hygiene?

    • Kristy Beck Kristy Beck on February 6, 2019 at 7:04 pm

      Bully sticks no but I have used kangaroo or goat tendons. The pugs get over those quickly and prefer shark cartilage. I don’t use deer antlers or goats horns as they just don’t like them.

  2. Avatar Lyn James on February 4, 2019 at 1:09 pm

    Hi Kristy, thank you for this post on dental I to struggle with my 2 pugs dental hygiene, It worries me that I am not doing enough for their teeth, and they to hoover chicken necks etc, which defeats the purpose, as a relative new comer to owning pugs I am grateful for the advise you give.

    • Kristy Beck Kristy Beck on February 6, 2019 at 7:06 pm

      I’m glad you find everything helpful. And I would definitely look at changing up the bones. It is super easy for pugs to choke on chicken necks. I would look at larger bones that they can’t swallow whole.

  3. Avatar Kara Corridan on February 7, 2019 at 12:18 am

    Thanks for this post! This is a big concern of mine too, since I have a 10-month-old whose mouth is impossible to check. This may be very naive, but with raw meaty bones, won’t they eat all the meat, and isn’t that too much for them? Or is it OK once a week? It just looks like a lot, but I’m happy to be educated!

    • Kristy Beck Kristy Beck on February 7, 2019 at 6:52 pm

      I’m glad you asked the question. The raw meaty bone is a meal replacement, sometimes 2 depending on the size of the bone. I raw feed both of my pugs so I incorporate the meaty bone into their meal intake. Some weeks if the bone is big, they will only get the bone for breakfast and just some bone broth for dinner. Other weeks they will get a small dinner of tin salmon and veggies. But basically the purposes is for them to eat the meat because as they pull the meat off, it naturally cleans their teeth. I hope that clears it up for you.

  4. Avatar Asha on August 30, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Thanks so much for your insight! I had never heard of the roo tails or shark cartilage, and am going to try that for my pug. We have never had a dental before, but I’m realizing that we really need to. I’ve been so scared to do it before with the anesthesia (my pug is now 6 years old), but obviously his dental health can have an impact on his quality of life. I saw you mentioned that you feed your pugs a raw food diet. I was wondering if you had posted a recipe of how you prepare your raw food/what you use?

    • Kristy Beck Kristy Beck on March 26, 2021 at 6:39 pm

      Be sure to check out the raw food section. I go over the basics of how to prepare it yourself. No actual recipes though.

  5. Avatar Redschicken on October 17, 2020 at 6:53 pm

    So what is the dental regime? Is it a bone or cartilage every day?

    • Kristy Beck Kristy Beck on March 26, 2021 at 6:41 pm

      Large raw meaty bone once a week. Ascophyllum nodosum (it is a specific kelp good for dental health) once a day. Then I do 3-4 times a week either a shark cartilage or a whole raw carrot.

  6. Avatar Marilyn on December 21, 2020 at 6:35 pm

    I won’t to do the Wright thing by my pug Gus his teeth are a worry

Leave your thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.