How to keep cats’ teeth clean?

Melissa from San Jose asked us: “Hello Jimmie! I’m really concerned with the oral hygiene of my dog Charlie and Biscuit the cat. Could you please share the warning signs of poor oral hygiene in cats and dogs? What products work best to keep cat’s and dog’s teeth clean? Is it possible to keep them clean without brushing? Any tips on maintaining the pet’s teeth?”

I forwarded this one to our consultant Claudine Sievert, DVM.

Claudine Sievert, DVM answers:

Oral pet care usually isn’t taken seriously by pets owners. Not only this mistake can cost them a number of dental diseases such as gingivitis, periodontitis, and jaw fractures but also co-morbidities such as kidney, heart, lung diseases, and even cancer.

The market is oversaturated with a variety of dental care solutions that are heavily promoted but ineffective. This leads to one of the most common misunderstandings that I face among pet owners; they rely on unregulated dental claims of the products that are ineffective or even harmful for their cats and dogs.

Warning signs of poor dental hygiene in cats and dogs:

  • Excessive drooling, red gums and bleeding as the results of inflammatory processes and reaction to dental pain;
  • Bad breath as a result of inordinate bacterial growth;
  • Loose teeth is a sign of unwanted processes in pet’s gum pockets;
  • Decreased appetite;
  • Low activity and depression.

What types of products work best to keep teeth clean?

1. Toothbrush and toothpaste

The most common feline and canine dental disease is gingivitis. It results in tartars, bad breath, and red gums. Gingivitis is reversible and can be treated by brushing the pet’s teeth. Not detected on time, gingivitis may lead to periodontitis which is irreversible and leads to tooth loss.

This makes veterinary toothbrushes and toothpaste the most effective dental care instruments. I would say that 80-90% of oral hygiene can be maintained using these.

It takes 10-20 seconds a day brushing the pet’s teeth. The process is very fast because usually cats and dogs do not have cavities. All you have to do is remove the plaque.

To make the dental care more complex pet owners may use following supporting products:

2. Dental diet.

This is dry cat and dog food with a special structure that promotes chewing and removing the plaque build-up mechanically. It can be alternated with an ordinary diet: 1 month of ordinary diet and then 2-4 weeks of dental diet.

Pay attention: feeding your pet with canned cat food only significantly increases the risks of gingivitis as the teeth aren’t cleaned naturally.

3. Drinking water additives.

They help to inhibit bacterial growth and avoid tartars as the result. I recommend using these as a gentle temporary alternative to brushing for pets with serious oral pain and discomfort. Most of the water additives can be used on a daily basis. However, I recommend making the 1-month breaks after using it for a couple of weeks. 

4. Dental chews.

These are meant to help the pets clean their teeth while chewing. However, I strongly recommend avoiding nylabones and animal bones for this purpose. We had dozens of dogs at our clinic with fractured teeth for this reason. Soft dental sticks can be used periodically and under the control of pet owners. Keep them clean and don’t forget to regularly monitor the state of your pet’s teeth when using them. Chew toys are a much healthier alternative.

Any tips on maintaining the pet’s teeth?

My three golden rules of pet oral care:

  1. Be persistent. Brushing takes only 10-20 seconds but in the long run, can even save your pet’s life.
  2. A dental diet, water additives, or chews can only support brushing. But they will never replace it.
  3. Visit the vet at least once a year to inspect your pet’s dental health.

Thank you for reading this! We wish your pets to be healthy and happy! Click here to ask your own question.

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