Dental hygiene chews, and a mixture of dry and wet can help maintain feline oral health combined with owner checks on oral health and teeth cleaning. Update: I’m writing this a day later. I bought some dental hygiene chews on Amazon. They look like small dry cat food pellets. They are not chewy. My cat is not particularly interested in them. Not a great recommendation to be frank and I’m disappointed. But please read on 😎.
Here are 8 pieces of information on feline oral health which may interest some cat caregivers. The info comes from 2 studies and personal experience and knowledge.
- Cheek teeth (molars and premolars) are particularly susceptible to poor oral health in cats compared to the incisors. This is independent of age. The molars and premolars are situated in an area where food is more likely to accumulate and not be cleaned off by the tongue. Food debris allows a build-up of bacteria which encourages the development of plaque and gingivitis. And of course, the cheek teeth are used to sheer the food and masticate it which allows it to accumulate in that area between teeth and cheek. A research study states that wet cat food is more likely to exacerbate this problem compared to dry [study: The Choice of Diet Affects the Oral Health of the Domestic Cat]. I have challenged whether dry cat food cleans teeth in another post – see link at base of page.
- The study also found that the “incisors of younger adult cats, fed a dry diet, had better [oral] health in comparison to cheek teeth of older cats fed a wet diet.
- The study researchers suggest that there are advantages in using a dry diet to reduce plaque buildup but this is only one factor and there are negatives to using a dry diet (see below).
- The researchers also suggest that “dry food can eventually be responsible for an increased production of saliva. It is well known that saliva contains immunoglobulins produced in reaction to the antigens found in the mouth”. What they are saying is that dry cat food produces more saliva which leads to a better use of the cat’s immune system in preventing oral disease. I’m not sure about that. They don’t explain why dry cat food is more likely to produce saliva than wet cat food.
- The general gist of their research is that dry cat food does work in terms of helping to reduce plaque and therefore gingivitis and periodontal disease but it contains 6% water compared to 75% water in wet cat food. Cats do not compensate for this lack of water by drinking enough due to their wildcat inheritance. This is an apparent negative that people know about.
- This study refers to another one which I found interesting. It is titled “Benefits of a ‘dental hygiene chew’ on the periodontal health of cats”. The researchers wanted to find out if dental hygiene chews worked. You can buy them online, on Amazon for example. It is a very important topic because periodontal disease affects around 70% of domestic cats over two years of age and this number rises to 85% of cats aged over five years. In this study they assessed 15 cats on two different diets: one with and one without dental hygiene chews. They concluded that “the daily addition of the chew to the dry diet resulted in significantly less plaque and calculus accumulation on tooth surfaces”. Although teeth cleaning at some time was also required.
- On the topic of teeth cleaning, it is a known fact that people adopting a kitten should acclimatise them to having their teeth cleaned as soon as possible during this early phase of their life. It will then be possible for an owner to clean their cat’s teeth when they are adults. Otherwise, it is almost impossible.
- The fact of the matter is that the incisors i.e. the teeth at the front are always in better health than the premolars and molars. It’s important to tackle the weak spot and you can check whether periodontal disease exists by gently inserting a cotton bud into the upper, back region of your cat’s teeth, between the teeth and the cheek to see whether it picks up any blood. Poor oral health is really a huge problem in domestic cats partly or even primarily because it is overlooked by owners until they have to take their cat to veterinarian because their breath smells bad and they are drooling. That’s when teeth have to be removed and it also means that a cat has been in pain for a considerable time.