No, dry cat food does not clean a cat’s teeth despite what the pet food manufacturers claim. When humans eat dried food we don’t claim that it cleans our teeth. Why should it be any different for cats? Dentists never recommend it. Update: Since I wrote that about 4 years ago I am not so sure. My cat eats Hills Oral Care for grazing. His main food is sachet wet. His teeth and gums – touch wood – are very good and he is 6 years old. Maybe they should be good at 6. I don’t think we should slag off dry cat food all the time. It is unnatural etc. but wet can arguably cause more gum disease. It is unclear. But please read on….
The pet food manufacturers have in fact changed the size of the pellets of dry cat food when the products are produced to ostensibly clean a cat’s teeth. If the pellets are larger they are more likely to do what it states on the packet but they don’t really work. When the pellets are very small cats even swallow them whole so there is no possibility of them cleaning teeth.
The concept is that the abrasive effect of the dry cat food cleans teeth. At a cursory glance it sound plausible and appealing to cat owners because cleaning a cat’s teeth with a toothbrush is all but impossible and very few cat owners try it, never mind do it successfully.
Also, so-called teeth cleaning dry cat foods have been around for a long time and veterinarians continue to see huge numbers of patients with serious dental and gum disease. This surely must be strong evidence that dry cat food does not clean a cat’s teeth.
In fact veterinarians report that many of the more serious dental conditions such as gum-line cavities occur in cats who are fed dry cat food.
The truth of the matter is that when dry kibble is inside the cat’s mouth it becomes a sticky paste because it is mixed with saliva. This ‘paste’ can adhere to the teeth and gums to a greater extent than wet cat food.
In addition, the processed carbohydrates and sugar in dry cat food paste (in the mouth) supports bacterial growth.
Further, there is a very acidic substance coated onto dry cat food which makes it palatable to cats but the “oral environment” can become more acidic than normal which can damage the enamel which in turn can cause gumline cavities i.e. resorptive lesions.
Some veterinarians might argue that dry cat foods promote plaque and tartar formation with accompanying gum disease and enamel erosion.
It is difficult to believe anything that the pet food manufacturers claim on the packet if truth be told. Despite what I have stated on this page, I am convinced that there are millions of cat owners who buy dry cat food which is claimed to clean teeth because they know that it is very difficult to maintain oral health in a domestic cat and cat owners look for any means possible to overcome that difficulty.