Categories: dental health

We need to formulate a method to prevent poor feline oral health

Nowhere near enough is being done to keep our cats’ teeth clean and their gums healthy. Dental calculus is by far the most common disease in domestic cats living in Norway as discovered by an extensive social media survey of 8,000 cats.

The chart below shows us how much of a standout disease dental calculus (and oral health) is:

Dental calculus top for cat diseases

Feline oral health issues worse domestic cat disease

What is dental calculus? It is hardened (calcified) tartar (sticky film of bacteria) which attaches to teeth both above and below the gum line causing cavities in the teeth and gum disease. When left for a long time gum disease leads to serious oral health issues and worse.

Note: A survey of Banfield pet hospitals (USA 2011) came up with dental tartar (gum disease) as the top feline disease.

Cat owners struggle with taking preventative action against feline oral health issues.

Yes, we can clean our cat’s teeth if, from a early age, we teach our cat to accept it. How many cat owners brush their cat’s teeth? I’ll guess: 1 in 10,000 or .01%.

In other words cat owners don’t clean their cat’s teeth. They either ignore their cat’s teeth until their breath smells through chronic gum disease or their cat can’t eat anymore or they diligently ask their vet to clean their cat’s teeth once every 3-4 years after the age of 7 or whatever.

The trouble is – and we know this – a general anaesthetic is needed to clean a cat’s teeth and that carries about a 1 in 400 risk of brain injury or death by my calculation.

See search results for “gum disease” on PoC.

The truth that both the above methods are not good. The problem is arguably compounded by sticky, jelly flavoured, wet cat food. And dry cat food is not what it is cracked up to be in terms of being good for cleaning teeth through abrasion. It does not work. Although some manufacturers make large dry food pellets which are more likely to be chewed rather than simply swallowed.

Wild cats clean their teeth by eating prey containing bones and fur. This creates a genuine abrasive action to help keep teeth and gums healthy.

There is a strong argument that the small hazard from bone shards in, for example, raw chicken is an acceptable risk compared to the benefits in terms of feline oral health.

The way I see it, the only way to take preventative action to maintain feline oral health and to knock it off first place as the most prevalent cat health problem is to provide cats with the sort of food they eat in the wild. Manufacturers of cat food have for far too long abdicated their responsibilities towards feline health despite all the mumbo jumbo they spew out to us – I am thinking of Hills Science Diet and that sort of cat food.

Thinking aloud and without reflection, what about some sort of mouthwash for cats? Humans rinse their mouths with mouthwash which kills bacteria improving gums tremendously. What if we could produce a cat drink containing a tasteless and colourless anti-bacterial substance?

We need to think outside the box. We need to think laterally and come up with something much better to prevent feline gum and teeth disease.

Here is one catch: the veterinarians will vehemently resist change which improves cat health as it will damage business. That is another thing that needs to be sharpened up: veterinary associations need to have more power and to exercise that power in upholding the veterinarians’ oath and standards. At present the associations are beholden to the members who too often do not place the welfare of cats first.

Click for the full study referred to.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

View Comments

  • ...try colloidal silver in their water.....I also use l-lysine in their water (different pans :-)) they are both tasteless.

  • I have found it's important not to get fixated on brushing each tooth but rather getting that enzyme toothpaste into their mouth. My cats have a sanos sealant put on after cleaning.
    I question any statistic coming out of Banfield. That is a for profit assembly line type of vet care.
    You can reduce the cost of the cleaning by timing routine blood work for a yearly exam with a dental cleaning if necessary. At six Mook barely had any buildup. Her food of choice. Small pellet dry food. I would have to wonder the effect of high carb cheap cat foods on an indoor cat that has no hunting opportunities.

  • Yes, when I am in a financial position to aid a cat's dental problem, it has gotten worse over time and demands more than just cleaning (which is expensive enough). I've tried brushing and gels washes and food and water additives... but the sticky food is constantly there. I've wondered about the idea of developing some sort of "bite" material, perhaps 1/4" thick that is chewy that they could sink their teeth into but doesn't break off, that has teeth-cleaning properties in it that they would enjoy chomping on before bedtime. I've noticed that kittens like to chomp on cardboard, (it's cute), but that adults probably have sensitive gums that hurts. Night time is a time when they'd go the longest without eating (that is if you don't leave food out for them) and might be the best time for that.

    • Albert, What do you feed your cat? And how old? I like your idea of a "bite" material, that might help to clean their teeth, like raw meat on bone does.

      My cat has oral re-absorption, and will have to get her teeth pulled at some point. The dental vet said she has inherited a "bad mouth". She's already lost her lower canines. She's 7.

      I've never brushed her teeth, but do feed her commercial raw food, in addition to some high protein dry, so I don't have to get up in the night.

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