Periodontal disease is one of the most common dental issues in cats, affecting approximately 70% of cats over the age of two, and 85% of cats over five years old! But despite how common it is, this condition is actually preventable, and cat food is a key factor.
Gum disease begins when bits and pieces of food and bacteria build up, forming sticky plaque around the gum line. That plaque consequently hardens into tartar. Aside from bad breath, there aren’t many obvious early signs of gum disease, so the problem often remains untreated. As a result, far more serious health conditions often occur, including painful inflammation, tooth loss, and damage to the heart, liver and kidneys.
Several factors affect the development of plaque, tartar and the advance of periodontal disease, but cat food and eating behavior are major influences of dental issues.
Commercial dental diets don’t necessarily work. For years we’ve heard that commercial dry food (kibble) cleans a cat’s teeth. The idea was that the cracked pieces of kibble would rub against the teeth and remove the plaque or tartar. As it turns out, many kibble bits are too small to offer any benefit, and because many cats swallow the pieces whole, there’s no chance of any abrasive action.
Some commercial pet food companies offer cat food made of larger kibble sizes to encourage chewing. But cats don’t chew their food – their teeth are intended to tear food into bite-sized pieces – which means once the food is bite-sized they swallow it whole.
Even if a commercial dental cat food diet can claim any effects on gingivitis, you also have to consider the ingredients in the food. If the food is high in ingredients like corn, brewer’s rice, etc., there’s really no benefit. High carbs are not natural for cats, as they encourage inflammation in the whole body, including the gums and mouth. There are much better and more effective options to help prevent cat dental issues.
There are dental-friendly foods that are good for your cat’s health. Cats flourish on moisture-rich grain-free diets, such as high-quality canned, raw and freeze-dried diets. Raw diets would typically be an ideal choice, based strictly on the best nutritional choices, but there is no single diet that is right for all cats.
Treats can help fight off your cat’s dental issues. As with commercial pet foods, low-quality dental treats and chews that claim to give your cat fresher breath and a cleaner mouth don’t work to combat gingivitis. The most effective dental treats for cats are those that rub on the gums while they’re eating, such as raw chicken necks. Never give your cat bones that have been cooked; they are brittle and may easily splinter, and damage your cat’s stomach and intestines.
These supplements can also help. A variety of supplements promote a healthy oral environment and prevent cat dental issues. Examples include probiotics natural enzymes, Omega-3 fatty acids and natural food-based antioxidants, all of which reduce oxidative stress and inflammation throughout cat’s the body and mouth.
Just because the majority of cats develop gum disease doesn’t mean yours has to. The key to a healthy cat mouth that is free of dental issues is prevention. Together with regular veterinary dental care, high-quality cat food, raw bones and the right supplements will help keep your cat’s teeth and gums in good shape.
Wondering if your cat might be suffering from dental issues? Don’t take any chances – call our office today to schedule a consultation so we can address any problems before they develop into something more serious.