How should you choose the right products to keep your pet’s teeth and gums healthy? To help take the guesswork out of tooth care, our experts and other owners share their recommendations.
Brushing up on the basics
When caring for your pet’s teeth, it can be tempting to reach for the same products you use to look after your own – after all, our teeth are made from the same substance as our pets’, aren’t they?
While that may be the case, keep in mind that you should never use human toothpaste. It’s highly toxic for pets, as it contains fluoride and xylitol (an artificial sweetener) both of which could cause kidney failure in cats.
Instead, always choose toothpaste and other dental products that are specifically formulated for your pet. Here are some great recommendations from experts and owners:
1. Dental gel
‘Kittens lose their milk teeth, so there’s no need to worry too much about their actual teeth at this stage,’ says Petplan veterinary expert Brian Faulkner. ‘Instead, what you should focus on is getting your cat used to having their mouth opened and touched, as this will help you to one day maintain their permanent teeth – which is vitally important as they get older.
‘Because cats generally aren’t as cooperative as dogs when it comes to brushing teeth, I recommend dental gels as a good alternative. These gels contain enzymes that kill the germs which cause tartar build-up, tooth decay and gum disease. You’ll have to apply it to your cat’s teeth daily using a special finger applicator, but you won’t need to use a brush.’
2. Dental prescription diet
Cat behaviourist Clare Hemington recommends feeding your cat a complete dental care prescription food for optimal tooth and gum health: ‘These foods have large kibbles that encourage chewing and rub against the tooth’s surface to remove the plaque that forms along the gum line,’ she says. ‘Using this type of food can help you to effectively maintain your pet’s healthy teeth and gums.’ However, keep in mind that while most dental diets are excellent, they should only form one part of your cat’s overall tooth-care plan.
3. Dental cat treats
Dental health is important to Emma Kirkham, owner of four-year-old Molly and three-year-old Daisy, but because they dislike having their teeth brushed she supplements their tooth care with dental chews. ‘I think that I would lose a finger if I tried to use any sort of brush on my cats,’ Emma says, ‘so I give them dental treats instead. They help to keep their teeth clean and their breath fresh and, as Molly and Daisy love the taste of the treats, they make a great reward, too.’
4. Dental cat toys
‘My cats Dizzy and Percy have dental toys in the shape of mice,’ says Claire Horton-Bussey. ‘They absolutely love them and spend a lot of time chewing on the netted material covering, which acts a bit like dental floss and helps to get any stuck food out of their teeth. A huge benefit of the toys is that it keeps my cats’ teeth clean in a way that they really enjoy – it takes a lot of stress out of tooth care.’