Your cat’s dental health – wet food or dry food?

I found this website while researching on feline dental health:

Do please take a look at the articles as dental health is really important for our cats (and dogs!).

I’ve copied this part out below. There’s always been the age-old contention about kibble being good for dental health. The ones who disagree would ask if eating Twisties help to brush our teeth. And do your cats even chew the kibble or do they swallow it whole? This article says opt for kibble diet that is formulated for dental health, which makes more sense, doesn’t it?

Right now, I’m giving our non-CKD and non-heart-compromised (this excludes Cow Mau, Indy and Tabs) Royal Canin’s Dental kibble. Does it work? The vet who sells it says “yes”, but I really don’t know. We won’t know until we try. This kibble should not be given to CKD cats and definitely not for heart-compromised cats.

Ultimately, teeth-brushing is a much better choice, but how many or the teeth and how well can we brush our cats’ teeth?  Dogs, yes. But cats – that’s a real challenge! But I’m also doing this.

I cannot repeat this enough, but poor dental health leads to the production of globulins and globulins destroy the kidney nephrons, hence poor dental health is almost a sure-fire sign of eventual kidney disease and when the blood test shows it, 75% of the nephrons have already been destroyed. I learnt this many years ago from a very senior vet when I had my first encounter with Chronic Kidney Disease in Vincent. He presented with really bad dental hygiene when he first came and the senior vet who never minces his word had already told me: It will lead to kidney failure and death. Despite two dental surgeries to remove bad teeth, he was right about it, but it didn’t happen immediately. It took its course.

Eating kibble alone is also not good for cats because cats already do not have a natural thirst drive (blame it on their ancestors coming from the desert regions of Persia) because kibble is dry, it contains carbohydrates and is also highly processed. The fact that it’s dry is already not good for a cat’s kidneys.

Such an imperfect world, isn’t it? But we try. I’m still hunting for more suitable toothbrushes. There are so many types online!

The Pros and Cons of Kibble for Dental Health

Kibble contains more carbohydrates than canned food does, and cats are carnivores, which means cats are not quite as good at breaking these nutrients down. Nutritionists speculate that the carbohydrate content of dry food contributes to obesity which can lead to the development of diabetes in cats.

That said, there are definitely other contributing factors to feline obesity, such as genetics, lifestyle, etc. that play significant roles. But is the kibble itself better for their teeth? Well, technically the answer is “yes.” And the answer is a resounding “yes” if we are talking about kibble diets specifically formulated for oral health.

There are several studies showing that cats fed kibble diets—and in particular dental formulations—have significantly less tartar and gingivitis than their canned-food-eating counterparts.

Still, the question remains, what types of food are cat teeth designed for? The reality is they are made for eating mice and shearing meat. These diets, however, are not particularly suitable for our modern house cats. 


Kibble or Wet Food: What’s the Right Answer?

Like we’ve already alluded to, the answer is definitely not black and white here. Speaking solely from a dentistry perspective, kibble is absolutely better—particularly a feline dental health formulation diet. 

However, I think our job as veterinarians is to make the best recommendation for the patient as a whole. My personal opinion is that we have many more available treatment options for periodontal disease than we do for renal failure in feline patients.

If you’re going for a cut-and-dry recommendation based on what will help your cat stay healthy the longest, it’s probably canned food. The diet probably doesn’t have to be 100% canned, but the more of the cat’s diet that is canned food, the higher the cat’s water intake will be, and the better it will be for the kidneys. In addition, your furry companion should also have lots of exciting water sources like fountains available around the house. 


Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth

Here comes the part you’re not going to like. We know cats who eat only canned food aren’t getting any of that tartar removed from the teeth by crunching. In my perfect scenario, your cat eats solely canned food and gets its teeth brushed daily along with the occasional cat dental treat.

I know, I know—some cats won’t tolerate that. I have attempted to brush Wilbur’s teeth a few times, and while I don’t speak cat, I am pretty sure he was shouting expletives as he was running down the hall.

If they absolutely refuse to allow you to brush their teeth, routine visits to the veterinary dentist—which should be happening regardless of whether or not you brush the teeth—are in order.

Ideally, brushing (every day or at LEAST every other day) keeps the plaque and calculus at bay in between cleanings, and then cleanings can be just that—short anesthetic procedures where the teeth are scaled, imaged, and polished with no extractions. 







2 responses to “Your cat’s dental health – wet food or dry food?”

  1. Lina

    Hi Dr. Chan,

    I just want to share with you the toothbrush I’m using to brush my 11yo Mimi’s teeth. I’m not diligently doing it daily but as much as I could I’m trying to do every other day. One toothbrush that I fell in love after trying many other is Muji compact toothbrush!! And yeah, it’s not a pet toothbrush or so, but the size of it for me is perfect to reach Mimi’s molars! Hope it is helpful.


    1. chankahyein

      Thank you so much for sharing, Lina. I’ve also just ordered another type of toothbrush and I’m also looking at human children’s toothbrushes.

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