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Does dry food really help with dental issues?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I see so much mixed information about the need to feed some type of dry kibble or dental treats to help prevent dental problems. There is a part of me that believes that this a big marketing pitch by companies that want to sell their products. There is another part of me that believes there is some truth to it.

I've searched through a number of threads here and see the same mixed reactions. What do you all think and do you have any links to studies that discuss this issue?

I bring this up because Scarlett, at age 6, is beginning to show signs of dental issues. The vet suggests it is because she eats too much canned food, but this is also a woman who had never heard of Innova before. So yes, I have a vet that has no clue about nutrician, and it makes me suspect that she has been heavily marketed by pet food companies.
post #2 of 17
I have to take Frankie back to the vet next week to have her teeth cleaned and Wickett (who's only 2) has some tartar build up. I asked my vet about food and treats like the feline greenies. He said the greenies are good IF the cat's actually chew them. Food is a factor but the biggest factor in a cat's dental hygene is the cat itself. Like some people just have bad teeth... the same can be said for cats.
post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by twstychik View Post
I asked my vet about food and treats like the feline greenies. He said the greenies are good IF the cat's actually chew them.
That's why I doubt most food and treat company claims. Most kibble for cats is so small that I think most is not really chewed to the degree that will help them. My toothless cat Stumpy eats both dry and feline greenies very well - he just sucks them down. The only food that I've seen large enough is some of the Science Diet dental - the kibbles are the same size as a large dog breed kibble.
post #4 of 17
The affect dry food has on teeth vs wet food is marginal at best. (Assuming the cat is even chewing the dry food.) Quality of the diet and genetics are much larger factors.

Outside of raw meaty bones - C.E.T chews and greenies are a far more dental friendly way of inserting "crunch" into a diet.
post #5 of 17
There have been many studies which show that dry food is actually NOT good for dental issues in cats. Cats do not chew, per se, like we do. They may crunch the little kibbles to break them up and make them smaller, but honestly, if you've ever really looked at cat hurl after they eat dry food, the little pieces are still mostly whole. (Sorry to be gross about it, but couldn't figure out how to say it *grin*)

Additionally, dry cat foods are treated with a flavorful fat, sprayed on the surface, to make it more palatable. It is this fat which contributes to the food particles sticking to the surfaces of the teeth, leading to decay unless you are diligent about daily brushing.

Dry cat foods contain a large amount of grain, mostly corn. And while your mileage may vary on this one, I have never in all of my 48 years seen a cat walk into a corn field, grab him up an ear, shuck it and then eat it. Cats are obligate carnivores. They require meat. Cats do not process carbohydrates like we do ... they get their energy from the breakdown of amino acids which are found in meats and meat proteins. Dry food contributes to obesity in cats which leads to all sorts of metabolic health disorders, diabetes and heart disease among them.

I have been very vocal about the dangers of dry food over my years as both a member of TCS and as a Moderator here. I hate it. I have to feed dry because I do not, unfortunately, have a money tree in my back yard, and I cannot afford to feed my cats canned food only. I did a lot of research, talked with our resident Nutrition expert here (Sharky - Bless her heart!!!) and decided upon Organics By Nature Dry Adult formula, but I only give it sparingly and only once per day in a measured amount.

Having Siamese cats, who are extremely prone to dental issues, I wanted to be as proactive as I could about what foods I chose for my beloved babies. If I had unlimited financial resources, I wouldn't offer dry cat food at all.
post #6 of 17
Originally Posted by twstychik View Post
Food is a factor but the biggest factor in a cat's dental hygene is the cat itself. Like some people just have bad teeth... the same can be said for cats.
I agree with this. I have had 6 cats. One has passed but he was the one who always had bad teeth. He was dry food only. He was 9 years old when he started having serious mouth issues.

But I also have a 13 year old who has been dry food only for 12 of those years and she has good teeth for her age. I do believe that dry food is probably a little better than wet but not enough for that to be a reason to feed dry only.
post #7 of 17
I had Blue at my vet last week for her check-up, and had a talk with the Dr. about dental care. Blue is not quite 2yo, but she already has a bit of build-up on her back teeth. My vet said that dry food will not help clean the teeth, although Greenies might be worth a try. He strongly recommends training the cat to let me wipe her teeth at home to clean them, and that was the only sure way to keep build-up from accumulating on her teeth. We're working on that!
post #8 of 17
George is 6yrs and I have got to take him in January to get his teeth cleaned. His back teeth have got plaque and his breath is terrible.

I have cut down their wet food a lot but it's true that they don't really chew it. The dry food I buy lists the biggest ingredient as meat before grain but all of the wet foods I can find here have only 4 percent of animal 'bijproducts' yuck.

He hardly ever catches birds or mice either and if he does he doesn't eat them. It it bad for cats to give them raw bones? I know cooked ones can splinter.

post #9 of 17
Raw bones are good... I have yet to get a animal who likes them thou.... chn and turkey necks are great for cats since they are crunchy in texture and clean more than say a leg bone

Dry kibble YES there are a few CLINICALLY( ie someone other than the company did the tests) proven to help... some of these also have ingrdiants to work from the inside out ... thinkgs like cranberry powder help make the mouth less hospitabile to the bad bacteria

I have always given wet and dry to both cats and dogs ... and continue to do so ... but now it is a little dry with alot of wet or homemade or raw ...

little example... Gigi is my 12 yr old yorkie ... I have had her 6.5 yrs ... the first three she ate wet and dry food of varing quality ... then she went homemade and raw ... now she eats 1/4 cup of dry " i call it treats" and homemade... HER TEETH are good for any dog and GREAT for her age and breed.... In this case variety and genetics did it ...

on the flip side Kandie at the same diet at the same time ( cat version) and started needing dental s starting about age 10

YES genes play a role and it can be a BIG one.... If you can brush the cats teeth ... if that is not possible try raw bones , a dry for dental( pm me ) or cet chews or greenies
post #10 of 17
One of the toys I bought Seamus said on it that it was good for dental care. He chewed on it like a maniac, and it has nylon netting on it, so it seems like it may be doing the job... here's a link to the toy


It's the first one on the page
post #11 of 17
I just found this 2006 blog on the effects of dry-only diets. The author appears to be more of a dog person than a cat person so I don't know if the information is valid.

post #12 of 17
Originally Posted by mezlo View Post
I just found this 2006 blog on the effects of dry-only diets. The author appears to be more of a dog person than a cat person so I don't know if the information is valid.

It is valid... to a pt ... the research did nt seem to be done more of a this is bad or that doesnt work
post #13 of 17
Raw bones are excellent for cleaning teeth, my kittens all eat chicken/turkey necks, wings, and boned lamb cutlets.

We live with my sisters cats aged 1-7yrs who'd never had bones before my kittens came along, they all took to them right away.

Like Gaye, I really don't like dry food. My kittens only get 1/3-1/2 cup to share between the 3 of them overnight.
post #14 of 17
I have never seen any evidence that dry food is good for the teeth, not the normal dry kibble anyway (dental formulas may be different - I don't know but I presume studies will have to have proved they work to a certain extent? They are generally poor quality foods though, imo). Jaffa swallows all dry food whole too. I think raw bones, toothpaste such as logic gel and additives such as plaque off are the best approach to maintaining dental health.
post #15 of 17
Jamie is the first cat we've had who eats dry food (50% of his diet), and the only one who has had to have dental cleanings every two or three years, so I don't for one minute think that dry food prevents dental problems. IME, the opposite is true.

As far as raw bones, chicken necks, etc., are concerned, these are recent posts of mine from another forum:
On the downside, he said the volunteers at the home were "on a rampage", because they had just been notified that a cat adopted out last year died of infection, and the necropsy revealed a perforated esophagus. Her new owners had been feeding her a "BARF" diet, and gave her raw chicken necks, wings, and thighs.
I decided to ask a couple of vets about this. I called three area vets I know from taking the shelter cats in for miscellaneous treatments, my own vet, plus the two weekend emergency vets here (three hours on the phone!). Without exception, they said they wouldn't recommend feeding raw or cooked "bird bones", or any other bones, because they'd all seen perforations and intestinal blockages many times a year, including cats and dogs who died from eating something as small as a sparrow.
One part-time emergency vet, who is semi-retired, told me that he has been practicing veterinary medicine for nearly 50 years, and has seen wild animals die from eating the bones of their prey, or from something as simple as a tooth abscess. His own pets are allowed day-old chicks, or newborn mice/rats, but nothing more.
post #16 of 17
Your cat would likely have the same amount of plaque and tarter build up on the teeth if you were to feed only dry food. Dry food puts your cat at a greater risk for health problems in cats such as obesity, diabetis, urinary tract disease, IBD.

I just discontinued all dry cat food from my cats diet. Simply put, I don't buy it and I don't feed it period. And any pet sitter or boarding facility I will ever rely on will have to accept this as well. I will tell them to put out the canned food twice a day. I was convinced by 2 vets I greatly admire Dr Lisa Pierson www.catinfo.org and Dr Elizabeth Hodgkin www.yourdiabeticcat.com.

You should be aware of the fact that the only reason dry cat food is so palatable to cats is because they spray a fatty meat digest on the kibble. In the absense of this your cat would turn up its nose at dry food. Canned food is much more palatable and healthier for your cat than dry and raw homemade is even healthier. It's a shame vets are so upside down about feline nutrition.
post #17 of 17
I don't think a cat should have an all-dry food diet, as wet food is healthy in several ways. But dry food does help teeth some; it's just not a magic bullet. My cats have always chewed their dry food... you can hear it crunching, and some tiny pieces fall out, to be eaten again. So those surfaces of the cat's teeth that contact the food (not all) are getting some benefit.

Thanks for pointing out that interesting cat chew toy, upthread. My cat's a huge chewer... he loves to go to town on any hard rubber objects he can find, like doorstops. But I haven't been able to find a chew toy that wasn't dog-sized and -flavored.
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