How We’re Celebrating Pet Dental Health Month

cat with toothbrush© Jiri Foltyn –

February is Pet Dental Health Month, and my cats and I will be celebrating by getting rid of the last little bit of dry food in our house. While that might not sound like much of a celebration for the cats, I know they’ll be fine with it. They have access to wet food just about 24/7. And when they crave munchies, they have their crunchy chunks of Stella and Chewy’s freeze-dried chicken. They love them, so they really don’t need that dry food. And I know it’s bad for their teeth.

While some vets still claim dry food cleans a cat’s teeth, most know now that that’s a myth. Look at it this way. Would you brush your teeth with pretzels?

Cats’ teeth are designed to tear flesh, not chew tiny pieces of kibble. Many swallow their dry food whole. Others manage to splinter it with their teeth, and then little pieces of food lodge under the gum causing dental disease. It never provides the abrasive action needed for dental health.

Of course, the best way to keep your cats’ teeth clean is to brush them. I’ve added a video at the end of this post to show you how. But with many cats (all of mine) that’s easier said than done. If you can get your cats to eat them, chunks of raw meat are a natural toothbrush. So are raw chicken necks. Never give your cat cooked bones. They can splinter and cause all kinds of problems.

Jerky treats made for cats also provide the abrasive action needed to clean the teeth. And chew toys can help, too, although I have yet to see a cat chew a chew toy. Belle likes to swat them around the kitchen floor. My other cats ignore them.

While my vet is offering discounts on dental services this month, I won’t be taking her up on the offer. When my cats need to have their teeth cleaned, we go to a veterinary dentist. I wouldn’t have my family doctor clean my teeth. And I don’t want my cats’ family doctor to clean theirs. There’s a reason why we have specialists.

If you decide to take advantage of your vet’s Pet Dental Health Month specials, here are some questions to ask.

  • Who will clean my cat’s teeth? You or a vet tech?
  • If a tech will be doing the dental, is she licensed or registered? How was she trained to do dentals? (If her only training was on the job, you want to go somewhere else.)
  • Will you do complete X-rays before beginning the dental? (X-rays are the only way to spot some issues that may be causing pain in your cat’s mouth.)
  • Will you run an IV line before anesthetizing my cat?
  • How will the cat be monitored during and after anesthesia?
  • Will you give pain medication before the procedure and send some home with the cat? (Refuse Metacam and Onsior. Both are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and Metcam has been known to cause kidney failure in cats.)

I haven’t told my cats the dry food bowl will be disappearing. But looking at it now, it hasn’t been touched since I put a handful of kibble in it this morning. The Stella and Chewy’s bowl does need to be refilled, though. I’ll do that as soon as I track down the video for you.

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