Doctors agree that sugar contributes to the formation of cavities in people, but what about pets? While cavities are extremely rare in pets – affecting less than 5% of all dogs and even fewer cats – we’re beginning to see more cavities in pets fed high-sugar treats.
Keeping your pet’s dietary sugar low and offering the right foods are as important in the recipe for a healthy mouth as brushing, rinsing and regular veterinary dental checks. If you share “people foods” with your pets, choose “super foods” like lean meats, fish, poultry and veggies – and skip starches and sweets.
Cats actually lack sweet taste receptors on their tongues, but some companies still add sugars to their foods. Be sure to check your pet’s food labels for sweeteners, like glucose, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, corn syrup and others. If it’s sweet, trash those treats. Crunchy vegetables are a better choice, providing natural nutrition without added sugars.
Experts once thought crunchy dry foods helped keep pets’ teeth and gums clean, but unless the kibble contains special plaque-fighting ingredients, chances are it isn’t cleaning your pet’s teeth. Studies have shown that most kibble shatters after the tooth sinks about a third of the way into it, so the gum line receives little cleaning benefit.
Likewise, bones may not scrub the tooth surfaces as efficiently as we once envisioned. Remember, any bone can splinter — possibly piercing your pet’s vital organs if ingested — so be very wary of offering bones as treats. I prefer safer chew toys to satisfy my dog’s need to gnaw.
Adding nutritional supplements to your pet’s diet may help prevent or treat gingivitis and periodontal disease. Coenzyme Q10 is a strong antioxidant that has been shown to help maintain a healthy mouth. Your veterinarian might also suggest adding Vitamin C or folic acid to your pet’s diet. Cinnamon twigs have been shown to help reduce bacterial plaque in people, so if you’re cooking for a dog with oral issues, ask your vet about incorporating cinnamon into your recipes.
When deciding which food and treats to feed to help make healthy mouths, look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval to help you separate fact from fiction. Many products claim to help reduce tartar and plaque, but ones marked with the seal have met VOHC standards, and are a better buy. For a list of dental products that have earned VOHC acceptance, click here.
It goes without saying that no matter what diet you feed your pets, nothing can take the place of regular brushings and routine cleanings at the vet. But choosing a dental formula diet, avoiding sugars and adding supplements can help keep teeth in tip top shape between cleanings. Ask your vet which products he or she recommends for your individual pet – together, you can help prevent dental disease!