Do Greenies Really Remove Your Cat’s Tartar? The Truth Revealed

What are Greenies?

Greenies are dental treats for cats that were originally developed for dogs in the 1990s. They were created by Joe and Judy Roetheli, who wanted to find a treat that could help with their dog Ivan’s bad breath 1. The original Greenies dog treats launched in 1996 and were an entirely edible injection-molded treat that helped clean dogs’ teeth 2.

The Greenies brand later expanded into feline dental treats as well. Greenies cat treats are made of ingredients like wheat gluten, glycerin, gelatin, natural flavors, and added vitamins and minerals. They are uniquely shaped to reach all surfaces of cats’ teeth and help control tartar and plaque buildup as cats chew. The texture also helps reduce buildup on teeth. Greenies contain approximately 2 calories per treat and come in a variety of flavors like tuna, catnip, and salmon.

Do Cats Get Tartar Buildup?

Like humans, cats can develop tartar buildup on their teeth over time. Tartar, also known as calculus, refers to the hardened plaque that forms when saliva, food particles, and minerals combine on a cat’s teeth. According to the VCA Animal Hospitals, tartar is rough and porous in texture and can develop both above and below the gum line [1].

As tartar accumulates on a cat’s teeth, it allows more plaque to adhere and can lead to inflammation of the gums, also known as gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease. Periodontal disease damages the tissues and bone that support the teeth. The bacteria from plaque and tartar can also spread to other parts of the body. According to the American Veterinary Dental College, by 3 years of age, 70% of cats have some form of periodontal disease. Therefore, it is important to routinely monitor and remove tartar buildup on cats’ teeth to avoid damage to oral health.

Tartar Removal Methods for Cats

There are a few main methods for removing tartar buildup on cats’ teeth:

Brushing your cat’s teeth is one of the most effective ways to remove plaque before it hardens into tartar. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and cat-safe toothpaste to gently brush teeth, paying special attention to the outer surfaces. Brushing just a few times per week can significantly reduce tartar. Introduce tooth brushing slowly and make it a positive experience for your cat with praise and treats. (Source)

Professional dental cleanings performed by your veterinarian can remove built-up tartar and plaque. Cleanings are performed under anesthesia and involve scaling and polishing each tooth above and below the gumline. Vet dental cleanings are recommended annually for cats prone to heavy tartar. More frequent cleanings may be needed for some cats.

There are also treats and chews available that are formulated to help mechanically scrape off tartar. Look for veterinarian-approved dental treats made specifically for cats. Hard treats and chews can help rub off some tartar, especially when used regularly in conjunction with brushing. However, treats alone are typically not sufficient for removing heavy tartar buildup.

Do Greenies Help Remove Tartar?

According to the manufacturer Greenies, the unique texture and shape of Greenies dental treats helps fight plaque and tartar in cats. As per the Greenies FAQ page, “This mechanical scrubbing action serves to remove plaque and tartar from your cat’s teeth.”

Greenies states that the treat texture, along with active ingredients zinc sulfate and chlorhexidine, work together to clean teeth. They cite a 2017 study in the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry showing a 57% reduction in tartar buildup for cats fed Greenies dental treats daily compared to cats fed a conventional diet (Source: https://www.greenies.com/collections/clean-teeth-for-cats).

However, some veterinarians and cat owners have questioned the effectiveness of Greenies for tartar removal. An article from Lakecross Veterinary Hospital cites mixed owner reviews, with some reporting little tartar reduction even after daily Greenies (Source: https://www.lakecross.com/site/blog-huntersville-vet/2020/08/12/are-cat-dental-treats-worth-it). More research may be needed to conclusively determine Greenies’ efficacy.

Pros of Greenies for Tartar Removal

Some advantages of using Greenies dental treats to help reduce tartar buildup in cats include:

Convenient and easy for cats to chew – Greenies are designed to be an appealing texture and flavor for felines. The treats are meant to be chewed, which can scrape away plaque and tartar as the cat bites down (source).

Some ingredients may have plaque-reducing properties – Greenies contain natural ingredients like wheat protein and chlorophyll, which the company claims may help reduce plaque and tartar (source).

Veterinarian recommended – The Greenies website states these dental treats are veterinarian recommended and accepted by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (source). So some vets may advise using Greenies treats as part of a dental care routine.

Cons of Greenies for Tartar Removal

While Greenies dental treats can help reduce tartar buildup when used as directed, they may not be as effective as daily brushing for removing plaque and tartar from a cat’s teeth.

According to Two Crazy Cat Ladies, feline Greenies function more as a complement to brushing rather than a complete replacement for mechanical plaque removal. The texture and action of chewing helps scrape off some tartar, but does not provide the deep cleaning that comes from brushing.

There is also a potential choking hazard if cats swallow Greenies whole instead of properly chewing them. The treats are designed to be chewed but some cats may gulp them down, which could lead to digestive or airway blockages. Supervision is recommended when feeding Greenies to cats.

Finally, some cats may not like the flavor or texture of Greenies. The treats come in a limited number of flavors and some picky cats may reject them. Cat owners may have to experiment to find a flavor their cat enjoys or consider other types of dental treats.

Alternatives to Greenies

For cat owners looking for alternatives to Greenies for managing tartar in cats, there are other dental treats and chews to consider. Some popular options include:

Feline Greenies Dental Treats Flavor (https://www.wellpets.com/blog/85-veterinary-approved-cat-dental-treats) – These dental treats come in a variety of flavors and are veterinarian recommended. They help control tartar and plaque.

Virbac C.E.T. Enzymatic Oral Hygiene Chews (https://cats.com/best-dental-cat-treats) – These chews contain enzymes that help break down plaque and tartar. They are highly palatable to cats.

In addition to dental treats and chews, cat owners can also use brushes and toothpastes designed specifically for cats to brush their teeth. Some options include:

Virbac C.E.T. Toothbrushes – These toothbrushes have extra soft bristles designed for a cat’s mouth. Toothbrushing helps remove plaque that leads to tartar buildup.

Vetoquinol Enzadent Toothpaste – This enzymatic toothpaste for cats helps control plaque and tartar. It comes in appetizing poultry flavors.

Regularly brushing with a pet-safe toothpaste and having treats like Greenies alternatives can help combat tartar in cats.

Tips for Managing Tartar in Cats

There are several things cat owners can do to help prevent and manage tartar buildup in their cats:

Regular dental exams and cleanings by a veterinarian are important. Professional cleanings can remove built-up tartar and plaque that daily brushing may miss. Exams allow the vet to monitor your cat’s oral health and determine if more advanced dental disease is present.

Brushing your cat’s teeth daily or several times a week is recommended. Using a cat-safe toothbrush and toothpaste gently removes plaque and tartar to keep teeth clean. It may take time for cats to get used to brushing, but being patient and positive can make it a rewarding routine. According to the RSPCA, “Daily (or at least twice weekly) brushing is the key to keeping your cat’s teeth and gums healthy.”1

Feeding dental diets and treats made to control tartar can also help. These foods are formulated to mechanically scrape plaque and tartar off teeth as your cat chews. Dental chews provide an enjoyable way for cats to clean their teeth. Just be sure to follow package instructions.

Adding tartar control additives to your cat’s drinking water is another option. These solutions work by disrupting biofilm formation on teeth to inhibit tartar. They provide passive cleaning with each sip of water your cat takes.

The Bottom Line

Based on the evidence from veterinary sources, Greenies can be an effective supplement to help reduce tartar buildup in cats when used properly. Greenies are designed to scrape away plaque and tartar as cats chew on them. Studies cited by the Veterinary Oral Health Council found a reduction in tartar in cats fed Greenies daily compared to cats fed a control diet without Greenies. However, Greenies alone will not completely eliminate tartar in most cats. They are most effective when combined with regular veterinary dental cleanings and exams, daily tooth brushing, and a tartar control cat food diet. When fed in appropriate amounts and per package instructions, Greenies appear safe for most cats. However, some risks of choking exist if the treats are not chewed thoroughly. Owners should supervise their pets while feeding Greenies. While veterinarians recognize their benefits, Greenies should be considered a supplement for tartar control rather than a complete solution. When used properly under veterinary guidance, Greenies can be a helpful part of an oral health regimen for cats prone to tartar buildup.

References

This article referenced the following sources:

  • American Veterinary Dental College. “Home Care for Your Pet’s Teeth”. https://www.avdc.org/carefordogs.html
  • Banfield Pet Hospital. “Greenies Dental Chews”. https://www.banfield.com/pet-healthcare/additional-resources/article-library/everyday-care/greenies-dental-chews
  • PetMD. “Do Greenies Actually Help Clean Teeth?”. https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/do-greenies-actually-help-clean-teeth
  • VCA Animal Hospitals. “Tartar in Cats”. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/tartar-in-cats

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