Do They Make Dental Chews For Cats?

Dental health is extremely important for cats. According to studies, between 50-90% of cats over 4 years old suffer from some form of dental disease. Dental disease not only affects a cat’s mouth, but can lead to other health issues as well.

Dental disease is so common in cats because their teeth are prone to tartar buildup. Tartar is a hard mineral deposit that forms on the teeth from bacteria. As tartar accumulates, it allows more bacteria to grow, leading to inflammation and infection of the gums, also known as gingivitis. Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease in cats.

If left untreated, tartar buildup and gingivitis can advance to more severe periodontal disease. This can cause painful tooth decay, abscesses, and tooth loss. Bacteria from dental infections can also spread through the bloodstream, potentially affecting the heart, kidneys and other organs.

Therefore, paying attention to a cat’s dental health through regular teeth brushing, dental treats, and professional cleanings is essential to prevent disease, discomfort and other health complications.

Signs of Dental Disease in Cats

There are several common signs that your cat may have dental disease that is important to look out for. According to the veterinarians at VCA Animal Hospitals (source), the most noticeable sign is often bad breath. This foul odor is caused by bacteria accumulating on the teeth and gums. Other signs include difficulty eating or chewing food, dropping food from the mouth, and weight loss. Since dental disease can be painful, you may also notice behavioral changes in your cat, such as irritability or lethargy.

The Cornell Feline Health Center (source) notes that inflamed and swollen gums (gingivitis) is an early indicator of dental disease in cats. Your cat may paw at their mouth and shake their head due to discomfort and pain. As the condition progresses, severe tartar buildup, receding gums, tooth decay and loss, and abscesses may occur.

Being alert to the signs of dental disease allows early detection and treatment. This can help prevent more severe dental problems and improve your cat’s overall health and wellbeing.

Causes of Dental Disease in Cats

The most common causes of dental disease in cats are plaque buildup, gingivitis, and periodontal disease.

Plaque is a thin film of bacteria that forms on the surface of teeth. As plaque accumulates, it hardens into tartar. Tartar buildup leads to inflammation of the gums, known as gingivitis. Gingivitis is the earliest stage of periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease occurs when inflammation spreads from the gums to the ligaments and bone that support the teeth. Bacteria from plaque and tartar spread below the gumline, causing destruction of the tissues surrounding the teeth. This can eventually lead to painful tooth loss if left untreated (

The longer plaque and tartar remain on the teeth, the more severe periodontal disease can become. There are four stages of periodontal disease in cats:

  • Stage 1 – Mild gingivitis characterized by mild inflammation of the gums
  • Stage 2 – Moderate gingivitis with some loss of gum attachment
  • Stage 3 – Severe gingivitis and inflammation extending to ligaments and bone around teeth
  • Stage 4 – Significant tooth mobility and advanced loss of bone and soft tissue support

Treating dental disease early on can help prevent it from progressing to more advanced stages. Cats with severe periodontal disease may require professional dental cleanings and extractions (

Risk Factors for Dental Disease

Certain cats are at higher risk for developing dental disease. The main risk factors include:

Age – Older cats are more likely to develop dental disease. As cats age, their teeth wear down and the roots become more exposed to bacteria.

Breed – Purebred cats, especially Persians and Siamese, have a higher rate of dental disease compared to mixed breed cats.

Diet – Dry, crunchy kibbles help clean teeth. Soft, canned foods do not provide abrasive action for plaque removal.

Genetics – Some cats may be genetically predisposed to dental issues like gingivitis, stomatitis, and resorptive lesions.

Preventing Dental Disease

There are several effective ways to help prevent dental disease in cats.

Brushing your cat’s teeth daily is the best way to reduce plaque buildup and tartar formation. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and cat-safe toothpaste. Take it slow at first so your cat can get used to having their teeth brushed. Give your cat praise and treats for cooperating.

Getting regular dental cleanings for your cat is also very beneficial. Vets recommend professional dental cleanings at least once per year. The vet will use scalers to remove calculus above and below the gum line that would be difficult to remove with brushing alone.

Feeding dental diets designed for cats can also help reduce plaque and tartar. These prescription dental foods have a special shape, texture, and formula that helps scrub the teeth to reduce tartar buildup as your cat chews. Studies show dental diets reduce plaque by up to 70%.

Other preventive measures include dental treats, oral rinses, and dental toys. While not as effective as brushing, these can provide some secondary plaque control.

Dental Chews for Cats

Dental chews designed specifically for cats can help clean their teeth and reduce plaque and tartar buildup. These treats are made with abrasive textures or enzymes that scrape away plaque as the cat chews. Some popular ingredients in cat dental chews include:

  • Meat proteins like chicken, salmon, or tuna for palatability
  • Grain-free carbohydrates like potato starch or tapioca
  • Dental defense enzymes like glucomannan, lactoferrin, or delmopinol
  • Natural abrasives like diatomaceous earth

The texture of dental chews can vary from crunchy to chewy. Crunchy treats help break up tartar, while chewy treats stick to the teeth longer to provide enzymatic action (1). Some of the leading brands for cat dental chews include Greenies, CET Chews, and Vetoquinol Enzadent (2).

The main pros of dental chews are that they do not require brushing, they are tasty, and cats are often highly motivated to chew them. Cons can include potential choking hazards, gastrointestinal issues if consumed too quickly, or not being as effective as brushing for some cats (3). Check with your veterinarian about using dental chews as part of your cat’s oral care routine.




Other Dental Treats

Two popular options for dental treats that help clean cats’ teeth are Greenies and CET chews. Greenies Cat Dental Treats come in a variety of flavors like tuna, catnip, and chicken and are specially formulated with nutrients for teeth and gum health.

According to Greenies, the texture of the treats helps control tartar and plaque. Their treats have the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Seal of Acceptance for helping control tartar. Greenies recommends feeding 1 dental treat per 5 lbs of body weight per day.

CET Chews are another option vet recommended for cats. They come in salmon and vegetable flavors. Like Greenies, CET Chews have the VOHC seal and are designed with ridges, nubs, and textures to scrape away plaque and tartar as cats chew. The company recommends 1 treat per day based on weight.

Both Greenies and CET Chews can make alternatives or additions to daily tooth brushing. Owners should monitor their cat during initial treat feedings in case their pet has trouble chewing them. Check with your vet if you have questions about dental treats for your cat.

When to See a Vet

Early signs of dental disease like bad breath or discolored teeth can be managed at home with dental chews and brushing. However, more advanced dental disease requires professional veterinary care. According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, between 50-90% of cats over 4 years old have signs of dental disease. It is important to monitor your cat’s teeth and oral health for any concerning symptoms.

Signs that indicate advanced dental disease requiring veterinary attention include bad breath, red and swollen gums, bleeding from the mouth, pawing at the mouth, reduced appetite or refusal to eat hard food, and behavioral changes during eating. Cats may also stop grooming if they have serious mouth pain. Any observed dental issues or oral pain symptoms in cats should prompt a veterinary visit.

Veterinarians can perform a full oral exam under anesthesia to assess the health of the teeth, gums, and oral cavity. Depending on your cat’s needs, the vet may extract damaged teeth, perform dental extractions, or do a professional dental cleaning to treat advanced periodontal disease. Regular professional dental cleanings, typically once a year, are important to control bacteria and prevent progression of dental disease.

Dental Procedures

Preventive dental care is the best way to keep your cat’s teeth healthy, but sometimes more intensive procedures are necessary. The most common dental procedures for cats include:


A professional dental cleaning is the best way to remove plaque and tartar from a cat’s teeth. This involves anesthesia so the vet can thoroughly clean above and below the gumline. Cleanings help prevent more serious dental disease. Most cats need annual dental cleanings.


If tartar has loosened a tooth or caused gum recession and infection, the vet may need to extract severely damaged teeth. This also requires anesthesia but removes sources of pain and infection.[1] Extractions often improve a cat’s quality of life.


Vets may prescribe antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications to treat dental infections and pain. Special gels, rinses, or treats containing enzymes or zinc may also help control plaque and tartar buildup between cleanings.[2]


Caring for Your Cat’s Teeth

Regular dental care is crucial for your cat’s health and wellbeing. Here are some tips for keeping your cat’s teeth clean and healthy:


Brushing your cat’s teeth daily is the most effective way to remove plaque and tartar. Introduce toothbrushing slowly with a soft-bristled brush and feline-friendly toothpaste. Gently brush in circular motions along the gumline. Make it a positive experience with praise and treats. Not all cats will tolerate having their teeth brushed, so have patience. [1]

Dental Exams

Take your cat for regular veterinary dental exams, usually once a year. The vet will check for signs of oral disease and clean your cat’s teeth professionally if needed. Cats over 3 years old often need yearly dental cleanings. Early detection allows treatment before dental disease progresses. [2]


Feed your cat kibble and canned food formulated to help control plaque and tartar. Look for the VOHC seal indicating the food meets veterinary dental standards. Avoid soft and sticky foods that cling to teeth. Also provide safe chew toys to help scrape plaque off teeth. [3]

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