Should Your Cat Get Greenies Daily? The Pros and Cons

What are Greenies?

Greenies are dental treats designed for cats and dogs. They are made to be chewy to help clean teeth and control tartar. Greenies come in a variety of flavors, shapes, and sizes tailored for different animals.

The Greenies brand was created in 1996 by pet owners Joe and Judy Roetheli who wanted to improve their dog’s bad breath. They worked with veterinarians and nutritionists to develop an effective dental treat. The resulting Greenies treats helped clean the dog’s teeth and freshen its breath. The products were first sold locally before expanding nationally. Today Greenies are one of the most popular dental treats for pets and are manufactured by The Nutro Company (source).

Greenies Ingredients

Greenies contain the following main ingredients:

  • Wheat Flour
  • Glycerin
  • Gelatin
  • Oat Fiber
  • Water
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Calcium Carbonate
  • Natural Flavors
  • Dicalcium Phosphate
  • Sodium Tripolyphosphate

These ingredients serve various purposes in Greenies dental treats:

  • Wheat flour gives the treats their chewy texture.
  • Glycerin helps keep the treats moist.
  • Gelatin acts as a binder and provides palatability.
  • Oat fiber adds dietary fiber.
  • Water hydrates the treats.
  • Vegetable oil provides fat and flavor.
  • Calcium carbonate is a source of calcium.
  • Natural flavors enhance palatability.
  • Dicalcium phosphate adds calcium and phosphorus.
  • Sodium tripolyphosphate is used as a preservative and stabilizer.

Benefits of Greenies

Greenies are advertised as helping clean dogs’ teeth and control tartar buildup through mechanical abrasion as the dog chews on the treat. The chewy texture allows the teeth to sink in and scrub the surfaces, according to the Greenies website (source). The shape and texture help clean even hard-to-reach surfaces on the teeth and gums.

By controlling plaque and tartar, Greenies can help promote better dental health in dogs. According to Greenies, giving one dental treat daily can help keep teeth clean, maintain healthy gums, and freshen dog breath (source). The mechanical chewing action also provides mental stimulation.

Other advertised benefits include freshening breath, satisfying dogs’ chewing instincts in a healthy way, and providing an enjoyable treat.

Potential Risks of Overfeeding

Feeding your cat too many Greenies dental treats can pose some health risks. Here are some of the main potential dangers:

Choking Hazard – Greenies are quite small and can present a choking hazard, especially for smaller cats or kittens. Eating multiple Greenies treats in one sitting increases the risk of choking. According to petloverguy.com, cats should only be given 1-2 Greenies per day to avoid potential choking dangers.

Weight Gain – Greenies are calorie-dense treats. Feeding too many can lead to unhealthy weight gain over time. Obesity in cats raises the risk for other health issues like diabetes and joint problems. It’s best to limit Greenies as directed and account for the calories when planning your cat’s overall diet.

Vitamin Overdose – Greenies contain high levels of vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin E, and taurine. While these are beneficial in moderation, overconsumption could potentially lead to toxicity. Sticking to the recommended daily serving prevents any risk of vitamin overdose, according to this Quora source.

Overall, it’s important to follow the package guidelines and limit Greenies intake to avoid potential health hazards. Moderation is key when feeding these tasty treats.

Recommended Feeding Guidelines

Greenies provides the following suggested serving sizes for cats:[1]

  • 5 to 10 lb: 6-8 pieces per serving, twice daily
  • 10 to 15 lb: 8-10 pieces per serving, twice daily
  • Over 15 lb: 10-12 pieces per serving, twice daily

These serving recommendations are designed to provide the dental benefits of Greenies while keeping calorie intake moderate. It’s important not to exceed the suggested amounts.

Veterinary experts typically recommend limiting treats like Greenies to <10% of a cat's daily caloric intake to prevent overfeeding and obesity.[2] For the average adult cat, that equates to about 1-2 dental treats per day.

The Greenies feeding guide is a good starting point, but cat owners should monitor their pet’s weight and adjust as needed. Consulting a vet can also help determine the ideal Greenies frequency for each individual cat.

Signs Your Cat is Overeating Greenies

If your cat is consuming too many Greenies treats, there are some signs you may notice that could indicate overeating. According to sources, the main signs to watch for include:

Change in bathroom habits: Eating too many Greenies could lead to gastrointestinal upset, resulting in diarrhea, constipation, or changes in litter box habits. As one source notes, “If your cat eats more than the recommended number of Greenies per day, she may experience a variety of gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting and diarrhea.”

Change in weight: Overconsumption of treats like Greenies could lead to weight gain in cats. Monitor your cat’s weight and body condition closely if feeding Greenies daily.

Other signs of overconsumption: Excessive thirst, lethargy, and lack of appetite for regular food are other potential signs your cat may be getting too many treats. Additionally, some sources mention the risk of toxicity if a cat eats a very large quantity at one time.

It’s important to follow the feeding guidelines on the Greenies package and be aware of how many treats your individual cat is getting each day. Every cat is different, but signs like increased thirst, appetite changes, or digestive upset could indicate it’s time to cut back on the daily Greenies.

Alternatives to Greenies

While Greenies are a popular dental treat, there are other options pet owners can consider for their cat’s dental health:

Other Dental Treats and Chews

Some alternatives to Greenies include Purina DentaLife treats, C.E.T. Enzymatic Oral Hygiene Chews, and Feline Greenies SmartBites. These products are designed to clean teeth and freshen breath like Greenies, but provide different ingredients, textures, and flavors.

Brushing Teeth

Brushing your cat’s teeth daily or several times per week is considered the gold standard for cat dental care. It mechanically removes plaque and tartar from the teeth. Use a soft bristled toothbrush and cat-safe toothpaste.

Dental Diet

Feeding a veterinary dental diet or dental kibble can also help control tartar. These foods are formulated to clean teeth as the cat chews. Some popular prescription dental diets are Hill’s Prescription Diet t/d and Royal Canin Dental.

Greenies Safety Reviews

Greenies have been the subject of some controversy regarding their safety for cats. In 2006, the FDA investigated reports of illness and death in cats associated with Greenies dental treats, though the company stated the treats were safe when fed as directed (1).

In one 2007 study funded by the Greenies company, 16 cats were fed the dental treats for 6 months. Researchers concluded the treats did not cause any significant clinical side effects (2). However, independent veterinarians have pointed out that a sample of 16 cats is quite small. More studies may be needed to thoroughly evaluate Greenies safety for long-term use.

Some pet owners have reported instances of their cats getting sick, vomiting, or choking after eating Greenies treats. Recalls have been issued several times due to the risk of obstruction when the treats are not chewed properly. While Greenies states their treats help reduce tartar, some vets argue there is little scientific evidence to support their dental health claims.

Overall, Greenies appear relatively safe for most cats if sized and fed appropriately. However, some vets recommend caution until more rigorous, long-term studies are conducted, especially for pets with a history of gastrointestinal issues. Monitoring your cat while they eat dental treats is also advised.

(1) https://www.dvm360.com/view/fda-investigates-adverse-events-tied-greenies-maker-changes-label

(2) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1090023307004638

Owner Experiences with Greenies

Many cat owners have shared their experiences giving Greenies to their cats. Overall, most reviews seem positive. On Amazon, Greenies dental treats for cats have an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars based on over 5,500 reviews. Positive reviews mention the treats helping with dental health, keeping cats’ teeth clean, and being an enjoyable treat for cats who love the taste [1].

For example, one cat owner said “This is my cats favorite flavor! He begs to get the clean-teeth treat kind too, so this is always a go-to. The price is always reasonable, and go pretty far…” [1]. Another wrote “My cats love these treats. It helps keep their teeth clean. I have been buying them for years” [1].

However, some owners have complained about potential choking hazards, digestion issues, or cats not liking the taste. One owner said “My cat gagged repeatedly trying to get it down and threw it back up minutes later” [2]. But most reviews mention these issues being rare, and proper supervision and portion control can prevent problems.

The Verdict on Daily Greenies

When fed according to the guidelines, Greenies offer many benefits for cats. The crunchy texture helps clean teeth and control tartar buildup. The taste appeals to most felines, making it an easy way to encourage play and treat-time bonding. They’re low in calories yet packed with vitamins and minerals. However, Greenies should be considered a supplement, not a dietary staple.

Overfeeding Greenies can lead to nutritional imbalances, upset stomach, or even gastrointestinal blockage in rare cases. Cats easily become accustomed to the taste and may beg for more and more treats. It’s important for owners to stick to the recommended portions to avoid overindulgence.

The optimal frequency for feeding Greenies is 2-3 times per week at most. This allows your cat to gain the dental and enjoyment benefits of this popular treat without the risks of overconsumption. Rotate Greenies with other treats to add more variety. And as always, provide unlimited access to fresh water and a balanced cat food diet.

While Greenies are a safe, enjoyable treat in moderation, daily overfeeding can pose unnecessary health risks. Follow the portion guidelines and limit Greenies to a few times per week for optimal health and happiness.

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