Kitty and doggy dental health: out of sight, out of mind?

Most pet owners take good care of their pets by feeding them well. Heck, you’re probably here because you care about your pet. But many dog and cat owners overlook their pets’ dental health, maybe because 1.) out of sight, out of mind 2.) it’s too difficult and…well, some are just lazy.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, at three years of age, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of oral disease, and that is the most commonly diagnosed health problem in pets.

If left untreated (cos most pet owners don’t stare down their pets’ throats like crocodile trainers), oral disease could snowball into broken teeth, cavities, tooth root abscesses. Is that gross enough?


Oh brave soul! Thou carest truly for thy crocodile’s teeth! 

What if I told you that oral diseases could also cause tooth resorption, where the pet’s immune system attacks its own teeth?


This is what kitty tooth resorption looks like. (Pic source:

And you think it only affects the mouth? Think again! Oral diseases can cause nasal infection, eye loss and even cancer. (Somehow everything seems to cause cancer these days…)

But it’s about time we changed that!

Assuming you aren’t feeding a raw diet and raw meaty bones of suitable size for your pet (which helps to clean teeth and prevent oral diseases), what do you do?

Well, there are a lot of products out there in the market. Let’s take a look at some of them. I got most of the following products from Hong Kong, long ago before they even reached our sunny shores. Think we’re the most updated on pet products? Nah. Think again!

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You’ll see many of these sprays sold today. Personally, I do like this one because it smells minty and fresh, but very few cats appreciate you spraying stuff into their mouths. The trick is to squeeze the liquid into the little space between teeth and cheek, so it doesn’t feel so intrusive.

Does it work?

In my opinion…no. You can spray all you want on the chew toy and food, and gums, but they won’t be very effective, because the liquid can’t be made strong enough to really ‘eat away’ at the tartar without harming your pets’ health.

There’s a bacon-flavoured spray that I put on my dad’s dog’s dental toy, but again, it’s the chewing motion of the nylabone that really cleans the teeth.

Nonetheless, it smells great, and I feel good (marketing to the owner always works!).

Do note that it contains mint oil, and some pets are allergic to it.

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What about this? Got this again, in Hong Kong some time ago, and I stopped using it in about 1-2 months. That makes me a hoarder. 😦 I’m sorry I can’t share this with anyone, and even if I could, I wouldn’t share this.


Because it contains seaweed. Hold on, I mean, it IS seaweed. This is powdered seaweed!

The word ‘natural’ frequently annoys me because hey, Deathcap mushrooms can kill a human real fast, and it’s also very natural.


Au Naturel stomachache  & vomiting in the woods! 

So can belladonna, black widows and rattlesnakes. So please do take note of pet foods sold as ‘natural’ or ‘premium’ or ‘ultra premium’ (just saw a new pet food boasting this a couple of days ago)–it means nothing much, really. You gotta read the ingredients.

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Powdered seaweed in a cute little scoop.

Now you’ll read rave reviews about this on the internet, and yes I did think it worked during the period when my cats were on canned food, BUT it comes from seaweed that has antibacterial qualities (not carrageenan) and seaweed is very high in iodine.

Iodine levels in both cats and dogs are delicate. Any more and any less will result in hyperthyroidism (in layman’s terms, this just means that the thyroid gets overexcited and produces too much hormones) and hypothyroidism (this means that the thyroid has decided it needs a field day off and refuses to be productive), neither of which is good for your pet. In recent years, annoyed thyroids either getting too excited or going on strike in pets are getting more and more common. Is it because we’re feeding them crappy foods? Maybe. America’s largest pet health insurance seems to think so.

An every day little dose of this may eventually lead to a build-up of excess iodine, and there you’ll be at the vet’s consoling a sick pet and a bulimic wallet. I warned you!

Moving on,

I do like this quite a fair bit.

All you have to do is to add this to pets’ water, they drink it, and it helps their breath to stay fresh and also prevents plaque.

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Now Triple-pet has had a great scare recall in 2009 where the batch was recalled because many dogs and cats were dying being fed with mold-contaminated Plaque-off. The company maintained that there was nothing harmful to the pets from the mold, but the fact was that many pets did get sick from it.

But that’s besides the point. Manufactured food items must at some point have been recalled, whether from nutrient deficiency, or mishandling, or whatnot.

The point is, I did think this worked, and my cats weren’t allergic to this ingredient called sodium benzoate…which is a preservative. Do be careful, because cats are also less tolerant to benzoate salts than other animals, and a study published in the Asian Journal of Medical and Clinical Sciences has found sodium benzoate to cause liver cell damage in lab mice.

I don’t give this to them anymore, BUT, hell, it did work. And even their waste got less smelly. Just make sure that your bottle isn’t moldy and that your pet isn’t allergic to this.

Here’s another product that has worked well for me:

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Both from Hong Kong, though now you can easily find it in Singapore. The one on the left (peppermint) was greatly hated with a great passion–Max started foaming at the mouth and ran foaming around the house shaking his head: the taste must’ve been so bad! So I bought the salmon flavoured one. They seemed to like it more. At least no one bubbled profusely at the mouth like a dying crab.

Did it work? Yep, it did! Slowly but surely over the period of a couple of weeks where I stopped brushing just to try this, Muffin the picky pig’s tartar decreased and I could see nice whitish teeth again. I’ve never really made friends with Faith’s hissy maw, so I can’t judge the effectiveness for her, but the results were good on Muffin.

Do I still use it? Eh, no, not frequently, at least. The peppermint one has already expired. Raw diets really do keep their teeth clean, though I still brush their teeth just to remind them of the sensation.

Do note that these contain grain alcohol, and peppermint, thyme and neem oils, all of which may irritate your pet, although of course the company says that there are no side effects. These are approved by some holistic veterinarians out there, and frankly, if you have no time for your pets’ teeth, I suppose these would do (especially if you have aging pets who cannot undergo sedation for dental scaling).

And now…


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Chlorhexidine, a chemical antiseptic, is often used as a topical wound or infection cleanser in cats and dogs. In low doses, it is also considered safe for pets. The American Veterinary Dental College says that ‘rarely’ has this been found to cause problems. But again, it is hard to attribute pet problems to any one particular chemical unless the animal is exposed to it under lab conditions…and there are numerous studies done on toxicity rates of even ‘low’ doses.

The problem is, if chlorhexidine can kill ‘bad bacteria’, it can certainly also kill ‘good bacteria’, hence the number of pets reported to have vomited after given dental treats with chlorhexidine. On the other hand, there are people who have given treats containing chlorhexidine to pets for over years without much side effects.

In any case, cleanliness or not; low dosage or not, I won’t be using these on the cats.

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Kibble (with or without chlorhexidine!) does not…clean..teeth. No, really. Unless the pet takes a long time to masticate it properly, kibble is useless. And cats and dogs do not chew on kibble the way they do on a chew bone or raw meaty bone.

So well,

What can you do, if you didn’t want to use any of the above? You can use this!

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A humble little toothbrush.


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Some old toothpastes that I used to use on the kitties…

In my opinion, the toothpastes are optional. It helps your pet to get used to the brushing, though mine never liked the toothpaste taste very much. Plus, the paste does get stuck onto their chin, my fingers, their whiskers…not very nice.

Anyway now I brush without a paste. It’s the scraping action that gets rid of tartar, and the same scraping action is provided when your pet chomps on chunky meat or raw meaty bones.

Then there are these:

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Triangular-headed brushes.

Which I think is cumbersome and unnecessary, unless your dog (these are too big for cats in general, unless your cat is a whale) is a tooth brushing pro.


Finger toothbrushes–more for getting your pet used to brushing. Too big for cats.

This is better for beginners:


Microfibre cloth finger cleaners.

I find this better because it’s softer, and pets aren’t put off by this thing you’re sticking into their mouths. There’s a higher chance they think it’s your finger. But does it work as well as brushes? Nope. Think of this as a step towards brushing.

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The conventional toothbrush that you see in the stores in Singapore is still too big though, so on a holiday in Hong Kong, to my delight, I saw this weeny thing!

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Tiny thing for cats (or really tiny chihuahua puppies I guess)!

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This is the brand. It cost me $12 SGD, which is considered expensive in HK. It was sold in a petstore that carried mostly Japanese pet accessories.

[Edit: It’s now sold in Pet Station pet shops in Singapore!] 

So… how do you start your pet off toothbrushing? Start them off young if possible, but if not, you can do the same here. It’s easier to get dogs to try brushing, and in any case, dogs love to chew, so a nylabone will help out a lot, if you don’t want to use a raw meaty bone. I usually give my dad’s dog (who came to us quite wild) a meaty bone frequently, and his teeth are very nice and clean. He also has access to a nylabone all the time. For a 20kg dog he chews like a heavy-duty grinder, so we have to change his nylabones very often. $$$ !

Do the same for puppies/ brushing newbies to get them used to being touched around the mouth and gums and teeth.And for adult cat owners…if you can wash a cat, you can conquer the world. Tell yourself that!! Keep going (though please be careful with cats with a tendency to scratch or bite!). With lots of love and firm consistency, pets can be conditioned into accepting a lot of things, including dental care (Max came to us in early adulthood, but he’s learnt to accept it).

And here’s a video of Muffin getting his teeth brushed… Usually I’d have him belly-up on my lap with his little nose facing me, because that’s a lot easier. Does he mind? Well he doesn’t LIKE it, but he’s okay as long as he gets a little treat at the end and lots of love.

For this post however, I’ve  decided to do it on the table because 1.) I’m camera shy! hoho and 2.) You can’t see anything if I’m sticking my face in his face.

Out of all 3 cats, Muffin is the most prone to tartar build-up.

Still, some cats like Faith absolutely abhor brushing even after years of trying. So…this is what you can do, assuming that your cat is docile.

Sneak attack and run!

You only need to clean the exterior of the cats’ teeth because their barbed tongue will take care of the inside-facing parts of their teeth. However, for dogs, you need to get the insides as well. Here’s an article from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to help dog owners out!

If you’re consistent (and lucky!), your cat will probably get used to it and may even try to ‘brush’ their own teeth.

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Here’s Max. He’s the only one who’ll attempt to do his own ‘brushing’.

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Not very successful though! He sort of just gnaws on my expensive little toothbrush.

When your cat is comfortable having his lips touched, you can separate them with two fingers on one hand, like this:

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For photo purposes I used two hands and a friend. hehe! See all the teeth back in there? You need to get those as well, else you’d have sparkly canines and incisors but rotten back molars. The same goes for dogs as well. Your dog will have to need to get accustomed to having his mouth held for the brushing of teeth interiors.

(Now do you see why they have triangular toothbrushes made for dogs? It’s to get both the interior and exterior together at one go)

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And then, brush!

Some readers have told me of cats as young as 3 years old needing to have their teeth pulled, or older cats who have nearly no teeth left and hence have to be on canned food for the rest of their lives. A horrible cycle, because while kibble doesn’t clean teeth, it is not as bad to teeth as canned food is. BUT as we know, pets are often dehydrated, and kibble full of grains and carbo…which makes feeding canned better…

So if you do not brush… *awkward pause*

To prevent teeth needing to be pulled out, please brush, OR feed a raw diet! There will come a day when your pet is too old to go for scaling and there will be nowhere for the teeth to go but out.

To end off, here’s a kitty blooper video…we had to take quite a number of videos before we could do this post. =.=””

Categories: Condition-specific needs, The Raw Explorer

2 replies

  1. I just want to add that the whole point of teeth cleaning is to get rid of bacteria so that tartar and other problems won’t build up and cause worse health etc.

    There are easier, cheaper and effective options. Just to add a note, many (if not most) pet toothpaste/teeth cleaning products contain sorbitol (plant-based sugar alcohol) which is toxic to pets, even though it is always claimed that in that small amount, it is not.

    Cheaper option 1:
    Aloe vera gel – get a whole fresh leaf from the market/supermarket. Cut a small bit of gel out and rub on to the pet’s teeth. It dissolves plaque and gets rid of the germy stuff.

    Cheaper option 2:
    Use a normal washcloth/gauze and dip it in HEAVILY DILUTED alcohol free mouthwash with a drop/spritz of colloidal silver. Choose your own flavour or the original ones. Rub on pet’s teeth.

    • Thank you Vic 😉 That’s really helpful! I really like the ‘cheaper option’ part as well. Yes, that’s right, should have added that teeth cleaning is to get rid of bacteria…and as always, companies will claim that in small amounts, ‘X’ will not harm pets. But really, what else do we expect them to say? They can’t defame their own product.

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