Dental disease in cats and dogs develops for various reasons. It is not as simple as what they eat. Some breeds are particularly prone to developing dental problems, e.g. Yorkshire Terrier and Greyhounds so there is likely a genetic predisposition in some dogs. Viral infections, e.g. calicivirus, are thought to be a primary cause of stomatitis and resorptive lesions cats. Misaligned teeth or retained baby teeth will also allow dental disease to form more quickly.
Many cases are simply the natural process of food and bacteria adhering to teeth. This builds up over a few days to form plaque. Bacteria interacts with plaque and minerals in the saliva to form the cement like tartar, or calculus. Calculus plus more bacteria lead to gum disease, periodontal disease and bone loss around the teeth.
This is why our dentists advise us to brush our teeth twice daily. If we brushed our dogs, or cats, teeth twice daily from an early age, we could prevent dental disease in our pets too! We understand this isn’t easy so it is inevitable that most of our pets will develop dental disease by the time they are middle aged.
Does diet help? Any type of food that adheres less to the teeth will help reduce the build-up of plaque, and if the food can partly clean the teeth as it is eaten, this is even better. Dry food will do this more than wet food but unless it is a specially designed dental kibble, the effect is minimal. Specialised dental chews can help with the cleaning process if given daily. Hard chews like bones or antlers can be actually harmful as they are more likely to fracture the teeth, than clean plaque off.