There are moments when our cats can really catch us off-guard and finding your cat nibbling on a tube of toothpaste is one of them.
Toothpaste, while essential for our oral health, isn’t something that your cat should ingest.
What happens when your cat consumes it?
If your cat consumes toothpaste, it can be exposed to harmful ingredients like fluoride and xylitol. These compounds can lead to toxicity symptoms such as vomiting, a sudden drop in a cat’s blood sugar levels and even organ failure. Providing urgent veterinary care for your cat is very important.
In this guide, we’ll delve into the potential implications of feline toothpaste ingestion and arm you with practical steps to ensure your cat’s well-being
Is Toothpaste Bad For Cats?
Toothpaste that is meant for human usage is bad for cats.
It is highly toxic to cats and pet owners should always remember to cap their toothpaste tubes and keep them out of reach of their cats.
There are two active ingredients in human toothpaste that have been proven to be harmful to cats.
They are Xylitol and Fluoride and these compounds can be harmful when swallowed.
Since cats don’t have the ability to spit out something that is harmful, they will ingest the toothpaste if they happen to lick it.
What Is Xylitol?
Xylitol is basically an artificial sweetener that is made from Xylose which is present in plants.
Given that many manufacturers are aware that people are more health-conscious these days, many food items contain Xylitol in them.
Xylitol is commonly found in these products:
- Baked products
- ‘Sugar-Free’ products
You should always read the ingredient label of human food before feeding it to your pet.
Is Xylitol Poisonous To Cats?
While not harmful to humans, Xylitol is very toxic to cats and many other animals when eaten.
It Is extremely toxic to cats because of the way this compound is digested in their bodies.
When Xylitol is broken down in a cat’s body, it raises the insulin level in the cat’s body by a dangerous amount, almost six times more than normal sugar!
Insulin allows the cells in our body to absorb glucose which is an energy source.
With the insulin levels in the cat so extreme, it can lead to low sugar levels in the blood or Hypoglycemia.
Your cat doesn’t need to ingest a large amount of Xylitol for it to become toxic.
It only takes 0.1 grams of xylitol per kg of body weight to cause hypoglycemia in your cat.
If your cat is 8kg, it only takes 0.8g of Xylitol to do damage and your average toothpaste can contain up to 35% in Xylitol.
A cat that is hypoglycemic will lose its ability to function normally. It can also lead to loss of consciousness or even death.
Liver damage can also occur within 12-24 hours after your cat has eaten toothpaste. High doses of Xylitol can cause liver failure leading to death.
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride is basically a mineral that is found in bones and teeth.
It is also used in many dental products to strengthen the enamel which is the other layer of your tooth. Fluoride is also good in preventing cavities.
Flouride is primarily found in most toothpaste, mouthwashes and drinking water.
Is Fluoride Bad For Cats?
Fluoride is toxic to cats when ingested in large amounts.
Fluoride toxicity in cats can result in diarrhea, drooling, difficulty in breathing, unexplained weight loss and even sudden death.
The lethal amount of sodium fluoride generally lies between 5-10 mg/kg for most cats.
But for cats that are very sensitive to this chemical compound, a concentration roughly equal to 1 mg/kg can already be toxic.
If your cat has been exposed to fluoride over the long term, it is at risk of developing bone cancer or osteosarcoma.
Fluoride is also been known to cause digestive upset and also kidney and liver failure in cats.
What Should I Do If My Cat Ate My Toothpaste?
If your cat has unfortunately eaten some toothpaste, make sure to wipe its mouth clean of any remaining toothpaste and give your vet a call for advice.
The first signs of toothpaste toxicity are usually, weakness, vomiting, drooling, seizures and lack of coordination.
In fact, anything that seems out of the norm should be taken seriously.
Rush your cat to the vet for a complete examination to determine the severity of your cat’s condition.
Remember to also bring the toothpaste or dental product to the vet to determine the fluoride and xylitol levels.
How Much Toothpaste Is Toxic To A Cat?
It isn’t possible to ascertain the amount of toothpaste your cat needs to eat for it to be toxic.
For some cats it can just be one lick while for others, even a generous amount won’t do much harm.
Factors that can influence toothpaste toxicity include the weight of your cat and if it has any existing health issues.
A kitten ingesting toothpaste is a lot more serious than for an adult with that same amount.
You need to check with your vet to see if its necessary to bring your cat in after it has eaten toothpaste.
Why Do Cats Eat Toothpaste?
The minty smell of human toothpaste is enough to put off most cats from coming near, let alone eating it.
There might be cats who will let their curiosity get the better of them and eat human toothpaste.
Some cat breeds that can be very curious in nature like the Siamese and Bengal.
It is still uncertain as to why some cats are drawn to human toothpaste. It could be the texture or somewhat sweet taste of the paste.
Is Dental Hygiene Important For My Cat?
As unnerving as it may all sound so far, you should not ignore taking care of your cat’s teeth with the proper type of toothpaste.
It is important to keep your cat’s teeth healthy to prevent any tooth or gum tissues, like cavities, gingivitis and periodontitis.
These dental issues can be painful for your cat and can cause your cat to lose most of its teeth.
There are also certain medical conditions in cats like FELV or FIV that can cause chronic dental issues.
Owners with such cats need to be even more aware of their cat’s dental health.
What Kind Of Toothpaste Is Safe For Cats?
One thing that you should never do is to use human toothpaste to brush your cat’s teeth regardless of how small the amount is.
It is not worth the risk and it is a foolish thing to be doing as a cat owner.
There are special types of toothpaste that are specially made for pets that are fluoride and xylitol free.
It also doesn’t contain any substances that can be harmful to the cat.
A cat toothpaste won’t come in a minty flavor as it irritates the cat.
The usual flavors are modeled after food like chicken, salmon, beef or something that will be palatable for the cat.
Word of caution.
Be prepared to go through many flavors and brands before settling on one that your cat likes.
They are fussy and attempting to brush their teeth will be even more challenging if they hate the taste of the toothpaste.
Choosing The Right Toothbrush
Don’t use a toothbrush that is meant for humans as it might be too big and the bristles too hard.
Get one that is designed for a cat’s mouth to make your job easier.
You can also use a finger toothbrush which is basically a rubber muold of a toothbrush that you can slip over your finger.
Some cats prefer this as it is gentler on their teeth and gums.
How To Brush Your Cat’s Teeth?
This can be quite a challenge for you if your cat has not been trained to be ok with dental care since young.
Now that you have a toothpaste and toothbrush that your cat doesn’t mind, start with the upper teeth and brush with an oval motion around the teeth.
If your cat starts to show any form of discomfort or struggle, stop for a while and let your cat regain its composure.
Chances are you won’t be able to finish brushing the entire mouth in one sitting but that’s ok.
As your cat gets used to having its teeth brushed, it can tolerate a longer session.
Don’t forget to give your cat lots of praise and some treats for a job well done.
How Often Should I Brush My Cat’s Teeth?
A good practice would be to brush your cat’s teeth every day.
But if that is not possible due to your cat being too difficult, 3-4 times a week is fine too.
It is best to get your cat started on dental care while it is still a kitten as there’s usually less resistance.
This makes brushing your cat’s teeth as an adult a lot easier too.
Dental hygiene is important for cats and we should start to cultivate a brushing habit as a kitten.
However, do remember not to use human toothpaste on your cat as it is toxic for cats and can be fatal.
In the event that your cat has consumed human toothpaste, make sure to bring your cat to the vet for a proper check.