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Dangers of Alcoholic Dental Sprays for Dogs and Cats

Pet lovers beware: there’s a hidden danger on pet food shelves near you. Some dental sprays and gels intended to fight tartar build-up in our dogs and cats do more harm than good. Some of these products contain a pure grain alcohol content of 25% or more, and this is a preservative.

Twenty-five percent alcohol is what goes into a hard mixed drink. The alcohol content in these sprays and gels only goes up from there. While these treatments can be quick fixes for preventing gingivitis and periodontal disease (and are indeed safer alternatives to anesthetic cleanings), they are slowly but surely harming our pets.

Alcohol is a toxin

In moderation, human consumption is relatively safe. Shortly after ingestion, alcohol begins to be metabolized in the liver to acetic acid, which is non-toxic to the human body. Kidneys soon restore blood homeostasis ie water levels and pH etc. are balanced.

It has been suggested that since our Neolithic ancestors started partying over twelve thousand years ago, humans have evolved an ever-increasing tolerance for the hard stuff. Unfortunately for our four-legged friends, their bodies aren’t equipped to handle a hug the same way ours are.

Metabolic processes in cats and dogs are much more sensitive than in humans. This is partly a matter of evolution, but not the naturally selective type. Through selective breeding We have designed our pets to be smaller and more fragile than their cousins ​​in the wild. In drink lingo this makes them “light”.

So what does that mean?

It means that a spray of dental spray or gel swab with 25% pure grain alcohol given to a one hundred and eighty pound man three times the toxicity for a full sixty pound Black Lab.

For a twelve-pound Calico cat, it means fifteen times. And while just one application would be relatively harmless, recommended doses for these products typically call for two doses in the morning and two in the evening—day after day, night after night—depending on your pet’s genetic predisposition.

For animals whose metabolic systems are not suited to processing these toxins in the first place, that adds up to one hundred and twenty doses per month. Then, after their delicate metabolisms go into overdrive trying to detox the first dose of grain alcohol, the instructions on the bottle instruct you to bombard them with a second and later a third and a fourth.

There are consequences

Their liver simply does not have time to recover. Their kidneys, whose filtering abilities are initially compromised by alcohol, are not given time to restore blood homeostasis. With each subsequent installment, their workload multiplies. They need to work harder. Then the damage begins.

Additionally, another reason dogs and cats cannot process alcohol efficiently, even in small doses, is that their livers do not produce enough alcohol dehydrogenase. This important enzyme (found in much greater abundance in humans) is necessary to break down alcohol. In fact, a cat’s liver is so poorly equipped to break down the concoction that two teaspoons of whiskey, according to Columbia Animal Hospital, is enough to put it into a coma. A single tablespoon will kill them.

Of course, with these sprays and gels we are talking about much milder amounts and potency than whiskey measured in tablespoons. But again, the culprit here is the quiet guy – which makes it all the more dangerous.

In time, its impact will become more apparent. When the cat’s reflexes become less cat-like, the grain alcohol has begun to attack the central nervous system. When the dog eats grass on a consistent basis to get sick, his gastrointestinal tract is on the fritz.

Don’t wait for these signs

By this time it may be too late.

But let’s not end this article on such a gloomy note. You see, there are alcohol-free pet dental sprays and gels (including one that I highly recommend) that do the job every time just like their toxic competitors. A simple brushing once a week with some beef flavored toothpaste and occasionally carrot (they’re great at breaking up tartar if your dog isn’t picky) also works wonders.

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