February is National Pet Dental Health Month but every month is important for your cat’s dental health. Find out why with our timely tips. Updated 2019.
Did you know by age 3, 70% of cats show signs of periodontal disease? It’s Cat Love Month. Let’s show our cats true love by caring for their teeth. I confess to having minimal success with brushing my cats’ teeth and use dental gels and drinking water additive instead.
Our dear friend and mentor the late Lorie Huston DVM shares her dental tips to give pet parents something to smile about.
Feline Dental Care Tips by Dr. Lorie Huston DVM
Make no mistake; your cat does need proper dental care. Without it, he could suffer pain from bad teeth and other dental diseases as well as being at risk for even more serious illnesses, like heart and kidney disease.
Adequate dental care for your cat depends on both home care and veterinary care. At home, brushing your cat’s teeth is the gold standard in dental care. With patience, training and practice, most cats can be taught to tolerate having their teeth brushed. Training your cat as a kitten is helpful but older cats can be taught as well.
- Start slowly, moving one step at a time and allowing your cat to adjust before moving on to the next step.
- Start by simply using gauze on your fingertip to rub your cat’s teeth and gums.
- Then move on to the toothbrush, at first merely placing the brush against the teeth. Once you can place the brush on your cat’s teeth without reaction, start moving the brush in a circular motion.
- The last step is introducing the toothpaste. Use only toothpaste designed for cats.
Merlin being examined by his vet.
For cats that will not accept having their teeth brushed, other alternatives are available. These include dental chews like Greenies for Cats. Foods formulated for dental control can be helpful to some extent as well. However, these alternatives are not likely to be as effective as brushing and may necessitate more frequent veterinary dental examinations and cleanings.
During the course of your cat’s regular examinations, your veterinarian will perform a cursory exam of your cat’s mouth. However, veterinary dental care for your cat will involve anesthesia. Without anesthesia, your veterinarian will be unable to adequately examine your cat’s teeth.
There are several steps to a thorough oral examination.
- First, your veterinarian will examine each individual tooth as well as the other structures in your cat’s mouth looking for evidence of dental disease and other abnormalities in your cat’s mouth. Radiographs (x-rays) of your cat’s mouth may be necessary as well as part of the oral exam.
- Next, your veterinarian will clean your cat’s teeth. This cleaning must be done while your cat is anesthetized as well. A special ultrasonic dental cleaning device is used to remove the tartar and plaque not only from the visible surfaces of your cat’s teeth but also from under the gum line, which is where dental disease starts.
- Finally, your veterinarian will develop a plan to treat and/or control any disease found in your cat’s mouth. Treatments may range from more vigilant at-home care to root canals or even extraction of diseased teeth, depending on the condition of your cat’s mouth.