For our feline companions, dental health is critical to good long-term oral and overall health. Here, our Scottsdale vets explain how to best care for your cat's teeth and maintain their dental health. We also describe how to tell if your pet has dental health issues and list the benefits of professional pet dental care.
Dental Health for Cats
Similar to their humans, cats need regular dental care from their vet. But most of our four-legged friends don't see the vet for dental care as often as they should, and suffer for it — plaque buildup, dental disease and periodontal disease are common health problems seen by veterinarians.
Since our feline companions are so good at hiding their pain sometimes, you might have difficulty telling whether they are suffering from a painful oral health problem without revealing that they're uncomfortable.
For this reason, cat owners should clean their kitty's teeth on a regular basis, book regular dental exams and cleanings and keep a close watch on their furry companion's oral health. This way, you'll be more likely to identify whether oral health issues are causing problems early and potentially help your cat avoid pain and expensive treatment.
How to Clean Your Cat's Teeth
Keeping your cat's teeth and gums clean and healthy throughout their lifetime is an ongoing task. Luckily, you can start establishing a daily oral hygiene routine for your kitty early. Doing this while they are still a kitten can help them adapt to having their teeth clean and make for an easy and stress-free at-home hygiene routine long-term.
To start, wait until your cat is calm and relaxed, then follow these steps:
- Lift your cat's lips gently before using your finger to massage their teeth and gums for a few seconds.
- Don't place too many expectations on your cat at first. You may only end up reaching a couple of teeth the first few times you attempt to brush. That's okay; this is about building trust in your cat to help prevent them from becoming agitated.
- Stay calm and make sure to provide lots of praise and a delicious kitty treat after your teeth-and-gum massage session. You're aiming to build your cat's tolerance for the experience. Gradually increase the length of time you spend on this task every day.
- Once your cat has become used to their daily gum massage, you'll be able to gradually introduce a soft-bristled toothbrush (get one at your vet's or pet store) and some special cat toothpaste. These toothpastes can be found in a range of great flavors cats love, such as chicken or beef.
- Begin by introducing the toothbrush as gradually as you did the teeth-and-gum massage; your cat might start with licking just a small dab of toothpaste from your finger. Place the brush bristles at a 45-degree angle where the teeth and gum meet, then use a gentle oval pattern to reach 3 to 4 teeth at a time while you move the bristles around the teeth.
- Complete 10 short oval motions before shifting the toothbrush to a new location in the mouth. Focus on the outside upper teeth since they do the most chewing.
How to Tell If Your Cat Has a Dental Health Problem
Do you suspect your cat has a dental health issue? If you notice these common symptoms, it's time to schedule a visit to the vet.
- Loose or broken teeth
- Abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food from the mouth
- Pain or swelling in or around the mouth
- Extra teeth or retained baby teeth
- Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
- Teeth with discoloration or tartar buildup
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Foul odor coming from the mouth
Maintaining Your Cat's Hygiene Routine
Along with brushing, oral rinses and gels may help in the battle against plaque on your cat's teeth. Chlorhexidine is the most effective antiseptic for preventing plaque buildup. Apply this rinse by quirting a small amount inside the cheek on each side of the mouth. Apply the gel directly to the teeth using a brush or finger (keep in mind that many cats object to the taste of these products even if they are flavored).
For bad plaque problems, a special approved dental diet may help. Your vet may recommend kibble that's specially designed or contains chemicals to bind and facilitate breakdown of plaque or tartar. While dental chew treats can also be used to supplement tooth brushing, they should not replace your cat's daily oral hygiene routine.
Annual Dental Checkups for Cats
To make sure that your cat's mouth remains pain-free and healthy, our veterinarians recommend making annual dental care visits to your vet's office a part of their preventative healthcare routine. Your Flat Rock veterinarian will evaluate your pet's oral health on top of their overall physical health and let you know if any professional dental cleaning or surgery is required to restore your cat's good health.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. If you are concerned about your pet's health, contact your veterinarian right away for diagnosis and treatment.