Just like us, our cats' dental health is key to their general physical health and well-being. Today, our vets in the Pacific Northwest offer some tips on caring for your cat's teeth and maintaining their dental health. We also explain how to tell if your pet has oral health issues and discuss the benefits of professional pet dental cleaning exams.
Your Cat's Dental Health
Similar to their human friends, our cats should receive regular dental care from their vet. However, most felines don't get enough of this type of care and often end up suffering for it — plaque buildup, periodontal disease and dental disease are common issues veterinarians see on a regular basis.
Because our kitty companions are sometimes very good at hiding their pain, it might be challenging to discern whether they are suffering from a painful oral health issue without revealing their discomfort.
This is why cat owners need to keep a close eye on their kitty's oral health. Your furry friend's teeth will also need to be brushed at home on a regular basis and they should see the vet for annual dental cleanings. By closely monitoring your cat's oral health and regularly cleaning their teeth, you'll be able to detect any oral health issues early and perhaps help your cat avoid pain and even expensive treatment.
How to Clean Your Cat's Teeth
Maintaining a daily oral hygiene routine for your cat will go a long way to helping them keep their teeth and gums healthy long-term. Establishing this routine while your cat is still a young kitten can help make cleaning your cat's teeth at home as easy and stress-free as possible, for both of you. This way, your cat will get used to having their teeth brushed and mouth touched from a young age.
Your aim is to make brushing your cat's teeth a normal, stress-free and easy task in your kitty's daily routine. Begin by waiting until your cat is calm and relaxed, then follow these steps:
- Lift your cat's lips gently, then use your finger to massage their teeth and gums for just a few seconds.
- Don't expect too much from this daily routine at first. You may only be able to reach a couple of teeth the first few times you attempt the process, and that's okay. This is about building trust in your cat to help keep them from becoming agitated.
- Stay calm and be sure to offer lots of praise and a yummy treat after your teeth-and-gum massage. You're trying to build your cat's tolerance to the experience. Gradually, you'll be able to increase the length of time you spend on this task each day.
- Once your feline friend is used to you massaging their gums each day, you will be able to gradually introduce a soft-bristled toothbrush you can acquire from you vet and some special cat toothpaste. Toothpaste can come in a range of excellent flavors for cats like beef or chicken.
- Begin using the toothbrush as gradually as you did the teeth-and-gum massage; your cat may begin with licking just a small dab of toothpaste from your finger. Place the toothbrush bristles at a 45-degree angle where the teeth and gum meet, and use a gentle oval pattern to reach three to four teeth at a time, moving the bristles around the teeth.
- Complete 10 short oval motions before moving the toothbrush to a new location in the mouth. Focus on the outside upper teeth since they do the most chewing.
Find Out Whether 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.
- Extra teeth or retained baby teeth
- Loose or broken teeth
- Pain or swelling in or around the mouth
- Foul odor coming from the mouth
- Teeth with discoloration or tartar buildup
- Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food 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 squirting 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 the Pacific Northwest 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 pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.