If you’re a cat owner, chances are you have other things on your mind than feline dental care. However, to keep your cat happy and healthy, dental care should be included in your routine. Here are a few reasons why your cat needs routine dental care:

For starters, cats in the wild have different food sources than domesticated cats. Their meals primarily consists of rodents, birds, and other small prey animals. They tap into their hunting instincts, and use a combination of chewing and tearing to eat the meat and bones of their prey. This helps clean their teeth naturally and effectively, and can even help prevent illness despite veterinary care.

Unless your house cat is raw fed (meals must be balanced and include bones, organs and a wide variety of protein types), the typical cat food does not provide many dental care benefits. House cats are not using all of their teeth as they were innately designed to due to the size, shape and convenience of prepackaged foods.

Does my Cat Need to go to the Vet?

If your cat has noticeably bad breath, chances are its time for a trip to the vet. Notice if your cat is refusing to eat kibble, or has swollen and red gums. Also make note of any behavioral changes or if your cat is pawing at the mouth.

A veterinarian can do a full exam and investigate any dental health issues. Typically, if there is an issue with a tooth, it will need to be extracted. Cat teeth are generally too small for fillings or repair. If your cat does have any tooth issues, we recommend that you commit to dental checkups every six months to ensure that your cat is happy and healthy! Regular cleanings and wellness checks with your veterinarian help prevent illnesses caused by poor dental hygiene.  There are four common oral health issues in cats that routine dental care helps to prevent:

 

Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORL)

Often called “cat cavities”, FORL appears in about half the cats. Plaque builds up under the gums and attacks the cementum, the part that covers the tooth root. The FORL may progress into the interior of the tooth, called the dentin, and may attack the root and the crown. The tooth simply starts disintegrating from this dental disease.

Fractured Teeth

Most fractures occur from trauma or occasionally through chewing. The exposed root can become infected if not treated. Even if it doesn’t get infected, it can be very painful for your cat and they show signs of behavioral changes.

Periodontal Disease

The most common dental problem. Approximately 85 percent of cats who are older than six years old have this issue. Periodontal disease is caused by plaque build up on the teeth. The gums grow inflamed from this build up and becomes gingivitis.

Feline Gingivitis/Stomatitis Syndrome (FGS)

Of the four cat dental diseases, this is generally the most uncommon and is found in about 1 percent of the cats. It is caused by diseases such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline leukemia virus (FeLV), and some other viruses. Cats experience severe inflammation of the mouth lining and gums, making it exceedingly hard for them to eat.

 

Caring for Your Cat’s Teeth

Your vet can recommend dental care diets that will help keep your cat healthy. These are formulated to reduce plaque and help keep your cat’s teeth cleaner. However, according to Jean Hovre, DVM, no one food keeps a cat’s teeth healthy. In fact, dry food can cause many dental problems because it isn’t a diet cats were designed for. However, she’s seen tooth problems in cats with all kinds of diets, including raw diets, natural diets, canned diets, and of course, dry food diets so unless you go with a tartar control formula, chances are your cat is going need routine teeth brushing.

As difficult as this sounds, you can train your cat to accept tooth brushing. This can take time, so start gently and don’t get frustrated if your cat doesn’t want a tooth brush in its mouth! You should first have a veterinarian examine your cat’s teeth and gums to be sure that your cat’s gums aren’t sore from an infection. Ask your veterinarian to show you how to properly brush, or you can use this guide to help you:

How to Brush Your Cat’s Teeth

    1. First, get your cat used to you touching her mouth by using your finger to gently massage her gums. You can also use a cotton swab to gently rub against her gums. Make it a fun and pleasant experience, and your cat will more likely accept having her teeth brushed without complaint.
    2. Once your cat has accepted having her mouth touched and handled, you need to give her a taste of the toothpaste. You need to purchase a toothpaste for cats – human toothpaste has ingredients that can harm your cat. Most cat toothpastes are specially flavored, and your kitty may find them in tasty flavors such as tuna, beef, or malt. Smear a little on your kitty’s lips and let her lick it off. Chances are she’ll want more once she gets a taste of it.
    3. You will also need to have a toothbrush for a cat. Cat toothbrushes are smaller and softer than toothbrushes made for people. Some are actually finger toothbrushes, which your cat may prefer over the standard toothbrushes made for cats. Show the toothbrush to your cat, and gently rub the bristles along her gums. Do not press down, as this can cause pain and make it an unpleasant experience.
    4. Lastly, you’ll want to smear some cat toothpaste on the brush and have your cat lick the toothpaste from the brush. If she likes it, you can gently brush your cat’s teeth with it.

Veterinarians like to see you brush your cat’s teeth every day, but if you can’t, a minimum of twice weekly would help greatly in the battle against dental disease.

 

About The Author Giselle Rodriguez

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