For cats, dental health is key to good long-term oral and overall health. In this post, our Ankeny vets share some tips on how to care for your cat's teeth and maintain their dental health.
Your Cat's Dental Health
Just like us, our cats need regular dental care from their vet. However, most kitties don't get enough of this type of care and often suffer from it — periodontal disease, plaque buildup and dental disease are common issues seen by veterinarians. Because our feline friends may instinctively hide their pain, it can sometimes be difficult to tell if they are suffering from a painful oral health issue without revealing their discomfort.
This is why cat owners need to be cognizant of their kitty's oral health, keep their furry companion's teeth clean and bring them in for regular dental cleanings. By 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 expensive treatment.
How to Clean Your Cat's Teeth
To help keep your cat's teeth and gums healthy throughout their lifetime, maintain a daily oral hygiene routine for your feline friend. Establishing a daily oral hygiene routine for your cat while they are still a kitten can help make cleaning your cat's teeth at home as easy and stress-free as possible. This way, your cat will get used to having their mouth touched and teeth brushed from a young age.
Your goal is to make brushing your cat's teeth an easy, stress-free part of your kitty's daily routine. Start by waiting until your cat is relaxed and calm, then follow these steps:
- Gently lift your cat's lips, then use your finger to massage their teeth and gums for just a few seconds.
- Don't expect too much from your cat at first. You may only be able to reach a couple of teeth the first few times your try this process. That's okay though. This is about building trust in your cat to help prevent them from becoming agitated.
- Remain calm and be sure to give 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 increasing the length of time you spend on the 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.
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.
- Teeth with discoloration or tartar buildup
- Abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food from the mouth
- Loose or broken teeth
- Foul odor coming from the mouth
- Extra teeth or retained baby teeth
- Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Pain or swelling in or around 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 pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.