Many pet owners forget about their cat’s dental health until a problem rears its ugly head. Because cats are so adept at hiding any sign of pain, you may not recognize a dental problem until it reaches an advanced stage.
February is National Pet Dental Health month, and this is an excellent time to address the fact that lack of proper dental care may lead to serious health issues. Veterinary research shows that periodontal disease in cats can lead to diseases of organs, like the liver, kidneys or heart.
Dental Health Prevention Begins Early
At your first veterinary visit with your cat, learn how to care for your pet’s teeth and gums, how to establish a daily brushing routine, and how to examine your kitty’s teeth and gums.
Establish Your Daily Dental Routine
The best way to prevent dental problems is to brush your cat’s teeth and gums daily. Obviously, it would be easier to create this daily habit with a kitten but even adult cats can learn and adjust. Just don’t expect them to accept it overnight. If you cannot establish brushing as part of the daily routine, try special dental wipes that will help keep Kitty’s teeth and gums healthy.
Include a dental exam in your daily routine. Get Kitty used to your hands poking and prodding around her teeth. By checking her teeth daily, you will see any changes and know if she needs to visit the vet.
Purchase special toothbrushes and toothpaste made for cats at your pet supplies store, and if the brush isn’t accepted, you can also buy a finger brush that attaches on your finger, and gives you better control of her mouth.
Expect to find numerous brands of cat treats that profess to take care of your fur-baby’s teeth and gums. But don’t believe all you read! Look for the VOHC seal of approval on such products to determine if they might help your pet.
Common Dental Problems for Adult Cats
Adult cats might suffer from gingivitis, periodontal disease, mouth sores, or simple plaque build-up. Pet parents should watch out for drooling, broken or missing teeth, mouth sores or difficulty eating and schedule a vet visit to confirm and fix the problem.
Don’t ignore bad breath! If you notice your pet’s breath has changed – and not for the better – see the vet.
Professional Teeth Cleaning Required for Cat’s Dental Health
At some point, your cat will need to have her pearly whites professionally cleaned by the vet. Those visits usually include an oral exam, X-rays and cleaning – mostly done under anesthesia. How often this should occur depends on the age of the animal, her diet and lifestyle, genetics and any particular health issues.
Some Cat Breeds Are Disposed to Dental Disease
Types of Dental Diseases in Cats
Cats suffer from many of the same dental maladies as humans. Gingivitis is common. Periodontal disease causes problems.
The gingiva is the gum surrounding a tooth. Gingivitis refers to inflammation that occurs within the gingiva and is considered to be the early stage of periodontal disease in cats. Plaque accumulates on the teeth, and gum recession begins.
The veterinary professional removes plaque build-up under anesthesia and treats or extracts infected teeth. Prevent gingivitis in your cat with daily dental care, good nutrition, and annual vet exams to improve your cat’s dental health.
Uncontrolled gingivitis leads to periodontitis. Bacteria damage from gingivitis weakens the tissue that attaches the tooth to underlying gums and bone’. This leads to loose teeth and teeth that fall out.
To treat feline periodontitis, the vet will scale the plaque and mineral build-up off the teeth. In extreme cases, extraction of teeth may be required.
Feline Mouth Ulcers
These ulcers appear similar to canker sores in humans. They appear on the gums, inside the cheeks and even on the cat’s tongue and cause pain. Watch for drooling, lack of eating, redness and irritation in the mouth and sometimes even vomiting.
The sores may be caused by malnutrition, a defective immune response, metabolic deficiencies, or even acidic food.
Treatment may involve antibiotics or anti-inflammatories to get rid of any infections.
Good Nutrition May Save Your Cat’s Teeth and Improve Dental Health
A healthy diet helps prevent periodontal disease. Texture and makeup of the food can help maintain tissue integrity and stimulate saliva production. Dry food intended to promote optimum dental health forces the cat to actually chew larger pieces of kibble. The kibble helps remove the plaque from the teeth as it eats.
The problem lies in finding a dry kibble that promotes good dental health AND contains nutritionally-sound ingredients. Perhaps the answer lies in feeding your pet a nutritionally-appropriate canned cat food and use the special dry kibble designed to clean her teeth as treats.
In one study of oral health in teeth of 41 cats of different ages and diets, they found that oral health varies with all the variables considered. Incisors of young or adult cats fed a dry diet, had better oral health when comparing them to the teeth of older cats fed a wet – or canned – diet. Feline optimum oral health probably occurs with an early-age dental hygiene/cleaning and a diet of abrasive dry food.
Select Cat Products Designed to Improve a Cat’s Dental Health
Look for cat treats designed to provide abrasion for the teeth, which helps remove plaque-build-up. But know what’s in them, because many contain less than healthy ingredients.
Our Lucy grew up eating only dry kibble before I learned about cat nutrition. Because of this, her teeth looked good. When we switched her to a canned diet, we kept the Fromm’s dry kibble for treats and that seems to have helped keep her teeth clean and gums healthy.
You may find other products that address feline dental health. There are pro-biotics designed for pet oral health and even additives for the cat’s water.
How You Can Be Proactive About Your Cat’s Dental Health
Remember that your cat cannot tell you when her teeth or mouth hurt, and she will hide any pain she feels. Follow a daily dental routine with your pet and schedule regular dental checkups with your veterinarian. Choose a healthy diet for her and provide fresh, clean water at all times.
At some point in her life, your cat will likely develop some type of dental issue. By age 3, many cats show significant signs of gingivitis. If you examine her mouth often and stay on top of any problems, you may prevent more serious issues such as organ diseases as she ages.