At-Home Guide to Keeping Your Cat’s Teeth Healthy
When it comes to your pet’s dental health, prevention is better than treatment. Prevention is the best way to protect your cat from gum disease. A good dental health routine is an important aspect of your pet’s health and well-being. Keeping your cat’s pearly whites clean and healthy can help prevent gingivitis and potentially serious health issues that may arise from bacterial infections in the mouth. Keep reading for expert tips and current home care options to help keep your cat’s mouth and teeth healthy.
Cats are wired to conceal any signs of pain and discomfort that they’re feeling, a trait that they have inherited from their ancestors. In the wild, exhibiting signs of pain shows vulnerability and makes them easy prey. So even if your cat is feeling pain in the mouth, you won’t know unless you take a closer look or notice distinct changes in behavior.
Annual Dental Checks
Did you know that eight out of ten cats over the age of three have some form of tooth and gum problem? To prevent your cat from being a part of the statistics, you should recognize the importance of annual dental checks coupled with a regular home dental regimen.
Professional dental cleanings are just a part of your pet’s dental health management. Without a good home dental care regimen, your kitty will likely require more frequent visits to the vet for dental cleaning and procedures, or else any periodontal disease that is present may progress and become more complicated.
An annual dental check is an opportunity to spot early signs of tooth and gum problems which, if left unchecked, can pave the way for serious health problems down the road. During these visits, your cat may undergo a professional veterinary dental cleaning to remove plaque or tartar buildup.
How to Care for Your Cat’s Teeth at Home
There are several ways to care for your cat’s teeth at home. These can help prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar which are important predisposing factors of periodontal disease.
1. Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth
Regular brushing keeps the surfaces of your cat’s teeth free of plaque and food debris. Daily tooth brushing is the gold standard when it comes to home dental care for cats. Without regular brushing, plaque can build up on your cat’s teeth which can create a favorable environment for bad bacteria to thrive and cause infection. As plaque accumulates, it will harden to form tartar which can eventually progress to periodontal disease if appropriate intervention measures are not performed as soon as possible.
Your cat needs to get used to having her teeth brushed while still young. If your cat resists brushing because of the pain, you should have your pet examined by your veterinarian as the cat may be experiencing particular problems that need prompt intervention.
Teaching your cat to accept a tooth brushing routine may not be an overnight success. It’s not uncommon for it to take up to two months for cats to learn to tolerate having their mouths touched and teeth brushed.
Start by placing a small amount of cat toothpaste on your finger and letting your cat lick it off. If your cat loves the taste, try offering the toothpaste from her toothbrush. Finally, try placing the toothbrush with toothpaste in your cat’s mouth. Introduce it slowly and gently. Start by brushing the outsides of your cat’s cheek teeth under her upper lip. If she doesn’t resist, add some gentle brushing motions. Be quick to offer your pet a piece of her favorite treat after brushing her teeth as positive reinforcement.
Be sure to use the right toothbrush and toothpaste. If you have several cats in your home, each one should have its own toothbrush. Some toothbrushes are specially designed for cats. These have soft bristles and are angled in such a way that they can reach the cat’s back teeth without any problem. There are also small finger brushes that some cats prefer.
Toothpaste for cats is available in various tasty flavors. Perhaps your cat will find the seafood or poultry-flavored toothpaste tasty like most cats do. Human toothpaste should not be used in cats because it can contain ingredients that may cause adverse reactions in cats.
When brushing your cat’s teeth, position the toothbrush bristles at a 45-degree angle at the point where the gum and teeth meet. Follow an oval pattern while brushing and cover 3-4 teeth at a time. Try moving the toothbrush bristles around your cat’s teeth. Make at least 8-10 gentle oval motions before moving on to another set of teeth. Spend more time brushing the outside of your cat’s upper teeth since they’re the ones that do most of the chewing.
While brushing your cat’s teeth, don’t forget to massage her gums. This can be particularly beneficial in cats whose gums are irritated or inflamed. Massaging their gums can help promote healing and strengthen the gums.
2. Dental Rinses and Oral Gels
Dental rinses are squirted inside the cheeks of a cat’s mouth. Chlorhexidine, an antiseptic, is one of the most common ingredients in most dental rinses. It can also help prevent the accumulation of plaque and tartar. The oral gel is applied to the cat’s teeth using a finger or brush.
3. Dental Diets, Chews, and Treats
Your vet may prescribe a special dental diet if your cat has severe plaque issues. A dental diet is usually made of kibbles that are specially formulated and designed to break down any plaque and/or tartar buildup during chewing.
Dental chews and treats for cats are not created equal. When buying dental treats and chews, make sure to look for the seal of approval of the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). You can also check out their website for a list of approved foods and dental treats that are scientifically proven to reduce the buildup of plaque and tartar.
Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your cat’s teeth or another condition?
Click here to schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets. You can also download the FirstVet app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.