With major advances in treating pet diseases, oral disease – most importantly periodontal or gum disease caused by the build-up of plaque and tartar – has become the number-one health problem for cats. It’s estimated that without proper dental care 70% of cats will show signs of oral disease by age three. With your help, your cat can have healthy teeth and gums throughout their lives.
How to keep your cat’s teeth healthy
To keep your cat’s teeth healthy, you simply need to provide them with a few things;
- A nutritious diet
- Chew treats
- Regular brushing at home
- Yearly dental checkups by a veterinary surgeon
The best food for your cat’s teeth
The wrong kinds of food can cause dental distress in pets. Feeding your cat a dry food rather than just a moist, canned one will, through its mild abrasive action on the teeth, help remove the bacterial plaque that can harden into tartar.
Dry food also provides adequate chewing exercise and gum stimulation.
Avoid giving your cat sweets and table scraps as they may also increase plaque and tartar formation.
Your vet may recommend the use of a dental diet, which is a specially formulated dry biscuit designed to reduce plaque and tartar build-up, especially if your cat is prone to dental problems or is a predisposed breed or has a genetic history.
How to brush your cat’s teeth
Cats need to have their teeth brushed in order to eliminate the dental plaque that can cause tooth decay and the formation of tartar, which can lead to gum disease.
You should begin a regular, daily brushing routine as soon as you bring your new kitten home. Even older cats can be trained to accept having their teeth brushed.
You simply need to introduce the activity gradually and make the experience a positive one for your cat. Reassure and praise them profusely throughout the process and reward them with a very special treat when it’s finished.
Step 1 Start by dipping a finger in tuna water or warm water. Rub this finger gently over your cat’s gums and one or two teeth. Repeat until your pet seems fairly comfortable with this activity.
Step 2 Gradually, introduce a gauze-covered finger and gently scrub the teeth with a circular motion.
Step 3 Then, you can begin to use a toothbrush, either an ultra-soft model designed for people (baby tooth-brushes work well for cats) or a special pet tooth-brush or finger brush, which is a rubber finger covering with a small brush built in at its tip.
Step 4 Finally, once your pet is used to brushing, introduce the use of cat toothpaste in liquid or paste form. Most of these contain chlorhexidine or stannous fluoride – ask your veterinary surgeon for their recommendations. Don’t use human toothpaste, as it can upset your cat’s stomach. Your vet may also advise the use of an antiseptic spray or rinse after brushing.
Book your cat a yearly dental check-up
Doing your best to ensure that your cat receives the proper diet and regular brushing at home will help maintain teeth and gums in top condition. To provide optimum dental care at home, you need to start with a clean bill of dental health. That’s where your cat’s veterinary surgeon comes in.
Your vet will give your pet a thorough examination of the entire oral cavity to determine whether there are any underlying problems and, especially important, tartar buildup. Brushing removes plaque but not tartar,which is a hard mineralised material that can build up on your cats teeth and can only be removed with special dental equipment under anesthesia, as cats do not ‘open wide’ when you tell them to! After removing the tartar above and below the gum line, your veterinary surgeon will provide you with instructions for home care and follow-up.
Cats aren’t great chewers but special diets are available from veterinary surgeons that encourage chewing and will can help remove plaque, and provide stimulation for the gums.
Did you know?
- Kittens have their first 26 “milk” or deciduous teeth at 2 to 3 weeks of age. Their 30 permanent teeth begin erupting around 3 months.
- Cats have the fewest teeth of any common domestic mammal