Cat dental health is an often overlooked topic. Our feline friends have such tiny teeth when compared to those of dogs that many cat owners assume that cat dental care is unnecessary.
Teeth, whether in a human or a cat, can become covered in plaque and tarter. Cats have an advantage over humans because they will rarely get cavities, since a cat’s diet is usually low in the sugars that help to create cavities in people. Plaque and tarter, though, will result in gum disease in cats just as it does in humans.
The type of food that a cat eats will have an effect on its dental health. Food preferences are formed as a kitten so starting your cat out early with dental-friendly food is important. Hard food or dry food is preferable. There are many varieties of food and treats designed to promote good feline dental health.
Another good way to promote good dental health in your cat from an early age is to brush its teeth. Older cats may not be as well disposed to this as kittens so beginning this tooth care measure at an early age is important.
Begin by using a gauze pad to rub the teeth. Treat the process as play and do not restrain your cat. Your goal is to get the cat to see tooth cleaning as a fun thing to do.
There are specially designed toothbrushes for cats sold in pet stores. There are a number of toothpastes available as well. The toothpastes are flavored so that your cat can see it as a treat.
Research has developed toothpastes for cats that have an enzymatic action on tarter. These new dental treatments use enzymes to create a natural antibiotic action that kills the bacteria that cause mouth odor and tarter.
As you play with your cat, check out the gums at the tooth line. If they appear red or irritated, your cat may have the beginning of gingivitis, or gum disease. This can be an increasingly serious condition that could cause infection or tooth loss in your cat.
You might also notice that your cat changes its eating habits. It might begin to chew on one side of its mouth. It might act as if the act of chewing hurts. Or, it might just avoid eating. These are all signs that something serious may be going on with your cats teeth and gums.
As part of your cat’s yearly checkup at the veterinarian, the vet will check the cat’s dental health. Your vet may have suggestions for diet changes or changes in toothbrushing techniques. He or she may also suggest a professional cleaning.
A veterinarian can clean your cat’s teeth much in the way that a dental hygienist would clean a person’s teeth. Cats, however, need to be sedated for this procedure. It can usually be done without an overnight stay. Sedation always carries a slight risk for the cat and more so for older cats but only a vet can clean above and below the gum line where bacteria hide and damage your cat’s teeth.
Cat dental insurance is available but cat owners should look before they buy insurance. Many pet care policies do not cover dental care so look specifically for it in the policy materials.
The University of California has a nice website about dental care for pets. Pets 911 has a site devoted to cat dental care. Your veterinarian is your best source of information about cat dental health so call him or her if you have a question.