Guide to Proper Cat Dental Care
If you own a cat, you are probably more focused on feeding them the right food, using the right litter and offering them lots of toys to keep them entertained. Some people fail to pay attention to their cat’s oral hygiene. But, according to many vets, you are making a big mistake.
Untreated dental conditions in cats can lead to gingivitis, cavities and tooth absence. In some severe cases, they can cause heart and kidney infections. Fortunately, you can take several steps to prevent illness and expensive vet bills.
We’ve prepared a brief cat dental care guide; let’s check it out!
What is plaque and tartar in cats?
Plaque is a sticky, colourless deposit that forms over teeth. It usually appears a few hours after a meal. If it’s not removed regularly, it hardens up. You’ve probably seen this as a white layer on your pet’s teeth.
Over time, plaque will build up, harden and turn into tartar or calculus. Tartar is a brown or yellow-coloured deposit on the tooth surface (usually near gums and a perfect home for even more bacterial growth. If left untreated, tartar can accelerate dental disease, causing gum and tooth decay, tissue destruction and irreversible bone loss.
Dental care for cats
Taking care of your cat’s teeth is easy if you have the proper tools. Here’s how you can do it at home:
Use a cat toothpaste and a cat toothbrush
Brushing your pet’s teeth regularly is the best way to keep them healthy. Cats in the wild have access to bones and grass, which helps them clean their teeth. On the other hand, domesticated cats can’t use this natural teeth-cleaning method.
Brushing their teeth several times throughout the week is necessary to maintain proper dental health and cat-friendly toothpaste and a toothbrush should be your go-to tools. While some felines are okay with their owners touching their teeth, others will try to fight when you attempt to brush their teeth.
Some adult cats will reject having their teeth brushed, especially if this is a new habit you are trying to impose. It might take some time while you train your cat.
Before anything else, your cat needs to get used to your fingers in their mouth. Reward them with a treat once they accept this. You may not succeed the first time, but be patient and don’t give up. Teeth brushing should be part of their everyday routine, so that’s not something you want to force and make a negative experience out of it.
Once your cat is ready to have their teeth brushed, carefully use toothpaste for cats and a toothbrush specifically formulated for felines. After each brushing session, reward your pet with a treat to form a positive experience. Adult cats have 30 teeth and it would be recommended to brush every single one to prevent tooth decay.
Provide dental treats
Even though brushing is the most effective way to prevent dental issues, some cats won’t allow you to touch their teeth. You shouldn’t give up completely on this activity but to make things slightly easier, you could use alternative dental products like dental treats.
They are designed to remove plaque and protect your cat’s dental health. Find a treat with a nice flavour and one your cat will love to chew.
Give your cat a dental diet
Felines suffering from dental diseases can particularly benefit from dental diets. They can help by reducing bacteria and plaque in the cat’s mouth and are usually prescribed by vets. Generally kibble pieces are larger and will encourage your cat to chew instead of swallowing it whole.
These pieces remove plaque by rubbing against their teeth. Pay attention to what type of food you buy because some may increase your cat’s risk of dental disease. If you don’t know what to get, consult your vet. They should be able to offer you plenty of recommendations.
Get water additives
You could add water additives to your cat’s bowl to boost their dental health. Water additives aren’t nutritional supplements but something similar to human mouthwash. Based on the additives you go for, they can be antibacterial and antiseptic to maintain your pet’s mouth health and eliminate bad breath.
While water additives can get rid of bacteria, they aren’t a substitute for daily brushing because they can’t remove plaque buildup. Even fresh water can help wash away food leftovers. Make sure your pet always has access to a lot of fresh water.
Kelp powder has proven to be highly effective in fighting against plaque and tartar buildup. It contains antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-adhesive properties, meaning that with regular use, this powder can reduce levels of bacteria in your cat’s mouth. Just sprinkle it on top of your cat’s food.
Cleaning cats teeth with dental toys
Dental toys are another way to improve your cat’s dental hygiene. They work by scraping away tartar and plaque while keeping your pet occupied. Cats tend to chew on one side of their mouth, so they may be scraping plaque only in that area.
That’s why it would be wise to combine dental toys with some of the previously mentioned methods to accomplish the best results.
Professional dental cleaning
Professional dental cleaning is done under general anesthesia, allowing your vet enough time to remove plaque and tartar. During the cleaning process, the veterinarian will also perform a comprehensive oral examination to ensure the cat's gums are healthy.
Usually, this type of cleaning is conducted when there is a severe tartar buildup, which you won’t be able to remove at home.
Why is cat dental care important?
Oral hygiene is crucial for the same reasons human dental care is. Just imagine never washing your teeth again. Not focusing on your feline’s dental health leads to fractured teeth, gingivitis, periodontal diseases and many other conditions.
Periodontal disease is quite common in cats. This happens due to several reasons and one of them is irregular teeth brushing. Some pet parents tend to believe that their cat’s dental hygiene is totally irrelevant. They think felines are animals that once survived in the wild without toothpaste or toothbrush.
However, the majority of domesticated cats nowadays require dental care. 85% of felines over the age of six may develop some form of gum disease due to plaque buildup and tartar. If you don’t treat gingivitis on time, it can become a severe dental issue, resulting in tooth extraction.
Inflamed gums are very painful and can cause your cat to stop drinking water or eating. Periodontal disease can be fatal, especially when bacteria from the plaque enter the feline’s bloodstream, leading to issues that can affect their kidneys, liver or heart. Fortunately, you can prevent many of these conditions by regularly maintaining your cat’s teeth.
Cat dental problems – how to sport first signs?
Symptoms may vary depending on your cat’s condition. Any of the following signs may indicate your pet is struggling with a dental disease:
- Losing teeth
- Bleeding or swollen gums
- Visible tartar
- Excessive drooling
- Difficulty with eating
- Weight loss
- Bad breath
If you notice some of these signs, make sure to take your cat to the vet. The sooner the dental condition is diagnosed, the faster your pet will recover.
What are the most common diseases that affect cat teeth?
While a wide range of health issues will affect your pet’s gums and teeth, there are three particularly common ones you should pay attention to.
Nearly 70% of cats develop some form of periodontal disease by the age of three. This is often an infection caused by bacteria found in plaque. If you don’t clean your cat’s plaque regularly, it will harden and turn into tartar, which can extend below their gums, causing irritation and inflammation.
If you don’t treat periodontal disease on time, it might provoke severe infection of your cat’s gums, causing them to lose teeth and damage organs as bacteria travel through their bloodstream.
Stomatitis is a painful inflammation of a cat’s tongue, cheeks and gums. Felines suffering from this condition are often in extreme pain and have a reduced appetite. Mild cases can be treated at home, while severe stomatitis requires surgical intervention.
This is a gradual destruction of a cat’s tooth or multiple teeth. Tooth resorption is common in cats, affecting three-quarters of middle-aged and older cats. The destruction happens below the cat’s gum line, so it might be tough to detect without a dental x-ray.
If your cat suddenly prefers eating soft food or swallows pieces without chewing, it might be suffering from tooth resorption.
Ensuring your cat has strong and healthy teeth will help them live longer, healthier lives. Brushing your cat’s teeth might not be a walk in the park but it’s absolutely necessary to reduce the risks of dental diseases.
If you notice any signs of gingivitis or other oral condition, contact your vet immediately because gum disease might lead to more serious dental issues.