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Cat Dental Care

Cats seem to be able to take care of themselves but when it comes to their teeth, they need a little help.  Dental problems are one of the most common health issues that vets encounter with cats yet it is an issue that many owners overlook.  Thankfully, with your help, your cat can have healthy teeth and gums for the rest of her life. 

Bad breath in cats is caused by the bacteria in the mouth and is an indicator of dental disease. Cats’ teeth accumulate food debris and bacteria which combine with saliva to form plaque on the tooth.  As the bacteria grow, the plaque hardens to form tartar.   If this is not dealt with early, it can progress to tooth loss, bleeding from the mouth and decreased appetite.

In serious cases of dental disease the gums become inflamed and start to bleed allowing the bacteria to enter the blood stream potentially causing septicemia.  This may lead to life threatening illnesses such as kidney or heart failure or damage to other organs.

Signs of advanced gingivitis or gum disease in cats include bad breath, reddened gums, yellowish-brown tartar on teeth and drooling.  When gum disease becomes severe or painful resorptive lesions occur the cat may not be able to eat and so loses weight and becomes generally unwell.

If you can smell your cat’s bad breath, she can taste it!  Around 70% of cats end up with periodontal and other diseases of the teeth by the time they reach 3 years old.

Annual veterinary check-ups are important for general cat health and these also provide an opportunity to have the teeth examined and if necessary, a professional dental clean carried out.

A professional dental clean is undertaken under anesthetic so as not to distress the animal.  The process starts with a thorough dental examination where the teeth are checked for tartar, gum inflammation and pockets around the gums.  The tartar is then removed from both the visible surfaces and the spaces below the gum line and the teeth are polished using a fine grade paste.  If dental disease is severe, extractions may be necessary after which an antibiotic injection is given and the pet allowed to waken.  The vet will often prepare a take-home dental care plan for the owner.

Often, a pet that has had teeth extracted will need to return for a progress examination around seven days after surgery to ensure that the gum has healed correctly and then again six months later check that home dental care is preventing further problems.

Feline dental and oral health foods are clinically proven to reduce plaque, stains and tartar buildup and reduce the amount of bacteria and therefore bad breath in the mouth.  Some formulations also contain added antioxidants to promote a healthy immune system.

Feeding dental and oral health dry food to a cat is much like getting them to clean their teeth every day.  Combine this with an annual vet check and regular manual tooth brushing and the cat will have healthy teeth to last its lifetime.

Feline dental health foods are premium dry biscuits specially designed for dental health and have a mildly abrasive action on the cat’s teeth as it chews.  The shape of each biscuit is designed to scrub all surfaces of the teeth to help remove the bacterial plaque that hardens into tartar.  Dry food also stimulates the gums and encourages chewing making the whole mouth area healthier.

There is no need to supplement feline dental health foods with table scraps or other foods which can actually be harmful to a cat’s health as they are complete and balanced and provide all the nutrition a cat needs.

There are several varieties of cat treats and chews designed to promote good oral health.  They are formulated to reduce and remove the plaque and tartar accumulated on the teeth whilst the cat chews on them.  Some also contain chlorophyll which freshen the cat’s breath.  Regular inclusion of dental chews and treats in a cat’s diet will help to reduce gingivitis and dental disease.

Feeding a raw chicken wing or neck is a terrific treat for a cat as the chewing and biting action required to eat them helps to scrub the teeth surface.  Never give a cat cooked bones as these can become brittle.

Dental home care should include:

Tartar can build up in as little as 24 to 48 hours so it is important to brush a cat’s teeth as regularly as possible.  Brushing three times a week could reduce the risk of suffering dental disease by up to 90%.

Starting the routine of brushing a cat’s teeth can be tricky since it is a very new sensation for them.  As with all animal training, it is a matter of being patient and using a little gentle persuasion.  It is far better to start cleaning the cat’s teeth whilst it is still young so that it gets used to it.

STEP 1: Wash hands well and start by gently touching the mouth and rubbing a finger along the gum line.  Putting some tuna juice on the fingertip will help the cat to enjoy the process.

STEP 2: Wrap a piece of gauze around the finger, dip it in water and gently scrub the teeth along the gum line until the cat is more comfortable with the scrubbing sensation.

STEP 3: Progress to a special animal toothbrush or rubber finger brush keeping each session short, even if this means that only one or two teeth are cleaned.  Stop before the cat becomes irritated with the ordeal.

STEP 4: Introduce special pet toothpaste in a flavour that the cat enjoys like malt or chicken and never use toothpaste for humans as this could make them sick.  Brush in a small circular motion on the outside surfaces.

STEP 5: Once the cat is comfortable with having a few teeth cleaned, progress to the full set.  Open the cat’s mouth fully by placing one hand across the bridge of the nose and tilting the head back, similar to the procedure for administering tablets.  This procedure alone may need lots of practice before tooth brushing is added in as well.

Always end each session positively with a reward for the cat.  A special treat or a fun game will make the next session far more enjoyable.

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