How to Improve Your Cat’s Dental Health
A cat’s dental health is an important aspect of their overall health. Read on to find out everything you need to know about improving your cat’s dental health.
Establishing a proper dental hygiene regimen for your feline from an early age is imperative to their overall happiness and wellbeing. Not only does a dental maintenance routine prevent the development of oral diseases, such as gingivitis, but it also keeps their bad breath away most of the time.
Cats in the wild keep their teeth clean by chewing on grass or bones, an option that domestic cats don’t have. Animals can’t orally communicate to let us know if they are sick or in pain, which makes it particularly necessary for pet parents to develop preventive health routines for their beloved pets. It is also very important to regularly check the condition of your feline’s teeth and gums to ensure that they’re healthy.
Why Is Cat Dental Care Important?
Eight out of ten cats over the age of three experience oral problems, such as teeth and gum issues. This happens because, just like humans, cats also experience the accumulation of plaque, bacteria, and debris on their teeth. This layer of germs solidifies over time, resulting in tartar, a thick and hard layer of bacteria and food that is extremely difficult to get rid of.
Here’s why you need to care for your cat’s dental health and prevent tartar:
Tartar Can Cause Tooth Loss
Not only does tartar impact the appearance of your cat’s teeth, but it can also irritate their gums, causing gingivitis and tooth loss. Moreover, in some extreme cases, tartar can become irreversible, which is why cats often need to have their teeth removed.
Poor Dental Health Can Lead to Gum Disease
Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is one of the most common disease amongst adult cats and dogs. It features the spread of progressive bacteria that results in the destruction of gums, teeth, and the structure that holds teeth in place.
Oral Bacteria Can Effect a Cat’s Overall Health
Pain and inflammation caused by periodontal disease can make it very challenging for a cat to eat or drink normally. Moreover, the bacteria that causes such diseases may also enter their bloodstream and damage their kidneys and other organs.
Given the impact that lack of a dental hygiene routine can have on your feline’s oral and overall health, it is necessary to take steps to prevent or improve the condition of your cat’s mouth.
How to Check the Health of Your Cat’s Mouth
Even though your cat may not be a huge fan of the experience, it’s imperative to keep a routine check on the cat’s oral health. If your feline seems very uncomfortable or you find it hard to inspect their mouth safely, you should take them to a vet for a thorough assessment.
Check the Teeth and Gums
The first place to look for any signs of dental trouble is your cat’s teeth and gums. Healthy teeth imply that a cat’s teeth must be clean and free of chipping. On the other hand, healthy gums are characterized by gums that are pink, healthy, and free of any sores, lesions, redness, swelling or bleeding.
Check the Back of Their Mouth
Checking the back of your feline’s mouth is just as important as checking the front. Conduct a thorough examination of the back of your kitty’s mouth for any swelling, lesions, ulcers, or foreign bumps. Any abnormal finding should immediately be examined by a vet.
Check for Breath Odor
A foul breath may be an indication of infection either in your cat’s mouth. If you notice a relatively significant change in the smell of their breath within a short time, you should take your cat to the vet. Persistent bad breath typically indicates serious periodontal disease that requires treatment.
Additionally, you should also be alert to any other indicators of dental disease, such as drooling, fluctuations in your cat’s weight or eating patterns, difficulty swallowing, or pawing at the face.
Signs of Compromised Oral Health in Cats
Cats experience two types of tooth loss during their life. The first tooth loss occurs when they lose their first set of teeth, also known as their milk teeth. After this, the second set of teeth begins to appear. Throughout its lifetime, a cat is expected to lose a teeth or two. If a cat loses any more teeth than this, then it probably has periodontal disease that may have occurred due to the negligence of the pet parents.
The symptoms of impacted oral health include:
- Red gums
- Bad breath
- Yellow or brown tartar
In severe cases of gingivitis, cats may even drop food from their mouth and experience weight loss due to their inability to eat.
How to Improve Cat Dental Health
Keeping Your Cat’s Teeth Clean
Brushing your cat’s teeth regularly is the key to keeping its teeth and gums healthy. You should either brush their teeth daily or at least twice a day to prevent the growth of bacteria and maintain cat dental health. Adult felines can be quite resistant when it comes to getting their teeth cleaned, so a good idea is to your cats used to brushing when they’re kittens.
How to Brush a Cat’s Teeth at Home
Here are some tips to get you started on your cat’s oral care.
Brush with a Finger Cot
A finger glove, also known as a finger cot, makes it very easy to brush your cat’s teeth. You can also cover your finger in a piece of gauze and cover it in toothpaste to make it easier to brush your feline’s teeth. Covering your gauze-wrapped finger in tuna is also a great way to make them accustomed to your finger in their mouth.
Make Sure You Have the Right Equipment
It is important to ensure that you have all the right equipment to effectively clean your cat’s teeth regularly. For instance, there are toothbrushes with small and soft bristles that are designed especially for cats. You can easily find a complete feline dental kit from any clinic or pet store.
Use Special Toothpaste
Never use your own toothpaste to brush your cat’s teeth. Human toothpaste contains high levels of fluoride that make a cat’s stomach upset and make them severely ill in case it’s ingested. Moreover, you can control the amount of toothpaste a cat swallows, so it’s just best to steer clear of human toothpaste. Fluoride-free toothpaste is widely available and is often flavored with chicken or beef, making it easier to brush your cat’s teeth.
Massage Your Cat’s Gums
You need to get your cat used to the idea of getting its teeth brushed. Keeping the brushing session short, positive and effective can be a good way to achieve that. You can liven up the brushing session by slightly massage your cat’s gums using your finger or a cotton swab. This will also give you a good chance to thoroughly examine your cat’s gums. If your feline has inflamed gums, you will probably have to pay a visit to the dentist.
Never Use Dental Floss
Since you’re brushing your cat’s teeth, you might assume that flossing is important as well. However, flossing is your cat’s friend at all. In fact, flossing poses aserious danger to cats due to the risk of swallowing and intestinal damage.
Process to Brush Your Cat’s Teeth
Brush your cat’s teeth using a toothbrush and toothpaste specifically designed for them. Sterile gauze strips, finger brush or a rubber brush will work. Try cradling them from behind to make them feel comfortable, slightly tilt their head back, and lift their chin up to open their mouths. This will make it extremely easy and convenient for you to access all their teeth and brush them thoroughly.
Keeping Your Cat’s Mouth Clean
Cat dental health is about more than just your feline’s teeth. Tooth decay typically begins with irritated and inflamed gums. Therefore, your cat’s gums require the same attention that is given to its teeth. Once you’re finished brushing your cat’s teeth, you should massage its gums thoroughly to enhance its strength and healing. Also, this will help reduce the risk of gum disease later on through the stimulation of blood flow to the area.
How to Keep Your Cat’s Mouth Clean
Here are a few tips to help you keep your feline’s mouth clean.
Use Vet-Recommended Oral Hygiene Products
There are various products you can invest in to maintain the health and hygiene of your feline’s mouth. Your vet will probably recommend these products if you ask.
Use Dental Sprays
Dental sprays are a great oral hygiene product that can easily be sprayed in your cat’s mouth to control the levels of plaque and tartar.
Give Your Cat a Healthy Diet
There are certain specially formulated treats that are quite helpful for your cat’s dental health. These treats control plaque, prevent tartar buildup, and provide your cat with fresh breath. Most of these products contain ingredients, such as selenium, vitamin E, taurine, and other antiseptics that fight the bacteria in your kitty’s mouth to prevent gum diseases.
There are also a few other products that can be added to water to keep your cat’s dental health in good shape. However, when using such water additives, it’s important to ensure that your cat doesn’t stop drinking water due to the unfamiliar taste.
Take Your Feline for Professional Cleanings
While there are many ways to maintain and improve cat dental health at home, if your cat is constantly resisting your efforts, you should take them in for annual professional dental cleanings at a vet clinic. In fact, taking your feline to the dentist at least once a year is important. Since gum disease progresses slowly under the gums, regardless of your cat’s teeth appearing white, it can only be identified and prevented through annual professional dental cleanings.
If you haven’t taken your cat for a dental cleaning before, you don’t need to worry. A dental cleaning is performed under general anesthesia, allowing the veterinarian to easily scrape off the plaque, polish the teeth, and conduct a deep and thorough examination that includes inspection of and under the gums. This also allows your vet to clean under their gums, remove bacteria, and conduct other procedures, such as dental x-rays to diagnose other dental problems. Additionally, you need to remember that older cats have to get their teeth professionally cleaned more often.
Dental and oral diseases are preventable in most cases when certain effective oral hygiene methods are used to keep your feline’s mouth healthy since the early ages. From giving your cat a healthy diet to using appropriate dental hygiene products, you can help decrease the bacterial population responsible for plaque and tartar.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to cat dental health, human intervention is a must. Fortunately, it is very easy to take a few steps to take care of your feline’s mouth, as long as you get them used to having their teeth cleaned. If you don’t know where to start from, seek help from your veterinarian to help your cat’s teeth and gums stay in the perfect state.
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