Keeping your cat’s teeth and gums healthy is about much more than preventing bad kitty breath – although that is one of the many benefits of staying on top of cat dental care. Dental disease can not only cause pain for your cat and make it difficult for her to eat, but it can also lead to a variety of serious health problems. Despite this fact, around 70 per cent of cats over the age of three have some form of dental disease, which is often also referred to as periodontal disease.
Looking after your cat’s teeth is an important duty for every cat owner, so here’s what you need to do to keep those pearly whites in perfect condition.
More than just a smile
Cat dental disease can cause a whole lot of problems for your kitty. Some of them are obvious issues you’d probably expect, including bad breath, sore and swollen gums and infections. And when your cat is experiencing pain or discomfort in and around their mouth, she’ll most likely be reluctant to eat.
But dental disease can also lead to the development of other feline health problems. Bacteria can find their way into your cat’s bloodstream and cause kidney or heart disease, both of which can obviously have much more serious implications for your pet.
Signs and symptoms of cat dental problems
Signs your cat may be suffering from dental disease include:
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Red or swollen gums
- Difficulty eating or a reluctance to eat
- Bleeding gums
- The presence of yellow-brown tartar on your cat’s teeth
- Loose tooth
Our cats obviously can’t tell us when they’re in pain, so it’s important to keep an eye out for these symptoms and take your cat to the vet if necessary. A regular veterinary dental check-up will also help detect any cat dental problems. This is done under general anaesthetic – cats aren’t usually fond of allowing a full dental examination to take place while they’re awake – and your vet will thoroughly inspect for any signs of dental disease, maybe take X-rays, and also give your cat’s teeth a clean and polish. In the worse case scenario, the vet will have to extract unhealthy teeth.
How to look after your cat’s teeth
Just as with any other cat health problem, prevention is always better than cure when it comes to cat dental care. Not only can dental disease be painful for your pet, it can also be painful for your wallet thanks to expensive vet bills. To protect your cat’s teeth against the dangers of dental disease, there’s plenty you can do at home.
For starters, it’s recommended that you brush your cat’s teeth every day using a soft toothbrush and a special toothpaste specifically designed for use on pets. Some cats will simply refuse to allow you to use a toothbrush on them, however, so you may have to substitute a damp washcloth instead.
Another great way to remove plaque and prevent it building up on your cat’s teeth is to give them plenty of things to chew. There are specially designed dental chews available that offer a tasty treat and also offer plenty of benefits for your cat’s dental hygiene.
Your kitty may even be able to benefit from a cat food that offers a range of dental benefits – ask your vet about these – while there are also water additives available to promote healthy feline mouths.
Top tips for cat dental care
- Check regularly. Take the time to look inside your cat’s mouth regularly for any signs of dental disease or tooth injuries. This will help you get on top of any problems early and you can always ask your vet for advice if you spot something you’re unsure of.
- Start young. As you can probably imagine, many cats take quite a while to feel comfortable with the idea of having their teeth brushed. The best way to ensure that your cat will let you give them the best possible dental care is to get them used to brushing when they’re a kitten.
- Make it a routine. Make regular tooth brushing part of your cat’s daily routine and she will come to accept it and even enjoy it. If you need advice on the correct tooth brushing method, ask your vet.
Your cat doesn’t know the importance of dental hygiene or how to brush his teeth, so it’s up to you to take responsibility for your cat’s teeth and ensure they’re in tip-top condition well into his senior years.