Many cat owners who are scrupulous about healthcare for their beloved kitty take a more casual approach to their dental care. So it’s not really surprising that 85% of adult felines have some form of periodontal disease, or that dental disease is the single largest cause of health problems in cats.
Although evidence of pain when eating is often a symptom of feline dental disease, it is usually one of the last symptoms. To save your kitty’s teeth and be sure they won’t experience any pain or suffering, be proactive. Don’t wait until the symptoms are obvious. With daily brushing and regular home exams paired with a well-balanced, healthy diet, your cat can enjoy his or her senior years with teeth intact.
Periodontal disease is caused by a plaque buildup that calcifies to form tartar. This frequently pushes food debris and bacteria under the gum line, and that’s when the trouble starts. It infects the supporting structure for the teeth and causes inflamed, bleeding or swelling gums. Bad breath is a symptom. Treatment for this disease includes antibiotics, dental cleaning, and in advanced cases may require tooth extraction.
Lymphocytic Plasmaytic Stomatitus (LSP) or Feline Stomatitis is a serious condition. Thought to be an autoimmune ailment where the body becomes allergic to a substance – in this case, the plaque around the teeth – it often appears in cats with other autoimmune diseases like FIV and FeLV, and frequently is accompanied by gingivitis. This stomatitis causes inflammation of the mouth that may extend into the throat and pharynx causing red lesions that have a “cobblestone” appearance and texture. Cats with this disease suffer a great amount of pain: you may see the cat pawing at its mouth, and it will eventually affect their ability to eat.
Feline Odontoclastic Oral Resorption Lesions – FORL – are painful lesions that begin as shallow pits in the enamel and dentine of the cats’ tooth, and as plaque accumulates, the surrounding tissues become inflamed. FORL is diagnosed with an oral exam by your veterinarian, and most times requires an oral radiograph. If left untreated, the “pit” may extend into the tooth pulp and kill the affected tooth. The treatment of choice is most often a tooth extraction.
Prevention is best, and that means examining your cat’s mouth and teeth. It’s always easier if you begin this process when the kitty is at a young age. If you are gentle and move slowly, the cat will be more willing to tolerate the exam. Just as brushing teeth is important for our own dental health, regularly brushing your cat’s teeth will be of great benefit to their oral and overall health. Feline mouth bacteria can cause other health issues as the bacteria moves through the animal’s bloodstream. Those bacteria will eventually reach and affect organs including the heart, liver and kidneys where they can cause damage that may lead to other diseases and certainly will affect the cat’s health and longevity. http://www.avdc.org/careforcats.html
Brushing your cat’s teeth isn’t as daunting a task as you might imagine. To do it right, assemble your supplies and plan on spending about five minutes every day on this oral care. You’ll need sterile gauze to wrap around your finger, cat toothpaste – available from your vet, pet store, or a weak sterile solution recommended by your veterinary provider. You can also try this brush and toothpaste available to buy on Amazon!
Wrap a small strip of gauze around the index finger of your dominant hand and dip it in the sterile solution or apply a small amount of cat toothpaste to your finger. Never use toothpaste formulated for humans. Those are meant to be rinsed out and not swallowed. Toothpaste specifically formulated for felines contains enzymes that do a superior cleaning job and are not harmful for kitty to swallow. You might even try a flavored toothpaste for cats. There are fish-flavored ones that most cats find tasty!
Hold kitty on your lap and open his or her mouth, then gently rub your finger-brush in a circular motion on the teeth, concentrating on the area next to the gums. You don’t have to worry about the back side of the teeth that are cleansed by the animal’s saliva, but do gently massage the gums as you work through the mouth. Once your cat becomes familiar with this routine, you may be able to graduate to a small toothbrush instead of the gauze.
When you’re finished, offer kind words of praise and a few gentle pats, along with a special treat as a reward. Knowing a treat is coming often trains the cat to tolerate the cleaning in a calm manner.
There are excellent products for feline oral care that are worth checking out. Doctors Foster and Smith Dental Clens Pads are a veterinarian-formulated solution that effectively kills bacteria on cats’ teeth. These pads are soft and the chlorhexidine solution they deliver has a pleasant taste.
Triple Pet has several products worth considering. Their dental kit combines a toothbrush with three flexible heads that maintain proper pressure on all tooth surfaces to effectively clean with each stroke. The kit also has pet toothpaste with a natural vanilla flavor. This toothpaste is a tartar-control formula with an added touch of tea tree oil to maintain healthier gums. It’s a non-foaming formula that requires no rinsing. If your kitty simply won’t tolerate routine tooth brushing, try the company’s Pet Plaque-Off Fresh Breath. Just add a capful to every 24-ounce bowl of their drinking water.
The Petrodex Dental Care Kit has a toothpaste that controls plaque and freshens breath, and is a flavor cats seem to like. You can buy the Petrodex Dental Care Kit on Amazon! The kit contains a small-head toothbrush as well as an alternative finger toothbrush for cats that dislike the feel of a brush in their mouth. The toothpaste in this kit is a veterinarian-recommended, no-rinse formula that fights buildup of plaque and tartar and helps control bad breath.
With some patience and the right products, you’ll have everything you need for your pal’s ongoing dental health regime. Open wide, kitty!