February is National Pet Dental Health Month, prompting veterinarians to remind pet owners that cats need dental care, too, as they can suffer the same negative consequences as humans if their oral health is ignored.
Gingivitis and periodontal disease in cats and dogs have become widespread, according to the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA). As food particles and bacteria build up in a cat’s mouth, plaque and tarter form on the teeth, which leads to gingivitis and can further develop into periodontal disease. This disease can lead to tooth decay, bad breath, bleeding gums and tooth loss. In addition, when bacteria from the disease enter a cat’s bloodstream, internal organs could be affected. This is treatable if caught early, but could lead to serious health problems if ignored.
The CVMA recommends annual dental exams for pets in order to detect problems before they become serious. Between exams, pet owners should be on the lookout for signs that can indicate dental problems, such as bad breath, tartar buildup, change in eating habits, fractured or abscessed teeth and swollen, receding or bleeding gums.
“All pet owners should start a regular dental care routine for their animals in consultation with their veterinarians,” said Dr. Jeff Smith, president of the CVMA. “With regular oral health maintenance and check-ups, most of these problems can be avoided.”
Cats’ teeth should be brushed daily or at least weekly to combat plaque and tartar buildup, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Although pets may initially resist, beginning in short intervals and when pets are young can help acclimate them to the experience.