February is National Pet Dental Health Month, calling attention to something that many pet owners neglect. Your cat’s dental health is just as important as your own. (Would you go through life without brushing your teeth? Ewww.) Below are just a few of the scary facts about unhealthy cat teeth.
According to Dr. Jane Brunt, executive director of the CATalyst Council, “Dental health can impact every aspect of your cat’s health, including its heart, liver and kidneys.” If your cat develops mouth cancer, it could be fatal.
Several other groups concerned with dog and cat health have weighed in on dental disease this month. All agree that your cat’s oral health dictates or indicates how the rest of your cat is doing.
Representatives from the American Veterinary Dental Society state that “Oral disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem in dogs and cats.” Periodontal disease is an infection between the tooth and gum. Treatment for this disease can include costly X-rays and tooth extraction.
“Periodontal disease is the most common health problem that veterinarians find in pets,” explains Dr. René Carlson, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). “It’s estimated that by the age of two, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of periodontal disease.”
These statistics can scare you, but cat owners can do some simple things to help encourage good dental health. For starters, take your cat to the vet for a yearly dental exam to make sure everything is OK. Coordinate it with your cat’s regular health exam. Your vet will check for any infections, lose teeth or other problems. He or she can also recommend any special food or medications your cat needs.
The American Veterinary Dental College has stated that anesthesia is essential for veterinary dental procedures, to ensure that the procedure can be completed successfully.
Do Your Cat Dental Health Homework
At-home preventative cat dental care is key because you will only take your cat to the vet once a year. That would be like you only brushing your teeth once every 12 months.
The core of at-home cat dental care is brushing your cat’s teeth daily. Use appropriate products for your cat. Regardless of what she might think, your cat is not a person, and human toothpaste can bother her stomach.
Instead, use cat toothpaste and a pet toothbrush. Manufacturers have created both manual and electric dog and cat toothbrushes. Use the one you and your cat feel most comfortable with; I personally use an electric toothbrush made by Four Paws. It works well and was inexpensive, under $20.
Nonelectric toothbrushes, including finger brushes, are available, although I would caution not to use finger brushes if you think your cat might bite. Better she bite a plastic toothbrush handle then your finger! Find products online at www.fourpaws.com where they also have a store locator.
The Veterinary Oral Health Council (http://www.vohc.org/accepted_products.htm) has a list of approved products for oral care. The products listed for cats that are available to consumers are
When to Call Your Cat’s Vet
When inspecting your cat at home, the AVMA says to look for the following signs and take your cat to the vet as soon as possible if you notice any of them:
- Bad breath — Most pets have breath that is less than fresh, but if it becomes truly repugnant, that’s a sign that periodontal disease has already started
- Frequent pawing or rubbing at the face and mouth
- Reluctance to eat hard foods
- Red swollen gums and brownish teeth
Never brushed a cat’s teeth? No worries. CatChannel contributor Sandy Robins guides you through brushing cats’ teeth. Click the link to find a video with additional instructions.