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How to care for your cat’s teeth?

How to care for your cat’s teeth?

From a very young age, we know pretty darn well that brushing and flossing our pearly whites daily, along with getting regular check-ups at the dentist, is crucial for keeping our mouth and teeth in good nick. What we may not be so familiar with, though, is looking after the oral health of our pets. But dog and cat dental care is an absolute must – not least because it allows our pets to remain happy, healthy, and, rather importantly, able to continue chewing on their favourite treats.

If you’re a Cat Owner, we’ve put together a handy guide to cat dental care so you can keep your kitty’s mouth in tip-top shape.

Why is cat dental care so essential?

Good dental health is one of the most important aspects of your cat’s overall condition. If your cat is suffering from problems like pain, inflammation, or tartar build-up, or even a more serious type of dental disease, it can make it quite tricky for them to eat, drink, and keep happy.

In saying that, issues with teeth and gums are very common. They affect eight out of ten cats aged three and older. Periodontal disease (in other words, disease that affects the teeth, gums, and bones in your cat’s mouth) is also the most prevalent medical condition in cats and dogs.

The reasons for this aren’t surprising: like us, things like food, debris, bacteria, and plaque build up on the outside of their teeth, leading to the formation of tartar. If left long enough, this hardened coating can cause gum irritation, gingivitis (early gum disease), and tooth loss.

In the most serious of cases, cats might need some teeth removed to combat the pain. Or, bacteria may enter the bloodstream and cause organ damage.

This is why it’s so imperative to look after your cat’s teeth, right from when they’re young. As with most things, prevention is always better than a cure. So, maintaining a good oral care routine for your cat can help keep dental problems at bay.

What are the most common cat dental problems?

Cats’ mouths can be inflicted with all kinds of issues, but dental ones are some of the most prevalent. Common cat dental problems include:

  • Gingivitis. This the earliest form of gum disease. It’s caused by an accumulation of plaque and tartar, which eventually creeps into a cat’s gums. Signs include swelling, redness, and discomfort, or even bleeding of the gums
  • Periodontitis. Periodontitis is basically the next step after gingivitis. If gingivitis isn’t treated, it can eventually lead to loose teeth or tooth loss. Sometimes, teeth may have to be surgically removed. Many cats with periodontis find it hard to eat, but you may also notice gum recession, drooling, and the signs of gingivitis we mentioned earlier
  • Tooth resorption. This is where the structure of the tooth essentially breaks down from the inside out. It’s the biggest reason behind tooth loss in cats. Tooth resorption causes similar symptoms to periodontis like refusing to eat and drooling, but your vet will need to perform an assessment to diagnose the condition
  • Halitosis. Halitosis is also known as bad breath. It happens a lot in cats, but is usually a symptom of other conditions like periodontitis, an infection in the mouth, or even diabetes and kidney disease
  • Gingivostomatitis. While quite rare, gingivostomatitis is a pretty severe condition. It involves extreme, chronic inflammation or ulceration of a cat’s oral tissue (gums, oral cavity, inside cheek, and so on). Symptoms include intense pain, swelling or bleeding of the gums, inability to eat, weight loss, halitosis, and drooling

A guide to cat dental care

Now you know what kinds of dental problems can affect your kitty, it’s time to dive into the ins and outs of cat dental care. Namely, how to check your cat’s mouth, tips for cat dental cleaning, and what tools you need to keep your cat’s teeth in excellent shape.

What to look for in your cat’s mouth

Regular mouth checks are an easy way to look for problems. When assessing your cat’s mouth, there are a few things you’ll want to keep an eye out for. If your cat’s mouth is in good condition, they’ll have pink, healthy-looking gums and clean, white teeth that are free of chips and fractures.

If you notice any of the signs we mentioned earlier, it could indicate a problem. You may also see other symptoms like odd bumps, ulcers, or lesions inside their mouth; pawing at the mouth or face; shaking their head; or strange feeding patterns.

Maintaining a cat dental cleaning routine

Aside from regular checks, a solid cat dental cleaning routine is crucial for warding off problems. In fact, while it may seem a little odd, brushing your cat’s teeth is the best form of prevention.

It’s best to brush your cat’s teeth every day, or at least twice a week. Many adult cats aren’t particularly fond of having their teeth brushed. If you can, try to implement a cat dental cleaning routine when your kitty is still young. That way, they can get used to the process.

How to brush your cat’s teeth

Cleaning your cat’s teeth is relatively straightforward, once you get the hang of it. Place your cat in your lap, then tilt them backwards so you’re cradling them from behind. Gently pull back their lips and start brushing their teeth. Come in at a 45-degree angle and do light circles on the surface of their teeth and where their teeth meet their gums.

Make sure you remain calm, attentive, and positive throughout the process. You don’t want your cat stressing out and refusing future cleanings!

To brush your cat’s teeth, you’ll need:

  • Toothpaste for cats. You can buy toothpaste that’s specially formulated for cats and usually flavoured with chicken, beef, or seafood. Just note that you should never use human toothpaste on your cat; it has very high levels of fluoride that can make your cat sick. Cat toothpaste, on the other hand, is fluoride-free and totally safe if your cat swallows any
  • Cat toothbrush. There are lots of different types of toothbrushes for cats. Some look a bit like human toothbrushes, with special heads to work with your cat’s mouth. Others slip over your finger and have gentle rubber or nylon bristles. Others still look like cat toys and are made to brush your cat’s teeth while they chew on the toy. You can also use sterile gauze strips or specially designed microfibre cloths to clean your cat’s teeth

How to keep cats’ teeth clean without brushing

Cat not a fan of having their teeth brushed? Luckily, there are lots of cat dental care products on the market to keep their mouth healthy.

Here are some of the most popular:

  • Gels and sprays. To make your cat’s dental care routine quick and easy, you can buy a gel or spray. These are applied straight to their teeth to beat plaque and tartar build-up, and bad breath
  • Food and water additives. There are several powders and liquids you can add to your cat’s food or water bowl to further boost their oral health. These products can help to reduce plaque, tartar, and bad breath
  • Dental chews. Part treat, part dental health aid, these chews clear away plaque and tartar from the surface of your cat’s teeth. They’re tasty, too, and flavoured with things like chicken, fish, and catnip
  • Dental care food. If your cat has dental issues, you can buy dental care food for cats. This is designed to reduce plaque and tartar build-up, and help brush your cat’s teeth

When cat dental home care isn’t quite enough: Signs you’ll need to go to the vet

It’s entirely possible to maintain a good cat dental cleaning routine at home. But in some cases, a visit to the vet is in order.

For one, it’s not always easy wrangling your cat into a comfortable position and prying open their mouth. If you’re having trouble, you can take your cat to the vet for a detailed assessment or clean.

As well, some dental disease symptoms aren’t so easy to detect, or you may mistake them for something else. Your vet can perform a comprehensive examination of your cat’s mouth. They may even take X-rays to look for issues that aren’t visible.

And finally, if you notice any of the signs of more serious issues – especially if your cat is in pain – you should head straight to the vet. After a full assessment, they can advise the best course of action to treat the problem.

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