Like their human companions, cats require regular dental care to foster and maintain optimal health. This is an issue that requires particular attention on the part of cat owners, as felines tend to be quite stoic when it comes to pain and may not exhibit obvious signs of dental distress. This pain and distress can effect various parts of your cat’s life, which is why it’s essential to keep your cat’s teeth healthy.
What to Look For
With careful monitoring, you should be able to winnow out any dental issues. Some of the signs that a cat is having dental problems include:
- Pawing at the mouth
- Problems eating
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen or bleeding gums
- Loose, broken or missing teeth
- Blood in saliva
- Lesions in the mouth
- Bad breath
An Ounce of Prevention…
There are many things you can do to help maintain your cat’s dental health, beginning with regular check-ups by your veterinarian. Annual or semi-annual visits to the vet clinic will help identify dental issues early-on, thereby making them easier to treat. If your cat is exhibiting signs of dental problems your vet may want to put him under a general anesthesia in order to take x-rays and formulate the best possible treatment plan.
Dental Care at Home
Ideally, you will have a plan for home dental care that will keep your cat’s teeth healthy, while also keeping their gums in good condition.
Although many pet owners just assume that their cats will not tolerate having their teeth brushed a surprising number of felines are fine with this procedure. It’s best to start this practice when your cat is young, if at all possible, but it’s worth a try with older pets as well. There are specially-designed toothbrushes and flavoured kinds of toothpaste for cats that will make the process more attractive to them.
Avoid using toothbrushes and pastes made for humans – the shape of the brush and taste of the paste may be enough to make your cat decide he wants nothing to do with the idea. In addition, human products are in shapes and paste combinations that may actually prove harmful to your cat.
There are also brushes that will fit over your finger for ease of use, or you can try just using a bit of gauze over your finger with the paste added on, which will give you maximum maneuverability in your cat’s mouth.
If you are planning to brush your cat’s teeth it’s a good idea to have your veterinarian or a veterinary technician show you how to do it correctly.
Good Nutrition is Imperative
A healthy diet for your cat is important when it comes to basic dental care. Some pet foods include special enzymes or other ingredients that they claim will help to keep your cat’s mouth healthy and happy. Many folks assume that feeding dry kibble will automatically help scrape plaque and bits of food off the cat’s teeth, but this isn’t necessarily the case. A bowl of clean water will do more to enable the removal of detritus, so ensure that your cat always has access to fresh water.
Other Aids for Feline Dental Care
As the importance of dental health in our pets has become increasingly acknowledged, so has the retail market expanded with many new specialty products. These may prove helpful in your dental care plan, especially if your cat resists having his teeth brushed.
Among the new products available, there are:
- Additives that you can put in your cat’s water that are designed to prevent build-up of plaque and tartar
- Sprays that you can apply directly to your cat’s oral cavity and teeth
- Wipes and pads that are impregnated with products designed to keep your pet’s teeth in good condition
- Oral rinses
- Teeth-cleaning chew sticks, toys and balls that also may contain catnip to make them more attractive to your feline friend.
If you aren’t sure which product(s) might be best-suited to your pet ask the advice of your veterinarian or a trusted and experienced pet supply retailer.
Is Professional Teeth Cleaning Required?
Much of the answer to this question depends on the age, genetics, diet, lifestyle and existence of other health conditions in your cat. And, of course, your at-home dental care will factor into this as well. Being pro-active can help your cat live a long, healthy life – something we want for all of our pets.
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