Oral Health In Cats – by Dr. Desmond
The Importance Of Good Oral Health In Cats – Written by Dr. Desmond
Cats are social animals and their oral hygiene is one of the most important aspects of their life. Keeping your cat’s teeth clean, not only keep their breath fresh but also prevents diseases such as gingivitis.
Naturally, cats chew on bones and grass to keep their mouth clean. Domestic cats may not have this privilege hence the need to monitor their oral health. Animals are unable to speak and communicate their pain or discomfort, thus cats will only show symptoms when it’s too late and sometimes the teeth are dead and decaying. This dictates that each cat owner should plan with their vet to develop preventive oral hygiene measures other than curative procedures.
The owner should monitor their cat’s oral health routinely, to ensure the gums and teeth are looking healthy. Up to 80% of oral illness develop in cats over 3 years of age. This is because cats accumulate plaque, debris and bacteria from the food they eat on the outside of their teeth. Over time, this accumulates and causes tartar which eventually causes gingivitis, tooth decay and tooth loss. In some cases, the tartar cannot be reversed and to relieve the pain the tooth has to be extracted. The resulting pain will make the cat so ill and unable to eat. The bacteria may go into the bloodstream and spread to other vital organs damaging kidneys and liver. This can be fatal.
The progressive destruction of teeth, gums and structures that hold the teeth is called Periodontal disease. Good news is that periodontal disease is preventable. To achieve this the owner needs to:
1. Check the health of their cat’s mouth.
A healthy cat’s teeth should be clean, white and free from chipping. The gums should be healthy pink without any swelling, bleeding or redness. Check the back of the teeth for any lesions, swelling or bumps and inside the mouth for foreign bodies such as grass, strings or food particles. Any abnormality should be addressed immediately. If the cat is fierce consult with the vets.
Your cat’s breath should be fresh at all time. If you notice a foul smell it’s an indication of infection in the mouth or systemic disease elsewhere and should be addressed by a vet. Persistent foul breath is an indication of severe periodontal disease that requires treatment.
Other symptoms of dental problems include:
Drooling, difficulties in swallowing, pawing on the face, changes in eating patterns and weight loss.
2. Keep their cat’s teeth clean.
Daily or at least twice a week brushing of their teeth can help a lot. Older cats may be difficult and resistant to the procedure. Therefore it’s recommended that you start brushing their teeth while they’re young so that they get used to the procedure. Use a finger, cotton or wrap your finger in gauze and use a toothpaste specifically made for cats. Routinely dip your finger in tuna or soup and keep rubbing on their teeth. This will make them get used to as well as enjoy the experience. Use only equipment made for cats. Never, ever use human toothpaste on cats. The fluoride levels are too high and can cause serious illness if ingested.
Fluoride-free toothpaste made for cats is readily available. It is flavoured with beef or chicken.
Never use dental floss. It’s can severely damage intestines when swallowed!
3. Keeping their cat’s mouth clean.
Oral hygiene doesn’t stop with the teeth. Check that the gums are healthy and that there is no swelling or bleeding. After brushing teeth, massage the gums gently. This will heal and strengthen them well and avoid any inflammation later on by improving blood flow.
There are a number of products that can help you maintain your cat’s oral hygiene. Consult with your vet before trying anything on your cat.
These products will remove plaques, control tartar build-up and keep the breath fresh. Some of these contain ingredients that are good for the overall health of the cat such as Vitamin E, Selenium, taurine and antiseptics that fight bacteria in the cat’s mouth. Your vet can recommend a lot of products specifically formulated for cats.
If your efforts to clean your cat’s mouth are futile take the cat to the vet.
Dental cleaning is usually done under general anaesthesia. This allows your veterinarian to remove plaque and calculus, polish the teeth and conduct a comprehensive oral examination that includes inspecting under the gums. It also provides the opportunity for your veterinarian to clean under the gums to remove bacteria and to conduct any other procedures, such as x-rays to diagnose dental disease. You should note that older cats may need their teeth cleaned more frequently.
How to Maintain your cat’s oral health?
1. Regular check-ups by self and/or by a vet.
2. Brushing their teeth, start when they’re young so they get used it.
3. Use only products specifically formulated for cats.
4. Consult your vet on products before using them on your cat.
5. In case of bad breath take your cat to a vet. Periodontal disease develops from under the gums and by the time you get the smell it requires Veterinary attention.
6. Feed your cat a healthy diet and from 3 years onwards make it a routine to visit a vet for dental check-ups regularly.
Dr. Desmond Tutu – B.V.M. – Veterinarian
If there is anything you would like to know, leave a comment and Dr. Desmond will get back to you!