Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth Promotes Good Health
Cats need good dental care to help them stay healthy and happy. Just like us, our cat’s health benefits greatly from routine dental care. Brushing your cat’s teeth is important for her health because dental disease can lead to several systemic illnesses. This can be avoided by continuing a good oral hygiene program on a regular basis.
Signs that your cat’s teeth need cleaned include:
-Red or bleeding gums
-Yellow staining along the gum line
-Crusty yellowish-brown tartar on the back teeth
-Difficulty eating hard or crunchy food
Like humans, cats develop plaque on their teeth from bacteria in their mouth. Within only two or three days, this plaque can form a hard, yellowish-brown substance called tartar. Once this tartar is formed, it cannot be removed by brushing, it will need to be scraped from the tooth surfaces. Your veterinarian can provide this service. Your cat will be anesthetized, have a complete oral exam, and a cleaning similar to what you receive at your own dentist’s office.
If you are beginning a dental regimen with an older cat, you may want to consider having your veterinarian do a cleaning first. If you are beginning with a kitten, this may not be necessary. It is best to start off with a clean mouth, especially one that is clear of tartar. Afterward, you can brush your cat’s teeth daily, or at minimum three times per week. This will help prevent tartar from forming, and keep your cat healthy.
Dental ailments in a cat, such as periodontal disease, can lead to other more serious illness.
The buildup of plaque provides a breeding ground for bacteria. It will cause teeth to erode, which if left untreated, can cause them to break off. A tartar buildup can irritate the gums, which will eventually cause bleeding. Tiny cuts in the cat’s gums will allow the bacteria that naturally live in the mouth to enter the bloodstream. Once there, it can travel to the heart, liver or kidneys.
It will take your cat time to become accustomed to having her teeth brushed. Plan to begin slowly, don’t feel you need to do the complete mouth right away. You will need to purchase a small, soft-bristled toothbrush. You can use a child’s toothbrush, one made especially for cats, or a type that fits over your finger.
You will also need toothpaste formulated especially for cats. Do not use toothpaste intended for humans, it foams and the taste will be unpleasant. Cat toothpastes are enzymatic and come in several flavors your cat will like such as tuna, beef, poultry or malt. You can obtain these supplies from your veterinarian, at several pet supply stores, or even at your local department store’s pet supply area.
You will want to start by helping your cat feel comfortable with having you putting your finger or a toothbrush in her mouth.
While holding your cat on your lap, using a finger or two, gently rub or pet around her mouth. Speak gently to your cat to help her to feel more comfortable. Praise her continually throughout the procedure. If your cat is accepting this, place a small amount of the toothpaste on your finger for her to taste. Apply more paste to your finger or a brush, and begin rubbing it on her teeth. Don’t feel you need to do all the teeth the first time. You may need to start out with only a few. Gradually, over several sessions, work up to include all the teeth.
Pay close attention to:
l Rear teeth, where plaque and tartar tend to be.
l Outside surfaces; the insides are less likely to have plaque.
l The gums, where plaque will also accumulate, by gently rubbing or brushing.
Even if you want to eventually use a toothbrush, you may want to begin using soft gauze wrapped around your finger, or the finger type brush to get her accustomed to the idea. Then, gradually work up to the toothbrush. Be patient, and continue speaking gently to your cat. It is best to pick a time of day that will work well for both you and your cat, and be consistent with it.
After brushing, you can offer her one of several dental treats made for cats. She will eventually associate the treat with the procedure, which may make it easier for you.
If, after several attempts, your older cat just won’t tolerate having her teeth brushed, don’t despair. There are several treats formulated especially for dental hygiene. You will want one that contains enzymes to cut down on the bacteria in your cat’s mouth. There are also special diets available to help prevent the buildup of plaque. Crunchy food and dental treats are good to use even if your cat tolerates brushing, to further aid in prevention of plaque buildups.
If your cat will not allow brushing at all, you will need to have her teeth cleaned by a veterinarian often, every four to six months. Even with a good daily or weekly dental health plan, you should still have your cat’s teeth cleaned professionally a few times per year.
With proper and consistent dental care, your pet will be healthier and happier. You will both be glad you did it.