Your pet counts on you for protection
With major advances in treating serious infectious and other pet diseases, oral disease - most importantly periodontal or gum disease caused by the build up of plaque and tartar - has become the number-one health problem for cats. It's estimated that without proper dental care 70% of cats will show signs of oral disease by age three. With your help, your pets can have healthy teeth and gums throughout their lives.
You simply need to provide them with a few things:
- A nutritious diet
- Chew treats
- Regular brushing at home
- Yearly dental checkups by a veterinary surgeon
Good dental health begins with the proper diet
The wrong kinds of food can cause dental distress in pets. Feeding your cat a dry food rather than just a moist, canned one will, through its mild abrasive action on the teeth, help remove the bacterial plaque that can harden into tartar. Dry food also provides adequate chewing exercise and gum stimulation. Avoid giving your pet sweets and table scraps as they may also increase plaque and tartar formation. Your vet may recommend the use of special dry foods designed to reduce plaque and tartar build-up, especially if your pet is prone to dental problems due to breed or individual genetic history.
Brushing your pet's teeth
Cats need to have their teeth brushed in order to eliminate the dental plaque that can cause tooth decay and the formation of tartar, which can lead to gum disease. You should begin a regular, daily brushing routine as soon as you bring your new kitten home. Even older cats can be trained to accept having their teeth brushed. You simply need to introduce the activity gradually and make the experience a positive one for your pet. Reassure and praise them profusely throughout the process and reward them with a very special treat when it's finished.
Here's how it can be done:
Finally, once your pet is used to brushing, introduce the use of pet toothpaste in liquid or paste form. Most of these contain chlorhexidine or stannous fluoride - ask your veterinary surgeon for their recommendations. Don't use human toothpaste, as it can upset your pet's stomach. Your vet may also advise the use of an antiseptic spray or rinse after brushing.
Don't forget a yearly dental checkup
Doing your best to ensure that your cat receives the proper diet and regular brushing at home will help maintain teeth and gums in top condition. To provide optimum dental care at home, you need to start with a clean bill of dental health. That's where your pet's veterinary surgeon comes in.
He/she will give your pet a thorough examination of the entire oral cavity to determine whether there are any underlying problems and, especially important, tartar buildup. Brushing removes plaque but not tartar, so if your pet's teeth do have tartar, your veterinary surgeon will have to remove it with a professional cleaning and polishing, usually accomplished under anaesthesia. After removing the tartar above and below the gum line, your veterinary surgeon will provide you with instructions for home care and follow-up.
A few tips:
- Cats aren’t great chewers but special diets are available from veterinary surgeons that encourage chewing and will can help remove plaque, and provide stimulation for the gums.
A few statistics:
- Kittens have their first 26 "milk" or deciduous teeth at 2 to 3 weeks of age. Their 30 permanent teeth begin erupting around 3 months.
- Cats have the fewest teeth of any common domestic mammal.