Although cat owners may have sharp eyes at spotting symptoms of illness in our furry friends, many of us have taken a more casual approach to dental health. It is not surprising, therefore, to learn that 85% of adult pets have periodontal disease, and that dental disease is the largest single cause of health problems in cats.
Dental disease affects cats as much as it does humans. A program of regular brushing, dietary controls, and regular teeth cleaning by your veterinarian can extend the life of your cat's teeth, prevent painful oral conditions in your cat, and ensure better overall health for kitty.
How To Examine Your Cat's Teeth and Gums
A critical part of a dental care program for cats is routine at-home examination of his teeth and gums. Here are tips for making it easy on both of you.
Time Required: 1-2 minutes 2-3 times monthly
- Smell your cat's breath. An unpleasant odor can indicate infection of the gums and/or bone. After eliminating dental problems, check with your vet for other causes.
- While quietly talking to your cat, from his back side, tip his head back slightly.
- Using your thumb and index finger, spread the side of his mouth open. Make sure you have a good light.
- Look at his back teeth for yellowing (plaque) or darker material (tartar). Check for cracked or broken teeth. Observe the color of the gums - they should be a healthy pink, not an angry red or a pale pink.
- Repeat step 4 with the front teeth, then move to the other side of the mouth.
- Look into the back of the cat's throat for redness, especially "cobblestone" in appearance. This is a sign of stomatitis, a serious and painful condition usually found in older cats. An angled dental mirror will help here.
- If at any time your cat fights your attention, give it up and try another day.
- Reward your cat with a treat. A dental chew would be an excellent choice.
- Once you and your cat are comfortable with this procedure, make it a regular practice (at least once a month.)
- Follow up with a veterinary exam once a year, or twice a year if your cat has previous dental problems.
- It may be easier to have a partner hold the cat's mouth open while you examine the oral cavity.
- Choose a comfortable spot with good lighting. A small penlight would be an asset.
What You Need:
- Small penlight (optional)
- Angled Dental Mirror
- Dental Chew Reward
Clean Your Cat's Teeth
Dental health is every bit as important to cats as it is to humans. A regular program of teeth cleaning will ensure your cat will enjoy his senior years with all his teeth intact.
Time Required: 5 minutes
- Assemble supplies: sterile gauze, scissors, cat toothpaste (available at pet stores) or a weak sterile solution recommended by your veterinarian.
- Wrap a strip of gauze around the index finger of your dominant hand and either dip it in the sterile solution, or apply a small amount of toothpaste to your fingertip.
- Holding the cat in your lap, open his mouth
- Gently rub your 'finger brush' in a circular motion on his teeth, concentrating on the area next to the gums. Gently massage the gums at the same time. It's not necessary to do the back sides of the teeth.
- Once your cat will tolerate this procedure, you can graduate to a small child's toothbrush.
- Give kitty a few loving pats and kind words, along with a little treat to polish off with his shiny clean teeth.
- You might want to experiment with flavored toothpaste for cats. There is a fish-flavored one that is quite tasty.
- If you start practicing examining your cats teeth at a very young age, this process will be much easier. See 'How To Gentle a Kitten' for suggestions.
- Bleeding of the gums is a sign your cat needs professional dental scaling by your veterinarian, so attend to that as soon as possible.
What You Need:
- Sterile gauze
- Cat toothpaste / solution
- Opt: small toothbrush
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