How To Stay On Top Of Your Cat’s Dental Care
The best cat dental care tips, according to a vet 🦷
As a passionate pet parent, you know keeping your cat’s teeth healthy is super important.
That’s why you should know how to stay on top of your cat’s dental care.
The Dodo spoke with Amy Gardiner, a vet tech and hospital administrator at Absecon Veterinary Hospital in New Jersey, to figure out how to keep your cat’s teeth clean and which signs mean he needs more serious dental work.
Why is dental care important for my cat?
If you don’t brush your cat’s teeth regularly, it can lead to dental problems later on, like periodontal disease, which can be pretty painful. And since cats don’t typically communicate that they’re sick or experiencing discomfort, it’s difficult to tell when your cat needs professional help. So it’s important that you keep up with your cat’s dental care on a regular basis at home before his health becomes seriously affected.
While wild cats can clean their teeth by chewing on bones, your cat doesn’t have this ability. So it’s up to you to remove any bacteria buildup on his teeth.
How to brush your cat’s teeth
The best way to keep your cat’s mouth healthy is by cleaning his teeth regularly at home.
“We recommend brushing your pet’s teeth if they tolerate it,” Gardiner told The Dodo.
That’s definitely easier said than done. Not all cats love having unwanted things stuck in their mouths. But you can make the process a lot more comfortable for your cat.
“Usually it’s easiest to work up to a toothbrush by starting with a washcloth to rub the teeth and gums,” Gardiner explained. “Once they get used to that sensation, you can use a toothbrush or a finger brush.”
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When your cat does become more comfortable with a toothbrush, Gardiner recommends using toothpaste from C.E.T.
Cat dental treats
In addition to brushing your cat’s teeth, there are some products that’ll help fight plaque and keep your cat’s teeth extra clean between brushing.
The most common dental supplements are cat dental treats, which are typically crunchy, porous treats designed to scrub your BFF’s teeth when he bites into them. They’re a great way to help keep plaque and tartar at bay, but that doesn’t mean you can replace actual brushing with a handful of treats. You should still be brushing your cat’s teeth even if you’re giving him dental treats.
Common cat dental diseases
There are three dental diseases that are pretty common in cats:
- Periodontal disease
- Tooth resorption
Gingivitis is a disease that affects your cat’s gums, making them red, swollen and painful. Gingivitis can even cause your pet’s gums to bleed, which is definitely not ideal.
Gingivitis occurs most often when your cat doesn’t follow a dental routine at home and develops plaque buildup, but there are a bunch of other conditions that could cause the disease, like diabetes or kidney disease.
Your cat’s gingivitis is treatable, but the method will depend on whether he’s dealing with mild, moderate or severe gingivitis. Treatment can range from simply brushing your cat’s teeth to extracting them.
Periodontal disease in cats is what happens when their gingivitis goes untreated.
Basically the disease progresses to the point that it affects the tissue that keeps your cat’s teeth attached to his gums, which could ultimately result in tooth loss.
Treatment for periodontal disease isn’t going to be as easy as brushing your cat’s teeth to fix the problem. Instead, he’s going to need a professional cleaning, or even an extraction or two.
Tooth resorption is when the dentin in a cat’s tooth — aka the layer underneath the enamel — starts wearing away or dissolving, and it could eventually happen to the tooth’s root or crown, too.
“Resorption typically starts at the gumline and then begins to erode the tooth,” Gardiner said. “[It] can cause severe pain.”
That definitely doesn’t sound fun.
And if your cat is experiencing resorption, Gardiner said, the only thing you can do is have the affected tooth removed by a vet.
“This can typically be done by your veterinarian with your pet under general anesthesia,” she explained.
Professional cat dental cleaning
It’s important to make sure your cat gets an oral exam during his yearly visit to the vet.
“Your veterinarian ... will check the overall health of your cat’s mouth and teeth,” Gardiner said.
Between your visits to the vet, keep an eye out in case your cat is showing any of these signs:
- Decreased appetite
- Not eating
- Bad smell coming from your cat’s mouth
These things could all indicate that your cat has some sort of infection or oral issue.
How often do cats need their teeth cleaned?
In addition to that annual oral exam, it’s a good idea to also get your cat a professional cleaning.
Even if you’re brushing your cat’s teeth regularly and giving him dental treats, he’s still going to need a professional cleaning every once in a while, just like you still need to go to the dentist.
Depending on the state of your cat’s teeth, once a year might be enough. But talk to your vet to find out just how often your cat should be getting his teeth cleaned.
How much do cat teeth cleanings cost?
There’s no one set cost for a cat’s teeth cleaning because the price will depend on a bunch of things, like:
- Extent of any dental disease
- If extractions are necessary
- Underlying conditions
- If anesthesia is necessary
With those factors in mind, a cat teeth cleaning could range from $200 to $1,500. (And it could cost more, since you should probably set up a preoperative exam to make sure your cat’s OK to undergo the procedure.)
Now that you know just how important your cat’s dental care is and how to stay on top of it, you’ll be able to make sure his pearly whites stay that way.
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