Cat Dental Care and Hygiene
Periodontal Disease in Cats
Periodontal disease is one of the most common and serious pet health problems, affecting approximately 70% of cats by the age of 3. At-home prevention is as important as regular teeth cleaning by veterinarians. In fact, unless you provide teeth cleaning for your cat at home, feline periodontal disease will progress regardless of the care provided by your veterinarian.
How can you prevent periodontal disease in your cat?
The key to management of gum disease in cats is prevention! As long as the surfaces of the teeth are cleaned frequently, the gums will stay healthy. There are several home care options to choose from and anything you can do to help prevent plaque and tartar buildup will be beneficial.
It is best to start by letting your cat lick the toothpaste from your finger. Once they have shown interest, offer the paste from their toothbrush. Finally place the brush with paste in your cat’s mouth. It is best to start with the tooth brush on the outsides of the cheek teeth under the upper lip. After they are comfortable with this process, add the brushing motions.
Selecting a tooth brush and tooth paste
Each cat should have his or her own toothbrush. Proper toothbrushes are soft and angled in order to adequately reach the back teeth. Some cats prefer small finger brushes.
Human toothpastes contain abrasives and detergents and should not be used in cats as they will swallow the paste. There are many toothpaste flavors available and most cats seem to prefer the seafood or poultry-flavored types.
Proper brushing technique
Toothbrush bristles should be placed at a 45-degree angle where the gum and teeth meet. Using a gentle oval pattern and covering three to four teeth at a time, the bristles should be moved around the teeth. Ten short oval motions should be completed before moving the toothbrush to a new location in the mouth. The outside upper teeth do the most chewing and should get more attention.
While chew treats are often helpful in the prevention of plaque and tartar accumulation in dogs, there is very little information available for cats. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) has a list of approved foods and dental treats (http://www.vohc.org) which can help cat owners distinguish which products are actually scientifically proven to reduce plaque and tartar buildup. These treats should not take the place of daily brushing.