Feline Dental Care
Admit it, cat lovers – how many of you have looked in your cat’s mouth in the last month? In the last year? Although we all know about the importance of human dental care, what many cat owners don’t realize is that healthy teeth and gums are just as important to our cat’s well-being, too. You probably haven’t thought too much about what goes on in your feline friend’s mouth, but you might be interested to know that the process of tooth disease for our kitty friends is very similar to what happens in people – and is far more common than we think. More than 85% of cats over age four have significant dental disease that is in need of treatment by a veterinarian!
So what’s actually happening in there to cause all of these toothy troubles? Well, just like in people, soft dental plaque builds up on the surfaces of your cat’s teeth and close to the gums. This plaque contains bacteria which can irritate gum tissue. Ouch! The hard yellow gunk that you might see is called dental calculus, and it’s formed when calcium salts in your cat’s saliva mix with the dental plaque. Together, these work together to irritate your kitty’s gums, causing pain, inflammation, and, if left untreated, bone infection, tooth loss, or even organ disease down the road.
So what are some of the symptoms that could signal trouble in your cat’s mouth? Here are a few signs to watch for:
- An ‘off’ odor or just plain bad breath – this is caused by dental bacteria or infection
- Red line around the gums (gingivitis), swollen, sore or bleeding gums
- Loss of appetite or unchewed kibble
- Pain! Dental disease is very uncomfortable – you might notice that your cat becomes more irritable, and may not want to be touched, especially around their head or face
- Loose teeth or tooth loss – these are usually only seen during late stage disease
Unfortunately, as mentioned above, untreated dental issues can increase your cat’s risk for kidney, liver or heart disease, as the bacteria from a chronic tooth or gum infection can move through their bloodstream to affect other organs. The good news is that you can play a large part in keeping your feline friend’s mouth healthy – the key is simply good prevention! Check your cat’s mouth every week and talk to your vet about any changes that you see. Your cat benefits from regular physical examinations, and may need to undergo dental scaling by a professional if they have excessive calculus buildup. There are some water additives on the market that can help soften dental plaque as your cat drinks, too. Most importantly, if you can teach your cat to become accustomed to daily tooth brushing, you’ll have the best chance at removing a large amount of that troublesome dental buildup before it hardens.
Although it may seem like a lot of work, taking care of your cat’s teeth is an immensely important part of seeing to your feline friend’s well-being. The attention that you provide to them will provide added benefits for your kitty’s health and comfort throughout their lifetime, and will protect your pocketbook in the long run, too!