Dental health in cats: taking care of your cat's teeth
Why is it important?
Did you know that around 85% of cats over three are predicted to have dental disease? The longer it goes on unnoticed, the more difficult it will be to treat (not to mention painful for your cat).
If that's not bad enough, dental disease can also be the reason for a very unpleasant cat breath! Joii vet Michaela explains what cat owners need to know about dental care, and the dos and don'ts of caring for a cat's teeth.
Plaque and cats
Plaque is a bacteria that causes inflammation of the gums as well as a bad smell. If not treated, plaque may cause your cat to suffer from dental abscesses, wobbly teeth, and risk disease, which can be both painful and expensive. You may notice the gum looking sore and bleeding as a result of plaque.
Your cat's saliva will eventually harden the plaque so that it becomes tartar, which is the hard brown coating you may see on some cats’ teeth. This cannot be brushed off and needs to be removed by a vet with an ultrasonic scaler. It also provides a rough surface that makes it easier for more plaque to adhere to.
Preventing dental disease
The best way to prevent dental disease is by brushing your cat's teeth daily with a pet-friendly toothpaste. Even brushing every other day has been shown to be 60% less effective, so it is best to make this part of your daily routine by positioning the kit near something you do daily.
You can teach cats of any age to do this but it is easiest to start from a young age. In older cats it’s best to have a vet check first to ensure there is no dental disease already present that should be addressed first - brushing teeth with already inflamed gums will be very uncomfortable for your cat.
There are a lot of different toothpastes available for cats. It is important to never use human toothpaste as these contain fluoride and foaming agents that your cat does not know to spit out.
How to brush
You can use a baby's toothbrush or a dedicated cat (or even a small dog) toothbrush. The most important part of brushing the teeth is actually the brushing action! You'll need to adopt the right brushing technique to have the most impact. Brush in a circular motion ensuring to reach all teeth surfaces. Remember to brush over the gum line as well. Always start with the back teeth first and the front teeth last as these are the most sensitive.
Top tip: time brushing with feeding so your cat learns that once they have had their teeth brushed they get their food. Provide lots of positive reinforcement by praising them as well!
Dental foods and treats
There are lots of foods and treats available that can help with dental care. Remember that these are not as effective as brushing, but can help in situations where brushing is not possible these can help.
It's always a good idea to speak to your vet for recommendations. Some of these will contain things that help to reduce plaque, while others have a special structure to the kibble/treat that helps to brush the tooth as they are eaten. Remember some of these treats can be very calorific so be careful not to feed too many as you can risk unhealthy weight gain.
What to avoid
While water additives may look tempting and have snazzy marketing, you should avoid using these as they can deter cats from drinking water. They flavour the water, which can result in putting your four-legged friend off their standard form of hydration. What do our vets think? Steer clear of these.
Need more dental care advice for your cat?
Joii's online vets are here to help you 24/7. Whether you need support brushing, want advice on the best products, or are concerned your cat is suffering from dental disease, our vets are able to provide you support all from the comfort of your home.
Download the Joii app today for 24/7 online vet calls for £24.