If your veterinarian has advised you to brush your cat's teeth, rest assured, it was not a joke. Cats and dogs develop dental disease just as their human counterparts if their pearly whites are not cleaned and maintained. Admittedly, most dogs are amenable to being trained to tolerate the tooth-brushing ritual. Cats, on the other hand, tend to take offense to having their personal oral space invaded. Acclimating your cat to a home dental care routine can be accomplished as long as you proceed with patience, praise, and perhaps a bit of bribery. Understanding why dental care is an essential part of your cat's care and how to achieve it will help to preserve her overall health.
Dental Disease Detriments
According to veterinary dental specialist Dr. Daniel T. Carmichael, roughly 90 percent of cats will experience dental disease at some point during their lifespans. Four types of dental disease can strike in your cat's mouth and result in tooth loss, and the four types of dental disease are as follows:
- Periodontal disease
- Feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions
- Feline gingivitis/stomatitis syndrome
- Tooth fractures
Periodontal disease affects approximately 85 percent of cats aged six and older. Although it is the most common type of dental disease, it is also preventable. Periodontal disease occurs when the bacteria in plaque and tartar infiltrate the gum line and attack the roots of the teeth and the bone in which they are anchored. The bacteria also enter the bloodstream and can affect your cat's heart health and contribute to chronic renal failure. By brushing plaque off of your kitty's 30 pearly whites, you can dramatically reduce her risk for periodontal disease.
Tooth Brushing 101
To brush your cat's teeth, you will need toothpaste that is specifically formulated for use in cats, which can be obtained in many animal clinics and pet supply stores, and a brush. For your cat's dainty mouth, there are tiny toothbrushes, or you may opt for a finger brush, which resembles a thimble with bristles.
Never try to initiate a brushing session when your cat is agitated, and do not commence by chasing after her. Approach her when she is calmly reposing. When you begin training her to accept having her teeth brushed, simply offer her a bit of the toothpaste to lick off of your finger. Cat toothpastes are available in flavors that appeal to cats, such as salmon and chicken, and they are formulated to be swallowed without ill effects. Praise her for licking the toothpaste treat and walk away. After a few days of this, begin moving your fingers in her mouth while she is licking the toothpaste. Once she is accepting of this, then rub the toothpaste on her teeth with your finger. For each stage of training, she will likely hesitate or pull her head away at first. Talk to her in reassuring tones, and wait until she tolerates what is happening before you progress to using the brush instead of your finger. Pets will not sit patiently with their mouths wide open, so expect to brush only the front surfaces of the teeth as you slip the brush along her parted lips. At this point, you will need both hands, using one to brush and one to hold her head steady and pull back her lip.
Be patient throughout the training process, and only progress through the steps at a pace with which she is apparently comfortable. Conclude every brushing session with a treat as a reward for her tolerance. Once you are able to brush her teeth, perform the task at least every other day, and each session should only take a minute or so.
Alternatives for Feistier Felines
If your cat is simply not having any of it after several weeks of the aforementioned attempts, there are alternate methods that you can enlist to try to control plaque accumulation. Some things that you can do include the following:
- Apply a veterinary oral anti-plaque dental rinse or gel to your cat's teeth.
- Provide dental chews and tartar control treats for your cat to nosh.
- Feed her a prescription tartar control diet, which can be obtained from your veterinarian if your cat has a history of periodontal disease.
Do not fight with your cat or risk her wrath if she violently protests having her teeth brushed. Any dental care method that she will tolerate is better than no effort at all.
Maintain your veterinarian's recommended examination schedule, during which he or she will peer into your cat's mouth and evaluate her dental health. Just as is the case with humans, occasional professional cleanings may be necessary, even in cats that receive diligent home dental care. By taking proactive steps to reduce your cat's plaque accumulation, you may reduce the number of these professional cleanings that she will need throughout her lifetime. You will also provide your cat with a pretty smile, fresh breath, and better overall systemic health.
For more information, contact a local clinic like Northside Emergency Pet Clinic.