Open Wide: Cat Dental CarePublished September 15, 2011
Flickr User elh70
While I was reading Dr. Lauren Brickman’s article on animals’ baby teeth published on Petside the other day, I got to thinking about the importance of cats’ oral health and how it is often underestimated, and thereby overlooked. Fortunately, however, over the past few years pet owners are becoming more and more aware of how regular cat dental care contributes to their pet’s overall health.
And while several veterinary groups, including the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Veterinary Dental Society set aside February as Pets Dental Health Month in order to remind pet owners how crucial robust pet oral health is, as far as this writer is concerned, every day should be devoted to maintaining healthy teeth and gums for our furry companions.
It has been estimated that by the age of two to three years old, about 80% of cats are affected by dental disease. Many cat owners mistakenly believe that feeding an exclusive diet of dry food will protect them from tooth decay, tartar and gingivitis. According to Feline Nutritional expert, Dr. Lisa Pierson, claims made that cats fed an exclusive dry food diet will reduce the risk of dental disease are inaccurate and greatly exaggerated.
Many cats don't even chew dry food, and they swallow it whole. Our two Oriental Shorthairs, Dr. Hush Puppy and Sir Hubble Pinkerton, are prime examples of the “vacuum cleaner” method of eating dry food. Due to rampant dental disease, common in the Siamese and Oriental breeds, all but their front teeth and canines were extracted in order to restore their mouth to good health. We only give them grain-less dry food as a snack, and I am amazed how quickly it disappears. This certainly presents no benefit to the remaining teeth.
Additionally, Dr. Pierson cautions that dental decay may be actually caused by the high level of carbohydrates contained in dry food. She continues by suggesting that meat-based diets, which result in an acidic oral environment, may contribute toward preventing some types of dental disease in cats. She also suggests that "perhaps a more natural way to promote dental health is to feed cats large chunks of raw meat. There is an easy to follow guide for “Home Prepared Diets” available on her website.
What Are Some Signs That Your Pet Needs Professional Cat Dental Care and Intervention?
- Unpleasant breath. This can be caused by broken teeth, inflamed gums, or an infection of the bones.
- Yellowish-brown tartar on the teeth.
- Drooling, dropping food, or refusal to eat.
- Pawing at the mouth, bleeding gums.
How You Can Help Cut Down on Dental Disease in Cats at Home
Although I am positive the majority of cats aren’t thrilled by having their teeth brushed, teeth brushing can help reduce dental disease. Once kitty has adjusted to the simple procedure, the task can easily be accomplished on a daily basis. And remember to reward your cat with praise and a healthy treat after successful brushing has been accomplished.
Watch the excellent instructional video uploaded to YouTube by VetVid.
How often do you brush your cat’s teeth? Is dental health a concern for your cat? Share your experiences in a comment.