Spotlight on Feline Dental Care
To a certain extent, a bit of “tuna breath” is an expected part of cat ownership. That doesn’t mean, however, that caring for your cat’s teeth isn’t important. Feline dental care is a vital component of responsible pet ownership, and the team at Wellesley-Natick Veterinary Hospital is here to get you off to a good start.
Feline Dental Foes
In some ways cats have it a little more difficult than their canine counterparts when it comes to oral health. Many cats and dogs alike are affected by periodontal disease, but feline patients are prone to other oral conditions as well.
The most common dental issues seen in cats include:
Periodontal disease — Accumulation of plaque and tartar on the teeth can lead to inflammation and destruction of the soft tissues, periodontal ligament holding the tooth in place, and actual bone around the tooth.
Feline gingivostomatitis — A reaction of the tissues around the tooth to the plaque on the teeth can cause red, painful swelling in the mouth. Severity can vary, however very severe cases can be debilitating.
Feline oral resorptive lesions — These cavity-like holes in the teeth occur when cells within the tooth itself begin to create holes near the gum line. These holes are very painful and can even lead to infection.
Many times dental disease in cats is difficult to assess without an anesthetized oral examination, and many dental issues can appear similarly.
Trouble in Paradise
While your cat’s mouth may appear relatively normal to an untrained eye, most pets over the age of three have some form of dental disease. Because cat dental disease can be tricky to diagnose without a close look (often with the help of dental radiographs), it is important for feline patients to undergo routine preventative oral examinations and cleanings under anesthesia.
Untreated dental disease can have serious consequences over time. Signs that your cat may be long overdue for a dental examination can include:
- Oral pain/reluctance to have teeth examined
- Loss of teeth
- Bleeding or foul odor from mouth
- Weight loss
- Decreased grooming
- Decreased appetite or uncharacteristic pickiness regarding food
By the time many of these symptoms are present, the disease is typically pretty advanced. This level of dental disease not only contributes to decreased quality of life and unnecessary pain, but can also lead to local or systemic infection and, in turn, impairment of organ function.
DIY Feline Dental Care
So what is a cat owner to do? While much success in feline dental care lies in allowing us to perform periodic evaluations under anesthesia, you can certainly play a part in supporting your cat’s dental health.
At home dental care is a must. While tooth brushing is possible in cats, it can be a big ball of yarn to unwind. If you decide to take on training your cat to have his teeth brushed, start slow. You can dip your finger in a little tuna juice to get kitty used to your finger in her mouth before slowly graduating to a soft brush or finger cot with veterinary toothpaste.
Besides tooth brushing, there are many home care products including water additives, treats, and even diets that you can utilize. Be sure to use one approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council to get the biggest bang for your buck.
Brushing teeth and using oral care products can go a long way, but just like us, our cats still need to visit the dentist from time to time. Give us a call if it is time for your cat to have their oral examination, or if you are noticing signs of a problem. When it comes to feline dental care, you are your cat’s biggest advocate!