In my last post I talked about Dental Health in cats.70% of cats over the age of three have dental disease. With the majority of dental disease occurring below the gum line, it can be hard to tell how serious your cat’s dental disease is without her going under anesthesia for dental x-rays. Of course we all want to limit the number of times our cat goes under anesthesia- both for her health and for the health of our pocketbooks.
So, what is a concerned cat parent to do? How do you keep your cat’s teeth as healthy as possible? The same way you keep your own teeth healthy and disease free-Preventative care.
Did you know you can brush your cat’s teeth? It’s true! There are great little toothbrushes designed just for cats! If you decide to brush your cat’s teeth you have to start slowly, get her used to the concept of having your finger, and eventually a toothbrush, in her mouth. The video below is a great demonstration of how to introduce tooth brushing to your cat.
Not every cat will accept tooth brushing. As mentioned in the video, there are a number of other ways to help prevent dental disease. There are products you can add to your pet’s water or apply directly to her gums to help prevent dental disease.Check with your veterinarian to see if he has a preferred product product.
You can also try feeding your cat a dental diet, that is a dry food specifically designed to help remove plaque. Please note that not every dry food helps remove plaque. Most dry foods are the equivalent of eating cereal or a ginger snap for humans. They may be crunchy, but they don’t help clean our teeth. Additionally, many cats swallow their dry food whole. Dental diets, such as Science Diet’s t/d, Royal Canin’s DD or Purina’s DH, are larger kibbles designed to be chewed by your cat and scrape the plaque off her teeth. Some of the foods work chemically as well, having added ingredients to help prevent plaque formation in the first place.
If your cat won’t accept a dental diet you can also try dental treats to help remove plaque and prevent tarter buildup. My favorite, and the ones we highly recommend at the clinic I work at are called CET chews. They look like corks.They are designed to work chemically (added ingredients to prevent plaque buildup) and mechanically (the chewing helps remove any current buildup on the teeth). Because the size of the treats, many people cut them in half the first few times they give them to their cats. As I said they look like corks and many cats think they are great for playing with.
Anyone who walks down the treat aisle of the pet store will notice that lots of treats lay claims to helping prevent plaque. Beyond treats, if you go to the supplements aisle, there are hundreds of different products for keeping your pet’s teeth healthy.How is a pet parent to know what works and what doesn’t? You certainly don’t want to waste money on hundreds of different products. Especially since cats are notoriously finicky about what they will tolerate in their food, not to mention what they will allow their humans to do to them. If you have questions about a dental product, talk to you veterinarian. He or she will be able to direct you to the best products available for your cat’s particular needs.
I would also advise looking for products with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC)’s seal of approval on them. These products are held to a high standard and have to go through rigorous trials to ensure they actually help control plaque and tarter in your cat. You can find a complete list of products they certify on their website: http://www.vohc.org/accepted_products.htm.
Every cat is different. Some cats will tolerate brushing, some won’t accept brushing, but will take a gel rubbed on their gums or a water additive. Some won’t accept anything. As with any medical issue, talk to you veterinarian about what is best for you and your cat. If the stress of having her teeth brushed is ultimately going to ruin your relationship with your cat, it’s not worth it for either of you. Ultimately preventative care is just that, preventative. Cats, just like humans, will still need regular dental work. Human dentists recommend we be seen every 6 months for cleanings, even though we brush our teeth at least twice daily. Despite your best efforts, some cats will still need to see the vet for dental cleanings on a yearly basis, some may not need a professional cleaning for years. It depends in large part on genetics. Preventative care can help decrease need for professional cleanings. Again, the best thing is to talk with your veterinarian about the best options for your cat.