Five Easy Ways To Keep Your Cat's Teeth Clean
If your cat's pearly whites are starting to look a bit yellow, it's probably time to implement a dental health plan both you and kitty can live with. Cat teeth are important, not just for chewing, but because the condition of your cat's mouth can affect her overall health.
Veterinarians say dental disease is the most common health issue they see in cats. In fact, the vets at Purina Veterinary Diets say it affects between 70-80 percent of cats. And it's more than just a nagging toothache, although that would be bad enough.
Dental disease can be so painful, it can be difficult for the cat to eat. As tartar builds up along and under the gum line, toxins released by bacteria can irritate the gums and cause the teeth to separate from the gums. Inflammation and infection can spread throughout the gums, ligaments and bones supporting the cat's teeth, resulting in tooth loss. Dental disease can also spread beyond the cat's mouth to cause kidney, liver or heart disease and can affect her joints and even her brain.
Signs Of Dental Disease In Cats
Watch your cat for these signs of dental disease.
Veterinarians agree that brushing a cat's teeth is the most effective way to prevent dental disease. But if that's not acceptable to you or your cat, there are alternatives. Here are five other ways to keep your cat's teeth clean and healthy.
1. Give your cat chunks of raw meat or raw chicken necks or wings. Never give your cat cooked bones. They can splinter.
Feline Nutrition Education Society founder Margaret Gates calls raw meat and meaty bones a "natural toothbrush" for cats. As cats crunch chunks of meat or raw bones, their teeth grind against them, breaking down disease-causing tartar and plaque. Another benefit is that the enzymes in raw bones help eliminate food buildup and create an acidic environment that is inhospitable to the bacteria that can form on cats' gums.
2. Add a product that promotes dental health to your cats' food or water. The one my cats and I like best is Wysong DentaTreat, which contains dental-active cheeses and probiotics. Most cats like the taste and happily eat food with DentaTreat sprinkled on top.
3. Try jerky treats for cats. They provide the abrasive chewing action necessary to keep a cat's teeth clean. Since they're all meat, they're less likely to cause weight gain than dental treats are. And treats are too small to provide that necessary abrasive chewing action.
4. Petstages makes chew toys for cats. The company says the crunchy catnip filling will clean the cats' teeth as they pierce through the outer fabric. Rubbing some catnip on the toy will encourage your cat to play with it and bite into it.
5. Try rubbing your cat's teeth and gums with your finger or a piece of gauze or a soft cloth. Add some kitty toothpaste to make it taste good, and start slowly. Cuddle with your cat and approach her mouth from the side of her face, not the front. Stop the second she begins to complain. Remember, this has to be done on her terms, not yours!
Learn How To Brush Your Cat's Teeth
This video will show you how to brush a cat's teeth.
The Myth About Dry Food
It's a myth that dry food keeps cats' teeth clean. Cat teeth are sharp and pointed and are designed to tear flesh, not crunch cereal. Some cats swallow dry food whole. Others shatter it with the tips of their teeth, so the pieces of kibble don't come into actual contact with the teeth and provide the abrasive action needed to keep them clean. But the dry food does leave a starchy residue in the mouth, which sticks to the teeth and can cause tooth decay and gum disease.
While wet food doesn't provide any abrasive properties, some feline nutrition experts believe the high moisture content flushes food particles away from the teeth.
If Your Cat Needs To Have Her Teeth Cleaned
At some point in her life, your cat will probably need to have her teeth cleaned by a veterinarian. While this is a routine procedure, these are some questions to ask the vet before it's done.
1. Who will be cleaning the cat's teeth? The veterinarian or a technician? How was the technician trained?
2. What anesthetic will be used? Will the vet do blood tests before anesthetizing the cat? The answer should be yes.
3. Will the vet run an IV line before anesthetizing the cat? Again, the answer should be yes.
4. Does the clinic have the equipment to do dental x-rays? If the answer is no, have the dental done someplace else.
5. How will the cat be monitored both during and after the procedure?
6. What is the vet's pain management plan? Ideally, your cat will get pain medication before the procedure and will go home with pain meds. Refuse Metacam and Onsior. Both are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and can cause kidney failure in cats.
If your cat's teeth are in fairly good shape, she might be a candidate for non-anesthetic dental cleaning. This procedure is not without controversy, but if your cat is old or has a chronic disease, it could be the best option.
Have your home dental health plan in place before your cat has her teeth cleaned. That plaque will start building up on her teeth as soon as she eats something, and you want to be able to whisk it away so she never needs a professional cleaning again.