February is National Cat Health Awareness Month! This February, why not focus on the little things? Cats rely heavily on their teeth, which are much more delicate than they appear. Feline dental care is an important, but often forgotten, part of owning a cat.
Dental Problems in Cats
Feline periodontal disease affects approximately 70% of cats by their third birthday. Unchecked plaque build-up solidifies and becomes tartar over time. Eventually, this tartar will dig into and under the gums. This introduces harmful bacteria to the gums, triggering continued infection and damage to the surrounding teeth. Affected teeth may fall out. Furthermore, periodontal disease can cause organ damage to the kidneys, liver, heart, and nervous system.
It can be extremely difficult to detect dental disease in cats. The most common giveaway is their breath. Cats with dental disease will often have foul-smelling breath. There are a few more signs, including:
- Visible tartar on the teeth
- Difficulty eating or refusal to eat
- Missing or loose teeth
- Pawing at the mouth
- Red or swollen gums (gingivitis)
- Weight loss
These signs are often subtle and therefore very easy to miss. It is important to keep a close eye on your cat if you think they might have dental complications.
Feline dental care begins with good nutrition. Some foods are better for your cat’s teeth than others. Some pet owners find that dry food scrapes teeth clean, while wet food remains in the mouth for longer periods of time. However, good ingredients and a balanced diet are the most important factors in preventing dental disease.
It is also important to establish a teeth cleaning routine. This is easiest to do when your cat is still young. Cats cannot use human toothpaste, but there are special formulas made specifically for your feline friend. Use your finger (and perhaps a bit of gauze) the first few times to get them used to the process. Eventually, you can switch to a bristled finger brush or other cats-only toothbrush. Feline teeth should be brushed once daily, or at least twice a week.
Cats should have a dental checkup at least once a year. Veterinarians are trained to detect the subtle signs we tend to miss. Talk to your veterinarian about proper dental care at home; they may recommend specific foods or treats for additional care.
Claws N Paws Day Spa provides professional grooming services to your cat or dog. Contact us today at 714-962-1005, or stop by our location in Fountain Valley, California!