February is National Pet Dental Health month. That makes this a good time to talk about your cat’s dental health and why taking care of your cat’s teeth and mouth is so important.
Can Cats Really Suffer from Dental Disease?
Can you imagine what your mouth would be like if you didn’t brush your teeth regularly and never went to the dentist? It wouldn’t be a pretty sight, would it? Now, think about how often you brush your cat’s teeth or when your cat last saw your veterinarian for dental care? Brushing your cat’s teeth is every bit as important as brushing your own! And veterinary care for your cat’s teeth is no less important than seeing your own dentist.
Veterinarians tell us that over almost 3/4 of cats over 2 years old already have evidence of dental disease. Could your cat be one of those cats? And what does it mean if he is?
How Does Dental Disease Affect Your Cat?
Firstly, if your cat is suffering from dental disease, it’s likely his mouth is sore. In some cases, the pain may be evident but pain is often difficult to spot, especially in cats. The signs may be subtle, if they are observable at all. Cats are very good at hiding their discomfort. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t feel the pain.
Secondly, dental disease can extend much further than the mouth. Infections starting in the mouth can extend to the kidneys and possibly the heart, causing disease which is even more serious.
Can Feline Dental Disease Be Prevented?
Regular dental care is the key to keeping your cat’s mouth healthy. Dental care for your cat should consist of regular home care and veterinary care.
The most effective way to keep your cat’s mouth healthy between veterinary visits is by brushing his teeth regularly. This video will provide step-by-step instructions for brushing your cat’s teeth (as well as your dog’s teeth.)
Regular veterinary dental care is also important for your cat. Your veterinarian may be able to perform a cursory examination on your cat’s mouth if your cat is particularly cooperative while awake. However, a real veterinary examination and dental cleaning will involve anesthesia for your cat. Without anesthesia, a complete examination of your cat’s mouth is impossible.
Don’t be fooled by groomers or other pet care personnel who claim to be able to clean your cat’s teeth without anesthesia. They may be able to scrape or crack the tartar from the visible parts of your cat’s teeth. And yes, your cat’s teeth will look cleaner and whiter. However, anesthesia-free dentistry does not allow the removal of tartar and plaque from below the gumline, which is where dental disease begins. It also does not allow a complete examination or radiographs (x-rays) of your cat’s mouth.
Regular dental care in the form of routine tooth brushing and periodic veterinary care will help ensure that your cat’s mouth remains healthy and pain-free.