Sunday, July 14, 2013

Feline Dental Care Part I: Prevention of disease

by Amanda L Maus DVM
Tucson, AZ

Cats need dental care just like us! Feeding dry food alone does not adequately clean our cat's teeth.  There are several ways we can help keep our cat's mouth free of tartar.

Brushing your cat's teeth is still considered the best way to help prevent dental disease, specifically the build up of plaque and tartar.  The mechanical action of brushing, that is the mild abrasion or friction of a toothbrushing apparatus against the teeth, is the most important part, not the toothpaste.  The "brushing" can be performed with soft gauze wrapped around your finger, finger toothbrushes, or small toothbrushes.  Toothpastes containing enzymes and antibacterial properties also help. Some cats enjoy chewing on the brush if poultry or fish flavored toothpaste is used.  Do not use human toothpastes as they will harm your pet.

Most cats will tolerate some level of toothbrushing if you follow a few tips:
  1. Only attempt toothbrushing if your cat is in a pleasant mood. 
  2. Be firm but gentle when handling your cat's mouth.
  3. Lift the lips up and back to expose the teeth, rather than try to open your cat's mouth. 
  4. Spend no more than a few minutes per attempt.
  5. Consider using your cat's favorite treat reward at 15 to 30 second intervals.
Your goal is to acclimate your cat to having its teeth brushed a minimum of a few minutes, every other day. 

Here is a:
Printable Handout on Brushing Your Pet's Teeth.

In addition to toothbrushing, consider treats, foods, and toys designed to help prevent dental disease.  Look for products that have the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) seal on the bag to ensure that you are purchasing a high quality dental aid that has been scientifically proven to reduce plaque and tartar.

Next week we will explore what to do if your cat already has signs of dental disease.

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