Pet Care

Dental care

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What is it?

Preventative dental care focuses on reducing the buildup of plaque on the teeth, a film of bacteria and debris that accumulates on the teeth over time. The bacteria involved in the plaque irritate the gums, causing redness and discomfort. Inflamed gums are less able to attach to the teeth, meaning that the bacteria can form pockets underneath the gums.

Over time teeth can become damaged and lost. Cats develop their own unique dental problems called resorptive lesions. These are very painful for the cat. They occur in a syndrome called Feline Chronic Gingivostomatitis (FCGS), which causes severely inflamed gums, infection. The resulting damage to the teeth is very painful for the cat. The aim of preventative dental care is to reduce the plaque buildup on the teeth and reduce the number of bacteria in the mouth, and slow the progression of dental disease.

Why is it important, and what is the risk?

Dental disease is thought to affect 70% of adult cats and dogs. It is a known cause of pain and discomfort which is an important cause of pain and suffering, even in cats who appear to be “fine”.

The high levels of bacteria in the mouth can also increase the risk of kidney and heart disease.

What happens to the cat?

Signs of dental disease include:

  • Poor appetite
  • Bad breath
  • Excess drooling, or blood in the saliva
  • Pain when eating - cat may avoid certain foods, or eat on one side of the mouth, or run away from food suddenly because of sharp dental pain
  • Inflamed red sore gums
  • Tooth loss
  • Rubbing at the face
  • Facial swelling
  • Tumours in the mouth
  • However, often there are no obvious signs - cats tend to suffer in silence.

    How do you (and the vet) know what is going on?

    Examination of the cat’s mouth enables your vet to see if there are any visible signs of dental disease. The cat will be weighed and your vet will ask questions about any signs of dental disease that you may have noticed.

    What can be done?

    When plaque accumulates on the teeth, the only way to deal with it effectively is to manually remove it by cleaning it off with an ultrasonic scaler. Cats with severe dental disease may require all of the teeth to be removed, and cats cope very well with very few teeth.

    However, preventative dental care at home in a healthy mouth can significantly reduce bacterial numbers present, and it can reduce plaque accumulation.

    How can I protect my pet?

    Home care, including tooth brushing, can really help to reduce the buildup of plaque.

    Tooth brushing

    Most cats will tolerate tooth brushing with gentle training and encouragement. Do not use human toothpaste - use cat specific toothpaste. Cats can be trained to accept either a finger brush or a conventional brush with patience and reward.

  • A little toothpaste can be offered on a finger to start with.
  • Once the cat is accepting of this, their lips can gently be touched, avoiding the whiskers.
  • Gradually work up to lifting the cat’s lips gently to see the teeth.
  • Once the cat tolerates this, then a little toothpaste can be introduced on to the surface of the teeth, then the brush.
  • Use the brush in a gentle circular motion on the surface of the teeth.
  • Take each step slowly and patiently.

  • Diet

    Feed a diet appropriate to the cat’s age and activity. Dental specific diets are available which have a different shaped kibble, and more fibre to try and reduce plaque buildup through the cat chewing the kibble. Dental treats which require a little chewing are also available.

    Bones and hard chews are not recommended due to the risk of damage to the teeth or being swallowed

    Other dental care products

  • Oral hygiene gels such as Logic can help to reduce bacterial numbers in the mouth and may be appropriate for those cats who will not tolerate tooth brushing.
  • Products to add to the water that reduce plaque are no substitute for tooth brushing, but are often helpful in addition.

  • Other important tips

  • Avoid stress in the cat’s environment.
  • Make sure your cat stays up to date with their vaccinations - infection with Feline Calicivirus (one of the causes of cat flu) is a known risk factor for Stomatitis (FCGS).
  • Regular dental checks with your vet are vital to maintain dental health.
  • Treating the first signs of dental disease will reduce the risk of a cat developing severe FCGS.