Thursday, 2 May 2013

Looking After Your Cat’s Teeth

Tooth and gum problems occur in eight out of every ten cats over the age of three.


This is a really good reason to establish a routine of brushing your cat's teeth early on. Cats tend to accumulate plaque (food debris and bacteria) on the outside of their teeth, but not on the inside. This hardens to form tartar, irritating the gums and causing gingivitis and loss of teeth. The bacteria can even potentially enter the bloodstream and damage internal organs.

Despite popular opinion, it is possible to train a cat to accept teeth cleaning with time and patience. Home teeth-cleaning is easier if introduced to a cat early in life, preferably as a kitten.

The following tips will help you start brushing your cat’s teeth:
  • Obtain a toothbrush designed for cats from your vet, one per cat to prevent disease transmission.
  • Obtain special pet toothpaste in flavours that you cat will find tasty, like malt or chicken. Never use toothpaste made for humans!
  • Choose a time that you can stick to each day to make it a routine event.
  • Finger brushes should be used with caution as they can be accidentally bitten with your finger inside!
  • Start by putting tasty toothpaste on your finger and offering it to your cat to lick. Do this daily for a few days.
  • Have your cats back to you when you start brushing as they may try and reverse; this is also a less confrontational approach.
  • If your cat tries to push you away with their paws, you may need someone to help you hold them, but it is better to try to slowly acclimatise your cat by repeatedly touching their mouth and head and offering rewards daily for many days.
  • Move on to slowly retracting the lips and touching the teeth with the toothbrush, then stop and reward your cat. Again repeat this daily for several days.
  • If this is tolerated well, then you can start gently brushing the teeth by applying the bristles to the teeth at a 45-degree angle, reaching both the tooth surface and just beneath the gum margin, but not directly on the gums.
  • Start by doing this very briefly (10 seconds or so) before rewarding.

If your cat is still very young, do not attempt to brush milk teeth, but get your kitten used to having its teeth touched from a very early age as a precursor to daily dental care.

Dental care products
Some cats will not tolerate tooth brushing, however hard you try. Rather than continue to cause them stress, talk to your vet about other products you can use, such as oral hygiene gels containing enzymes that inhibit the bacteria responsible for plaque formation. You can give them to your cat directly or mix them with food. Dental chews are also available, as well as special dry food diets that contain fibre and exert a scraping action as your cat chews. Home dental care is a good idea to reduce the amount of dental problems your cat may suffer in their lifetime. With patience and persistence most cats will learn to tolerate tooth cleaning.

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