Cat Teeth Cleaning | Author: Dr. Cliff Redford, Veterinarian
The most important TLC you could give to your cat is tending to their oral health, which includes cat teeth cleaning. Tartar and plaque buildup, along with gingivitis and broken teeth can spread infection throughout the body, culminating in chronic inflammation, stress on the immune system and unfortunately pain. Many factors lead to dental disease in cats including diet, genetics and breed, age, teeth alignment and even an autoimmune condition known as gingivitis-stomatitis. Cats can also develop tooth resorption, akin to severe cavities in people. But you can avoid many of these problems, and keep your pet healthy and happy for years, with in-home cat teeth cleaning supported by annual professional cleanings at the vet.
Cat Teeth Cleaning: The Tools
Diets designed to clean plaque and tartar off your cat’s teeth, along with chew toys and mouth wash will certainly help keep your cat’s mouth healthy. But nothing trumps brushing your cat’s teeth daily if you can swing it. Before you begin, however, you require proper tools and the right technique.
Even the biggest pet cat is quite small compared to humans. For cat teeth cleaning, you will therefore require a toothbrush that is properly sized for their little mouths. A vet can help you select the right one for your cat. Baby-sized brushes work quite well, and you might even find the type that fits over the tip of your forefinger. But be careful not to get bitten if you use those!
Also, you require toothpaste specifically flavoured for cats. Here, you will find a slew of flavours like vanilla, chicken, liver and even sweet malt. In comparison, the few boring mint flavours reserved for us hardly seem fair! The point here is to make cat teeth cleaning a “tasty” and fun routine that your pet will enjoy and look forward to each day.
Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth
Before you start brushing, let your cat get used to the smell and taste of the toothpaste by letting her/him lick it off the brush. This way your pet will start associating teeth brushing with treat time. Start the brushing slowly and use positive reinforcement. As you gently brush each tooth, tell them what a good kitty they are and scratch them behind the ears for good measure. Some cats will bleed slightly if they have soft and sensitive gums. If so, take a break and try again in a few days. The gums will toughen up in time and the bleeding should stop.
Recognizing Dental Disease in Cats
During these cleanings and other interactions with your pet, observe them closely for signs and symptoms of dental disease. These include:
- Bad breath
- Oral pain, exhibited by shying away from being touched on the face and pawing at the muzzle.
- A slow pace of eating
- Not chewing food fully
- Disinterest in chew toys
- Visible tartar on teeth
- Red and tender gums
At the first sign of problems, make an appointment to come in and see a veterinary technician. The appointment is free, and it will allow us to assess the extent of the infection. You can even bring in your toothbrush and review your technique with the technician. Unfortunately, in-home cat teeth cleaning will not reverse or resolve moderate to severe dental disease. And in fact, you might cause more pain and damage by continuing. If this is the case, the technician will ask you to pause the daily cleanings until we have treated the disease.
Treating Periodontal Disease in Cats
Dental procedures almost always require us to put your can under general anesthesia to conduct thorough examinations. Most healthy cats will require scaling and cleaning on the crown of the tooth, as well as under the gums. If the disease has advanced, then we may need to extract teeth to bring it under control. We only recommend this as a last resort when it is absolutely necessary.
Dental care is a very important part of your pet’s overall health. Unfortunately, periodontal disease in cats often goes undiagnosed until it is too late. This remains the most common reason for urgent veterinarian visits.
ABOUT DR. CLIFF
Dr. Cliff Redford, DVM, is an experienced veterinarian and owner/operator of the Wellington Veterinary Hospital in Markham Ontario. Fondly known as Dr. Cliff to his clients, he has tended to the wellness of pets and animals for over two decades. Hands-on experience in his clinic, combined with animal advocacy and rescue missions locally and across the globe, has allowed him to curate a vast body of knowledge on animal health and welfare, including preventative counselling, soft tissue surgery, advanced dental procedures, internal medicine and emergency care.