Contributed by Dr. Alison Birken, owner and DVM of Victoria Park Animal Hospital.
Did you know that periodontal disease is one of the most common and overlooked disease in veterinary medicine? In my practice, I probably see 20 to 30 pets a day for various pet health reasons, including ailments like upset bellies, wellness vaccinations and itchy skin. In a conservative estimate, nearly 85% of all of the pets I see have periodontal disease, which is caused by bacteria in dental plaque that’s built up on the teeth and gums. We brush, floss and rinse our own teeth every day, schedule bi-yearly dental cleaning appointments and try to be diligent about our dental health. Cats, on the other hand, never brush their tiny cat teeth and certainly do not floss or rinse; if I’m lucky, I see them once a year for professional cat teeth cleaning. As pet parents, we need to step up our cat dental care plan.
Cat nutrition can play a significant role in maintaining optimal dental health. Choosing between wet and dry food, or a combination of both, as well as the right kibble size makes a substantial difference for a pet’s overall dental health. Larger dry kibble pieces are more effective at reducing dental tartar buildup on your cat’s teeth. Regularly giving your cat dental chews also serves as a way to proactively prevent disease caused by poor dental hygiene.
For the best dental health diet, I recommend:
Prescription Dental Diet. Dental diets are formulated for reducing the amount of plaque and tartar that accumulates on the teeth, and in some cases, may even prevent serious oral diseases from occurring. The larger kibble is composed of fibers that actually scrub the tooth’s surface to reduce plaque. Ask your veterinarian if a prescription dental diet is appropriate for your pet. (Try Hill’s Prescription Diet t/d Cat Food)
Dental Chews. One dental treat per day will keep your cat’s teeth stimulated and blood flowing as it scrubs away tartar and prevents it from building up. (Try Greenies Feline Oven Roasted Chicken Flavor Dental Cat Treats)
No Sugars. Choose treats that are low in sugar, as sugar may worsen or increase the chance of periodontal disease.
Aside from diet, here are some additional recommendations to keep your cat’s teeth and periodontal health at their best.
At-Home Cat Dental Care. We need to start brushing our pets’ teeth. Whenever I see new kittens, I motivate my clients to start teaching them how to tolerate, and even enjoy, getting their teeth cleaned. If you have an adult pet, although it’s more challenging, I encourage you to try to start cleaning their teeth by using lots of positive reinforcement. The key is to use a soft-bristle toothbrush and pet-formulated toothpaste. It is important to make sure that the toothpaste is specifically made for, and safe for pets, as they will swallow it. Follow up with a proper pet-safe rinse to finish the cleaning. I recommend brushing daily, but if you can do it twice weekly, you are way ahead of the game when it comes to cat dental care.
Dental Rinses and Wipes. Dental rinses or wipes should be used daily. Try Earthbath Specialty Tooth & Gum Wipes for Cats.
Veterinarian Dental Check-Ups. A cat teeth cleaning and examination should be scheduled annually, or biannually, with your veterinarian to clean your cat’s teeth in places that you cannot reach with a toothbrush, like under the gumlines. Regular brushing, though imperative, is not a substitute for a dental cleaning and oral exam with an ultrasonic scaler and polisher.
I hope this helps inspire all pet parents to use pet supplies that best take the best care of their pets’ teeth. I know how much my clients and I adore and love our pets. Keeping them healthy and helping them live a long life is top priority. Cat dental care should be part of any cat owner’s daily routine because, unfortunately, poor dental health is the most overlooked cause of disease.