Cat owners are known for their devotion –but many have never given their cat’s teeth a second thought. No wonder that, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 70 percent of our kitties have gum disease by age three. Cats rarely get cavities — their diets are very low in sugar — but they can develop many of the same health problems that occur in people, such as periodontal disease and gingivitis. Symptoms may include red, bleeding or sensitive gums and weight loss caused by the cat’s inability to eat. Bad breath, too, can herald more serious health problems. If a cat displays any of these symptoms, it’s time to visit the veterinarian. While you should schedule dental check-ups with your veterinarian twice a year, taking care of your cat’s smile begins at home. Here are some tips:
- Brush your cat’s teeth. Frequent brushing is the best thing you can do for your cat’s pearly whites. Never use products intended for humans. Instead, choose a flavored cat toothpaste – your cat will like fish or chicken — and a pet toothbrush. Gently introduce tooth brushing, first by letting your cat taste the toothpaste, then by gently stroking its canines to get it used to you touching its teeth. It’s best to brush your cat’s teeth daily, but cleaning its teeth once or twice a week will go a long way in keeping your cat’s mouth healthy.
- Use oral probiotics. If your cat’s mouth could use some aesthetic (and odor) improvement, try putting probiotics in its food. Probiotics, or “good” bacteria, crowd out the bacteria that cause bad breath, while also releasing low-level hydrogen peroxide to naturally whiten teeth.
- Watch what your cat eats. Chewing dry kibble can help break plaque off your cat’s teeth. You can purchase dental cat food or dental chews, but these can’t clean teeth completely, so only use them in conjunction with brushing. Try to avoid feeding your cat table scraps, which often contain more sugar than cat food and can contribute to plaque build-up and cavities.