As many as 85% of our cats aged at least three years have some degree of dental disease. Groomers who get up close to your animals can act as a first alert to a cat’s teeth having possible health issues.
Routine tooth brushing isn’t a feature of many cats’ lives. However, keeping your cat’s teeth clean and healthy is important to protect your cat from tooth decay, bad breath, and gum disease.
Indeed, good oral hygiene is fundamental to the continued health of your pet. It is estimated that up to 85% of cats over the age of three have some degree of dental disease, which may or may not be diagnosed.
The signs that may indicate a dental problem include:
- Bad breath
- Redness and/or swollen gums
- Excessive salivation and fur staining.
- Reluctance to eat or difficulty when eating
- Pawing at the mouth
- General malaise
- Disinterest in play
- Indications of pain.
If you are aware of any of these symptoms, the advice is to visit your vet as soon as possible.
How to avoid a cat’s teeth suffering from dental disease
Your cat’s teeth should be examined at least every 12 months: sooner if a problem is suspected. Prevention is a lot easier than treatment and can be achieved by a simple change of diet. Cats that are fed an exclusively wet diet are much more at risk of encountering bacterial build-up and tooth decay problems than those fed on dry biscuits.
Wet food adheres itself to the teeth and leaves soft deposits, while dry food helps erode tartar and plaque keeping these to a minimum.
How to brush a cat’s teeth
It sounds daunting but with a little expert guidance you can do it yourself. However, start by taking your cat to a grooming professional or vet and asking them to demonstrate how best to brush the cat’s teeth.
They may recommend a finger toothbrush to get your cat used to the feel of having something in its mouth. Use a tooth paste that has been specially developed for cats. These tend to have a palatable flavour like chicken or malt. Avoid human toothpastes, as the fluoride can make your cat seriously ill if it is ingested.
Gradually introduce your cat to the toothpaste. Begin with just a small amount on your fingertip and see if your cat will lick it off. Once in a comfortable and relaxed state and familiar with the taste, try inserting your finger along the cat’s gum line. Apply different pressures to gauge your cat’s reaction.
If you are successful, try using the finger toothbrush. They are generally double-sided and slip over the end of your finger like a rubber thimble. Be gentle and start with the teeth that are easiest to reach.
Over time you could move on to a proper toothbrush if a finger toothbrush is insufficient. It may be that trying to manoeuvre a toothbrush in the small, delicate space of your cat’s mouth is too difficult and uncomfortable.
It’s highly likely that your cat will resist or show signs that it’s distressed. If this is the case then break for a few minutes and try again later. All the time talk to your pet in a soothing voice. When your cat is calm and not fidgeting, reward him or her with lots of praise, back scratches and strokes.
A specially formulated dental treat may also help during the brushing process, or as a daily treat to keep any potential dental disease at bay.
A benefit of having your cat groomed at the Otto & Alice Mobile Grooming Studio is that Louise will regularly look at a cat’s teeth, nails, ears, and eyes for anything out of the ordinary that may need a trip to see a vet.