How to Take Care of Cats’ Teeth: When to Head to the Vet
Your kitty may not look much like the lions and tigers they’re descended from — until they open their mouth, that is. Your cat’s pearly whites are a huge part of what gives them their pedigree as the king or queen of the jungle (or your living room), so it’s up to you to make dental care part of your routine.
Of course, as most cat parents know, that’s often easier said than done. This is especially true when it comes to the bigger dental issues — ones that even the healthiest habits might not be able to fix.
Here’s your guide on how to take care of cats’ teeth — and when to put down the toothbrush and head to the vet.
How Can You Take Care of Your Cat’s Teeth at Home?
The good news is that, while your cat may not be crazy about dental hygiene, you can make the routine a little easier by knowing what you can take care of (and how to do it).
Here are a few ways to take care of cat teeth from home:
You don’t have to be a dentist to perform simple dental check-ups. These quick peeks help you catch issues early and make sure your cat doesn’t have any rapidly developing problems.
To perform an at-home check-up, just take a look inside your kitty’s mouth. If the teeth are white, the gums are pink and there’s no sign of redness, swelling, chips, lesions or bumps, you’re good to go.
According to VCA Animal Hospitals, daily brushing is the best way to make sure your kitty’s mouth stays healthy — but if that’s not realistic, strive to brush at least three times a week. As the Cornell Feline Health Center explains, between 50% and 90% of cats over the age of four show some signs of dental disease, which means regular brushing is a big deal.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts to make the process smoother:
- Do get the right equipment. Human toothbrushes aren’t suitable for the size of your cat’s mouth, so look for something small and maneuverable.
- Don’t use human toothpaste.Your toothpaste isn’t safe for kitty stomachs, according to VCA Animal Hospitals.
- Do use pet-safe toothpaste. When you choose toothpaste with a kitty-friendly flavor, like tuna or chicken, you could make the whole process smoother and more enjoyable for your cat.
- Don’t use baking soda. VCA Animal Hospitals also explains that baking soda, while often used to whiten your own smile, isn’t good for your cat. Its high alkaline content can lead to digestive disturbances.
- Don’t use dental floss. Dental floss poses a significant choking hazard to cats. It’s also easy to tangle around their tiny teeth — so save that for your own dental care!
- Do train your kitty. It’s best to start training cats to have their teeth brushed when they’re still kittens. If your cat is already an adult, you can still train them — just start with short, quick sessions. Holding your cat’s head at a comfortable angle, lifting the top lip and quickly but gently polishing one tooth at a time.
- Do look after yourself, too. Don’t forget to wash your hands or wear gloves to protect yourself from the bacteria in your cat’s mouth.
These may not be quite as relaxing as massages at the spa, but they have benefits nonetheless. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), gum massages can be performed after brushing and could help prevent the development of dental diseases in cats.
There are a few ways to maintain your cat’s smile in between brushing sessions. Here’s what to have on hand:
- Dental treats: Crunchy, flavorful and perfectly cat-sized, dental treats are a great way to show your kitty some love in more ways than one.
- Water additives: Want to let your cat do some of the work? Put a few drops of a water additive into their bowl and let them freshen up their mouth with every drink.
- Tooth gel: If you don’t have time for one of your regular brushing sessions, try applying tooth gel instead. Just put a couple of drops in your kitty’s mouth and let them lick their lips to spread the gel around their teeth and gums.
When Should You Head to the Vet?
Even with all the right equipment, you may run into dental issues you just can’t tackle at home. Here are a few situations that call for a visit to your veterinarian:
Your Cat Isn’t Eating
If your kitty isn’t excited about mealtime, it’s time to play detective and find out what could be causing problems. While there are other things that might make cats hesitant to eat, one common cause is dental trouble — and if it’s progressed this far, you’ll likely need to see your vet to help your kitty feel comfortable eating again.
Your Cat Has Broken Teeth
Broken teeth aren’t always a sign of bad dental hygiene, especially if your cat is particularly adventurous or playful. Either way, a broken tooth can cause pain, trouble eating and other dental issues, so it’s time to head to the vet.
Your Cat Has Developed Severe Gingivitis
According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, gingivitis occurs when plaque builds up around the gums and develops bacteria, which, in turn, causes inflammation and discomfort. If gingivitis becomes severe, you’ll need a vet’s help, as antibiotics, deep dental cleaning and even tooth removal may be necessary.
You Notice Signs of Periodontitis
When gingivitis isn’t treated, it eventually becomes periodontitis or periodontal disease, which causes teeth to loosen from the gums. According to PetMD, there are four stages of this disease:
- Stage one: This early stage presents as gingivitis. There is no separation between the gum and tooth.
- Stage two: During this stage, one or more teeth begin to loosen. Up to 25% attachment loss is possible.
- Stage three: As the disease progresses, cat teeth become weaker and can experience up to 30% attachment loss.
- Stage four: In advanced periodontitis, teeth are more than 50% disconnected from the gums. This can sometimes lead to exposure of the tooth roots.
If you notice signs from any of these stages, make an appointment with your vet right away. The sooner you get to work on periodontitis, the better your chances of successful treatment.
It’s Been More Than a Year Since Your Kitty’s Last Check-up
Even if nothing is wrong with your cat’s teeth, it’s wise to keep that regular appointment with your vet. PetMD recommends a yearly visit for dental care and check-ups.
Get Advice From the Pros
At Pet Supermarket, we speak pet. That means we know how much cats don’t like getting their teeth brushed, even though it’s good for them. That’s why our team knows all best tips, tricks and dental supplies to help make things a little easier on you and your kitty. We’re always here to help!
Visit your nearest Pet Supermarket for more on how to take care of cats’ teeth.