Gum Disease – Why brush?
Periodontal (gum) disease can lead to tooth loss and affects most cats by the time they are 3 years old. Depending on your cat’s overall health, bacteria from periodontal disease can spread to affect other organs. One of the best ways to help prevent periodontal disease is to brush your cat’s teeth daily, or at least multiple times a week. Cats are never too young to start having their teeth brushed at home; in fact, the younger they are, the better.
Have your cat’s teeth checked by your vet before you start brushing them. Your vet may recommend a dental cleaning to remove any existing plaque and tartar, which contribute to periodontal disease. If your cat has severe dental disease, extraction of the affected teeth may be recommended. Follow your vets recommendation on how long to wait after dental cleaning or extraction before brushing your cat’s teeth.
What you need
• Baby toothbrush or pet toothbrush that is an appropriate size for your cat; if your cat won’t tolerate a toothbrush, a small piece of washcloth can be used
• Pet toothpaste
• Treat or other reward your cat really likes Note: Do not use toothpaste for people or baking soda to brush your cat’s teeth. Human toothpaste is made with ingredients that can cause stomach upset if swallowed (e.g., detergents, fluoride). Cat toothpaste comes in different flavours (e.g., poultry, beef, fish). You may need to try a couple flavours to find the one your cat likes the best. The more your cat likes the toothpaste, the easier it will be to train him or her to accept brushing.
Signs of Dental Problems Bad breath Sensitivity around the mouth Loss of appetite and/or weight Yellow or brown deposits on the teeth Bleeding, inflamed, and withdrawn gums Loose or missing teeth Pawing at the mouth or face Difficulty chewing Hissing and running a away from the food bowl.
• Tooth brushing should be a bonding experience that is constantly reinforced with praise and rewards. Be very patient—teaching your cat to accept tooth brushing may take weeks. Make tooth brushing enjoyable for your cat by rewarding him or her immediately after each session.
• You only need to brush the outside of your cat’s teeth—the side facing the cheek. Only do as much at a time as your cat allows. You may not be able to do the whole mouth at first.
• If you are ever worried about being bitten or scratched, stop. Ask your veterinarian about how best to care for your cat’s teeth.
• Start by letting your cat get used to the toothbrush and toothpaste. Put them out and let your cat sniff them. You can let your cat taste the toothpaste to see if he or she likes it.
• Also, get your cat used to you touching his or her mouth. Lift his or her lips, and slowly and gently rub your cat’s teeth and gums with your finger. You might want to dip your finger in something that your cat finds tasty like, juice from a can of tuna. *
*When your cat is comfortable with you touching his or her mouth and is familiar with the toothbrush and toothpaste gradually switch to putting the toothpaste on your finger, and then to putting the toothpaste on the tooth brush. Let your cat lick the toothpaste off the brush, at first, to get used to having the brush in his or her mouth. If your cat won’t tolerate the toothbrush, a small piece of washcloth can be used. Place a small amount of the toothpaste on the washcloth, and rub it over the outside surfaces of your cats teeth.
*Brush your cats teeth along the gum line, work quickly – you don’t need to scrub. Work up to 30 seconds of brushing for each side of the mouth, at least every other day.
*If you notice any other problems as you brush, like red or bleeding gums or bad breath, call your vet. The earlier problems are found the easier they may be to treat.
Other ways to control plaque
Although there is no substitute for regular tooth brushing, some cats won’t allow it. If you can’t brush your cats teeth, ask your vet about plaque preventative products. Feeding dry food may help keep your cats teeth and gums in good condition. The seal of acceptance from The Veterinary Health Council appears on products that meet defined standards for plaque and tarter control in cats and dogs at
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