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Dental disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem for cats. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, an astounding 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age 3.
The inflammation and infection associated with periodontal disease can lead to damage to other organs such as the heart, kidney and liver, and lead to other serious health problems. Dental disease can also be an indicator of immune system disorders.
How dental disease develops
Normal teeth should be white or just a little yellow. Gums should be light pink and smooth (except in breeds with pigmented gums). Oral disease begins with a build up of plaque and tartar in your cat’s mouth. Without proper preventive and therapeutic care, plaque and tartar buildup leads to periodontal disease, which manifests in red and/or swollen and tender gums, bad breath, and bleeding. When the gums are swollen, they can be painful – a good rule of thumb is that if it looks like it might be painful, it probably is. Cats are masters at masking pain – when in doubt, assume that your cat is experiencing at least some discomfort.
Cats rarely show symptoms of dental disease until it is in its advanced stages.
Regular veterinary exams
Cats should see the vet at least once a year, cats seven or older twice a year. A thorough dental exam should be part of every veterinary visit.
Professional cleaning under anesthesia
Even with regular home care, your cat may need periodic professional cleanings. Cat guardians are often reluctant to perform proper dental procedures because of the need for general anesthesia, especially in the older patient. Pre-anesthesia testing can help determine the risk associated with general anesthesia and aid in the decision whether or not to perform a dental procedure.
Do not let anyone tell you that it’s possible to perform a thorough anesthesia-free dental cleaning on cats. Anesthesia-free dentistry is essentially a cosmetic procedure that addresses only the parts of your pet’s teeth you can see. An additional issue with just scraping teeth is that the mouth is full of blood vessels, which can launch oral bacteria into the bloodstream. Once the bacteria is in the bloodstream it can infect other organs. Anesthesia-free dental cleanings may do more harm than good.
Anesthesia-free dental cleanings may do more harm than good.
How to care for your cat’s teeth at home
Brush your cat’s teeth
Brushing your cat’s teeth is the single most effective thing you can do to ensure good dental health throughout your cat’s life. And before you say “my cat would never let me brush her teeth,” think again. Ideally, you get your cat used to having her teeth brushed when she’s a kitten, but with a little patience and persistence, even older cats will accept having their teeth brushed.
The Cornell Feline Health Center developed a 4-week training program that should get most cats used to having their teeth brushed.
There are a lot of dental treats and so-called “dental diets” on the market. Almost all of them are dry foods or treats. And I don’t believe that they work. Most cats don’t chew dry food or dry treats long enough for any of the scraping action that is the theory of how these diets and treats supposedly work to kick in. What little they do chew shatters into small pieces. Some pet food manufacturers offer a “dental diet” that is made up of larger than normal sized kibble to encourage chewing, but in my years at veterinary practices, I’ve seen many cats swallow even those larger size pieces whole. Additionally, dry food leaves a carbohydrate residue in the cat’s mouth that actually encourages growth of tartar and plaque.
The only dental treats I recommend are the CET Enzymatic Oral Hygiene Chews for Cats.The enzymes in these treats are supposed to reduce the build up of tartar and plaque. The ingredients are not the greatest, but they’re not horrible, either. The individual treats are about an inch long, so they’re pretty big – the size of a small mouse – and it does take a while for my girls to chew them.
If you feed raw, you can give your cats raw chicken necks. Gnawing on the bones will help scrape away tartar and plaque. NEVER give cooked bones to your cats, they can splinter and cause intestinal perforations. Even though I feed raw, giving raw chicken necks exceeds my comfort level – not because I’m worried about them chewing on the raw bones, but because the one time I tried it, they dragged them all over the (carpeted) house.
Two products that work to keep your cat’s gums and teeth healthy
I use both of these products for Allegra and Ruby every day. They’re easy to use, and they’re effective.
1TDC™ (which stands for 1-TetraDecanol Complex) is a revolutionary natural solution that keeps gums, joints, and muscles healthy at a cellular level. Healthy gums maintain the structural integrity of the teeth. 1TDC™’s unique technology is highly and rapidly absorbed, whether applied topically on the gums or taken orally in capsule form. When it enters the body, 1TDC™ has a tremendous affinity for white blood cells, which allows it to get where it is needed quickly. 1TDC™ efficiently does the job without interfering with other elements of your cat’s health.
The 1TDC™ technology has been clinically proven effective and was published in The Journal of Periodontology in 2007 and 2009. Dr. James Anthony, a boarded veterinary dentist with over 30 years of experience, conducted a double blind periodontal health study with cats at The University of Saskatchewan. His research demonstrated positive results beyond the studies published in The Journal of Periodontology.
1TDC™ is easy to administer. Simply twist the capsule open, and either squeeze the capsule and let your cat lick it as it exits the capsule, gently squeeze the capsule contents into your cat’s mouth, squeeze the capsule contents on top of your cat’s food or on her paw or nose. The cat’s natural licking motion will distribute the product onto the gums.
For more information about 1TDC™ and to purchase, please visit 1TDC.com.
1TDC™ is also available from Amazon. Discount code is only valid on 1TDC.com.
MAXI/GUARD Oral Cleansing Gel
MAXI/GUARD Oral Cleansing Gel contains zinc ascorbate/taurine in an easy to administer, taste-free gel that adheres to the gums. It helps reduce the accumulation of plaque and tartar and bad breath. Zinc ascorbate also stimulates collagen production. Collagen aids in repairing tissue. The gel is easy to administer: simply\e place a pea-sized drop on your index finger. Rub the gel briefly over the gum area above the outside back molars. Repeat on the opposite side. That’s it! The gel will stimulate the salivary glands, and provide a gentle bathing action throughout the oral cavity. There is no need to rub additional gel on multiple oral areas.
*The Conscious Cat is an affiliate partner of Elite Vet Science, and a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. This means that if you decide to purchase through any of our links, we get a small commission. We only spread the word about products and services we’ve either used or would use ourselves.