HOW TO BRUSH YOUR CAT’S TEETH
Do you brush your cat’s teeth? Didn’t think so. Did you know that it’s extremely easy and actually enjoyable for kitty?
In celebration of National Pet Dental Health Month, we interviewed Dr. Sanchez from Banfield Pet Hospital about dental health in cats and how to keep your cat’s teeth healthy. Dental health in cats is particularly important because over 84% of cats over the age of three are suffering from some sort of dental disease. Oral health is an indicator of your cat’s overall health. In fact, some studies show a correlation between cats that have dental disease and other diseases diagnosed in those cats like heart disease and kidney failure.
“…many cats that are in pain will overcompensate by chewing on a different side of the mouth or by swallowing food whole.” – Dr. Sanchez
Most pet owners are unaware that their cat has dental issues because cats are so incredibly stoic when it comes to managing pain. Your cat may not exhibit any symptoms of dental disease that would cause alarm. In fact, many cats that are in pain will overcompensate by chewing on a different side of the mouth or by swallowing food whole.
Start with a visit to your vet.
Your cat should be visiting the vet at least every year (twice a year is ideal)– and your vet can assess your cat’s dental health and search their mouth for signs of dental disease. Your vet may recommend a professional cleaning if your cat has tartar build-up, gingivitis or gum disease.
Dr. Sanchez recommends following the “Flip, Check, Treat” process.
FLIP: Go ahead and flip your cat’s lip to see if they have tartar and to see if they have smelly breath. Breath that smells really bad can be a sign of a serious illness.
CHECK: Go to your vet and have your cat evaluated and get an annual teeth cleaning.
TREAT: Make dental cleanings a treat by feeding your cats Feline Greenies.
Treat your cat to at-home dental cleanings
You read that right. Treat them. Cleaning your cat’s teeth can actually be a very enjoyable experience for you and your cat. As most cat owners know, cats love to rub their faces on things. Use this to your advantage. Here’s how!
Step one: Start with a baby tooth brush or a cat tooth brush that is dry. Let your cat rub its face on the soft bristles. Your cat will enjoy this immensely and after a while, will associate the little brush with a positive experience.
Step two: Once your cat is comfortable with the dry brush on its cheeks, angle the brush slightly so that it goes into the mouth. Again – use a dry brush. Your cat will likely chew on the bristles. This actually helps keep their teeth clean.
Step three: Add a little toothpaste formulated for cats. NEVER use human toothpaste – it has fluoride which is dangerous to pets. You can use the paste on the brush during brushing or you can use it as a treat for them to lick after brushing.
What about my senior cat?
It’s never too late to start brushing your cat’s teeth – even senior cats. However – it’s critically important to take your cat to the vet first so that your vet can tell you if your cat already has dental disease. If you skip this step, you could actually cause your cat a lot of pain by brushing diseased teeth and gums. Once you’re given the “all clear” from your vet – follow steps one through three above.
“Take your senior cat to the vet first. Skipping this step could actually cause a lot of pain by brushing diseased gums and teeth,” say Dr. Sanchez
HELP CAT FAMILIES IN NEED DURING NATIONAL PET DENTAL HEALTH MONTH
The Banfield Foundation is promoting a very cute, scratch ‘n sniff children’s book called “My Very Very Smelly Breath” to teach kids about the importance of dental health in pets. For a suggested donation of $10, you’ll help a pet whose family has fallen on hard times get the appropriate medical care it needs.
ABOUT DR. SANCHEZ
Dr. Andrea Sanchez serves as Banfield Pet Hospital’s medical director of operations support for new hospital openings—in this role, she guides and supports Banfield Associates as they’re preparing to serve pets in new neighborhoods. She has worked in veterinary medicine for 16 years, and has been a veterinarian in small animal general practice since 2007. Dr. Sanchez also volunteers to provide preventive care to pets in need through preventive care clinics benefiting pets of the homeless and the low-income population. In 2014, Andrea used her veterinary and Spanish-speaking skills to lead a volunteer trip to Puerto Rico, where a team of ten spent a week providing necessary medical care for more than 400 pets and teaching empathy and responsible pet ownership to 800 school children. Dr. Sanchez earned her veterinary degree from Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine after graduating from Vassar College. She is the proud pet owner of four rescue animals: cats Danny, Pablo and Felix, and dog Frankie.