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Cat dental care urged

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As part of National Pet Dental Health Month in February, veterinary groups are reminding cat parents to provide preventive oral care for their felines.

Specific recommendations include having a cat’s teeth evaluated as part of his or her annual veterinary exam, and brushing a cat’s teeth daily at home. A video from Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine shows how to gradually introduce a cat to brushing. Veterinary groups also suggest using dental treats and other products accepted by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.

An estimated 70 percent of cats show signs of dental disease by age three, underscoring the need for routine dental care, said the CATalyst Council, a cat health advocacy group based in Annapolis, Md. Brownish tartar along the gum line is often an early sign of dental problems. Other indicators include bad breath, red or swollen gums, trouble eating and pawing at the face. Untreated oral disease can lead to the loss of teeth and even the infection of vital organs.

Preventive care can help avoid expensive veterinary bills. The Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI) said its policyholders in 2013 spent more than $11.2 million on dental conditions and procedures, the fourth most common type of claim submitted to the California-based insurer. In 2013, the average claim for a pet teeth cleaning was $170, while the average claim for treating dental disease was $221, VPI said.

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