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February is dental health month for pets, too

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February is not only National Children's Dental Health Month, but it is also National Pet Dental Health Month.

Cats may have small mouths, but there are 30 teeth in there. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, dental disease affects nearly 70% of pet cats by age three. Also known as periodontal disease, the consequences to avoiding good dental hygiene are tooth decay/loss, bacteria contributing to decline of general health and pain.

Brushing a cat's teeth is no easy task. I commend those who can do it. The Cornell Feline Health Center online video can show you how.

Without daily brushing, it is important to have your cat's teeth examined by a veterinary yearly to discuss professional cleanings. A dental cleaning, or "prophylaxis", requires general anesthesia. Consequently, the cost is higher than in human dentistry. It is worth it. A healthy mouth will allow your cat to live a longer, healthier life. Ask your local veterinarian if they have a promotion or discount for pet dental month.

There is oral health and disease information specific to cats that you should know:

  • It is a myth that soft food causes dental disease. It is best for the teeth to have some dry kibble in the diet, but I see cats on an all dry diet with awful teeth and cats feed canned food exclusively with great teeth. Genetics seem to play the most significant role in how much dental care a cat will need. From my experience, the average cat needs a professional cleaning about once every three years.
  • Studies show 28% of cats will develop what is known as a 'resorptive lesion'. These are similar to cavities in a human, but actually destroy the enamel on the tooth at the level of the gum line. This is painful. The best treatment is to have the tooth removed (extracted). Research is ongoing as to the cause.
  • A recent study showed 14% of cats with early onset periodontal disease (< age 3) tested positive for either Feline Leukemia or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). That is nearly 1 in 7 cats. Looking at the general cat population, the prevalence of both diseases is 3% to 4%. If your cat is diagnosed with early periodontal disease, consider retesting for these serious diseases.
  • I like to say, "If a cat lives long enough, he will develop kidney disease". It is just that common. Cat's kidneys tend to start declining after age 15, but they can live well on very little kidney function. If dental disease has been ignored, that bacteria overgrowth in your cat's mouth enters the blood stream and may cause the kidneys to have to work ever harder, causing a faster decline.

A healthy mouth makes for a healthier cat!

For more information:

Adults and kids will both enjoy the Pets Need Dental Care, Too website.

Visit the American Veterinary Dental College website.

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