Dental health is so important for a pet's overall health that a whole month has been devoted to educating guardians on how to care for their pets' teeth and gums.
According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, oral disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem for pets. A whopping 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats are diagnosed with oral health issues by the age of three.
Poor dental health affects more than just the mouth. According to Dr. Martin Goldstein, DVM:
For both dogs and cats, dental problems pose a painful, chronic threat to health. [The problems] suppress the immune system, rendering a pet vulnerable to other degenerative diseases.
Obvious signs of dental problems include:
- Bad breath
- Difficulty chewing
- Pain while chewing
- Blood in the mouth
- Pawing at the face
- Discolored teeth
- Red gums
- Redness along the gum line
Preventing dental disease should be a priority. Having your cat's teeth examined annually by a veterinarian is important.
If a professional cleaning is advised, blood work will be run to make sure your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia. The actual cleaning is a very thorough process. Not only will the vet remove plaque and tartar from the teeth, a full examination of the gums and entire oral cavity will be conducted, as well.
Most veterinarians will suggest taking dental radiographs (x-rays) at the time of the cleaning. This allows the vet to assess the bone level around the teeth. It is the best way to determine if extractions or other oral surgery is necessary. All adult cats should undergo dental X-rays, as they are especially susceptible to a painful disease known as Odontoclastic Resorption.
Prevention Practices and Products
- Brush your cat's teeth - This sounds like a daunting task, but many cats adjust to it quite well. The trick is to start very slowly. This instructional video by Dr. Karen Becker, DVM shows you how. There are toothbrushes and pastes made especially for pets (never use toothpaste for humans on a cat or dog). You can even brush without any paste at all - the friction will still help remove plaque and tartar
- Petzlife Oral Care Gel or Spray - no brushing required! This is a complete, all-natural solution to your cat's oral care needs. It is guaranteed to break down plaque and tartar, work under the gum line to help heal gum tissue and kill the bacteria that causes bad breath. Highly recommended by many holistic vets. It is available at many stores and online.
- ProDen's PlaqueOff - Another 100% natural product that requires no brushing. This product is made from seaweed. It comes in powder that is sprinkled on top of (or mixed into) food. When it is absorbed into the blood via digestion and enters the saliva, it prevents accumulation of plaque by affecting the ability of plaque to adhere to surfaces in the mouth. Existing tartar becomes porous, looses by itself or can be easily removed by brushing or cleaning. Improvements can usually be seen in three to eight weeks. If your cat (or dog) has thyroid issues, this product is not recommended (high levels of iodine).
- Breathless Plaque Zapper by Ark Naturals - This odorless, tasteless, 100% natural enzyme-based product is mixed into your pet's water. With regular use, it helps neutralize the ph level of saliva, deter the growth of bacteria, controls plaque and tartar and freshens the breath.
- Raw Bones - offering your pet raw bones at least a couple of times per week is a natural way to prevent dental disease. For cats, a thumb-sized piece of chicken neck is recommended. Chewing on the bone exercises the jaw and also removes plaque and tartar from the teeth. In the wild, a cat chews on the bones after eating the flesh of its prey as a natural way of removing food particles from his/her teeth. Buy the bones frozen, but be sure to thaw them out completely before giving them to your cat. Never give your cat cooked bones, as they can splinter and cause internal problems. And always be present when your pet is chewing on a bone. Some pets are over zealous and may try swallowing a piece that is too big.
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