A feline dental disease is the most common health problem seen in our patients. Accumulation of plaque, bacteria and tartar at the gum line leads to periodontal disease, gingivitis and oral pain. Studies in animals and humans have shown that there is an association between oral health issues and overall health issues affecting the heart and the kidneys. Like us, cats need regular home dental care, which involves the use of dental diets, dental treats, teeth brushing and other products to maintain their oral health.
Brushing your cat’s teeth once daily is considered to be the gold standard for home dental care. If you start at an early age with handling your cat’s mouth and gums it will be easier to brush your cat’s teeth throughout his life. Some cats will be more accepting of this procedure than others. It does require training and patience and also finding toothpaste with a flavour that your cat enjoys. Check with your veterinarian for toothpaste options, as it is important to use toothpaste that is fluoride free, and safe to swallow. Your veterinarian can also show you how to brush and what areas of the mouth to focus on. Since cats are ultimately the ones in charge, it needs to be a pleasant experience, or the cat is not likely to accept it.
Veterinary dental diets also provide excellent plaque and tartar control when they are fed on a daily basis. They are a great option for cats who will not tolerate having their teeth brushed or who have a light plaque or tartar build up. They are also ideal for maintenance of the teeth after a full dental cleaning. Dental diets are fully balanced nutritionally and are meant to be fed on a daily basis as the primary dry food diet. Brands such as Hill’s t/d diet® have larger sized kibbles and a fibre matrix that resists crumbling so that when the cat eats the diet, the teeth are engulfed, and the fibre removes the plaque and tartar from the surface of the teeth. With diets like these, your cat is essentially brushing his teeth every time he eats his dry food.
Dental treats can also be of benefit in your cat’s oral health care. Treats such as Feline Greenies® are effective at reducing tartar. Treats are not nutritionally balanced and will increase the calories that your cat consumes each day. Your cat would need to consume a large quantity of treats to get the same benefit as he would from brushing or a dental diet, so do not rely on treats alone to control your cat’s tartar.
Cat Essential: healthymouth TM carries a number of products that reduce plaque for cats that are also owner-friendly. These include a water additive, oral spray, oral gel and a topical dental wipe.
For any oral health product that you are planning to purchase for your cat, look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of acceptance. The VOHC was launched in 1997 and is sponsored by the American Veterinary Dental College. In order to get the VOHC seal of acceptance, manufacturers must perform scientific trials on their products and submit the results to the council to prove their efficacy. All of the products mentioned in this article have been accepted by the VOHC.
Written Tiffany Lennox, DVM