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Ask A Vet: Do I Really Need To Brush My Cat’s Teeth?

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Dental health has been proven to affect overall health for cats. If you can see brown or yellow buildup on your cat’s teeth, then there are trillions of bacteria present on the surface of the teeth.

These bacteria cause dental pain and infection. This type of infection can go to other organs, creating abscesses, heart disease, and other serious issues. Dental disease is bad for your cat’s physical health and if his bad breath is obvious, it is affecting his emotional health too because you will not want him purring in your face. If you can see or smell the issue, it is advanced. We need to do something to stop it before it gets to this progressed state.

Cats cannot brush their teeth so they do not have as many options to preserve dental health as humans do. Examine your cat’s mouth. If he resists you looking, it could be a sign of pain, so contact your vet for an anesthetized dental assessment and cleaning.  Don’t be afraid of anesthesia for teeth cleaning. Dental pain is so bad that if you asked your cat, he would say that he wanted to address the problem and he would happily sleep through it!

Once your cat’s teeth are a clean slate, you can begin some at-home maintenance, including brushing. Brushing disrupts the bacterial growth and allows the normal cleaning mechanisms to clear them away. Start slowly, breaking the brushing down into tiny steps.  Get a tooth brush for cats that is small and can fit over your index finger.  When you have the toothbrush out, make sure that it is a happy and calm time for your cat.  Rub canned cat food on the brush so that whenever your cat sees the brush, good thoughts occur. Don’t start with the goal of brushing all the cat’s teeth at one sitting.

Baby steps are your friend. If you cannot safely brush the teeth, there are dental rinses and chews that might work better for your cat.  Your veterinary staff can help you sort through what might work best for you and even do a demonstration of how to teach your cat to tolerate (and even like) tooth brushing. Doing something is always better than doing nothing!

We can all work together to make sure your pet is comfortable sand safe. Don’t underestimate the importance of dental care for your cat.

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Written by Dr. Kathryn Primm

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