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Cats Need Dental Care Too – Dr. Sharon Johnston

I have personally known one cat who allowed his teeth to be brushed. He liked it. I even took him to school as my assistant for the demonstration I had to give in public speaking class, “How to Brush a Cat’s Teeth.” Max was a monster hit!

Every cat who has owned me since has pretty much said, “NO WAY!” with claws and limbs scrambling to get away. They make us get creative. That’s where annual dental prophylaxis under general anesthesia comes in, sometimes more frequently than annually, and other machinations to keep those mighty chompers comfortable and functional. Some of those options include: anti-plaque water additives, greenies, anti-tartar treats, anti-tartar diets, and potentially chew toys to aid in plaque removal.

Like the ADA (American Dental Association), pets have the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) who lists their approved products for plaque and tartar prevention and removal. Their website details veterinary dentist approved products, though some are admittedly more expensive than a giant tube of Crest or harder to come by than a trip to the Target. Know that there is no substitute for the mighty brush, but don’t get hurt by those claws if you are willing to try!

Cats have some unique problems dental-wise that present special challenges and absolutely require professional care. Sometimes their teeth undergo attack from within and develop cavities that are only resolved by tooth extraction. Don’t try this at home! And some cats develop inflamed gums that lead to such oral pain that they lose weight, they drool, they don’t groom. The occasional cat is far more fortunate to be toothless than undergo this discomfort. Everybody asks what they do without teeth. The answer is they adapt. We have known several cats who swallow their kibble nearly whole or love their canned food. Fear of extraction or toothlessness should be no barrier to care when there is oral inflammation and pain.

We don’t expect every cat owner to try to brush their feline’s teeth, but doing something for dental care at home on a routine, hopefully daily, basis can help reduce the cost of professional dental care. And if your cat has signs of more severe dental disease beyond some tartar, please seek professional care.