If Fluffy Can't Brush The Dental Health Challenge
Cat Talk|August 2021
Part of our everyday grooming routine is oral hygiene; we know we should brush and floss our teeth twice a day, and according to dental hygienists, for two minutes at each brushing. But consider the cat. Unless it became accustomed to a tooth brushing regimen during kittenhood, tending to an adult cat’s teeth may be difficult at best or impossible at worst, compared to “pulling teeth” if our readers will pardon the pun.
Katie Spoo, DVM, with Candilee Jackson

Oral Wellness Checkups

Katie Spoo, DVM, practices in Denton, Texas, and has a special interest in veterinary dentistry. “Your veterinarian will always attempt to look in your cat’s mouth during a routine physical exam.” Because maintaining dental health is such a challenge for cats, she advocates that an introduction to mouth examinations and tooth brushing should begin in kittenhood.

She notes that “Cats are very good at hiding signs of periodontal disease, and the vet may be able to identify issues that need to be addressed before you start to notice severe clinical signs at home. Hypersalivation (excessive drooling), pawing at the mouth, swelling under the eyes, difficulty chewing and/or dropping food, chewing with the head tilted to one side, halitosis (foul breath), and loose or missing teeth are all signs you may notice that lead you to make an appointment for an exam. The veterinarian may notice broken or abscessed teeth with possible pulp canal exposure, oral tumors, resorptive lesions, malocclusions, or heavy plaque or tartar build-up that needs to be addressed.”

To Brush or Not To Brush

According to Dr. Spoo, “As with people, tooth brushing is the foundation for good oral health. Brushing is the gold standard for preventative dental care because it helps prevent plaque and tartar buildup that leads to advanced periodontal disease. In an ideal world, cats would allow their owners to brush twice daily and even floss! As veterinarians, we understand this is completely unrealistic. I applaud any owner who is able to brush their cat’s teeth at all, no matter how often, but it is understandable that most are unable to do so, for a variety of reasons. It is a time-consuming endeavor, and one that not all cats are interested in cooperating with fully!“

“Fluffy, this is a toothbrush …”

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