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Home Dental Care for Cats

After your dental cleaning your mouth feels good.  Now imagine what it would feel like if you didn’t brush them for the next 6-12 months or until your next dentist appointment.  Wow, the smell and the lack of friends would be impressive! 

Your cat’s mouth is pretty much the same.  After a professional cleaning and polish the mouth is in good shape but just like with people our pets start accumulating plaque again within hours.  Home care for your cats can make a tremendous difference in their comfort and health.  The more you can do at home, the healthier your cat’s mouth will be between professional teeth cleaning and the longer the intervals between the cleanings.

Below we have listed some common forms of home care that have proven to be of benefit for cats. The best approach is to combine several methods of control to achieve the best results. All methods of home care share the goal of minimizing plaque (bacterial film) accumulation, and preventing the mineralization of the plaque to form calculus (“tartar”). Cats can be resistant to home care, and require a very gradual and gentle approach to achieve any degree of success.

Veterinary Oral Health Council:  We recommend and use Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Products whenever possible. The Veterinary Oral Council (VOHC ) exists to recognize products with a VOHC Seal of Acceptance that meet pre-set standards of plaque and calculus (tartar) retardation in dogs and cats.

Regular use of products carrying the VOHC Seal will reduce the severity of periodontal disease.

Below we have listed some forms of Home Dental Care that have been proven to help with the components of gum disease, plaque and tartar accumulation.

Brushing the Teeth: Routine brushing of the teeth is the single most important component of home dental care.   This makes sense because the bacterial film known as “plaque” is the root of many dental problems. This film is easily displaced by simple mechanical disruption as the teeth are brushed. By brushing daily, you remove plaque and so tartar builds up slower. As with all things, the results will depend on the effort you give it. Daily brushing is the goal but at least 3 times a week is needed to make a difference.

Brushing of your cat’s teeth can be accomplished, but you need to take a very gradual and gentle approach. Start by letting your cat lick the toothpaste from your finger, then off the small feline toothbrush, then gradually place the brush in your cat’s mouth and add the brushing motions. Introduction of this process may require 1-2 months. We recommend CET toothpaste, which is pet safe and come in several flavors for cats such as poultry and seafood. Avoid human toothpastes as they usually contain abrasives and detergents that can be irritating if swallowed. Small cat specific toothbrushes are available.  Start brushing with a Q-tip dipped in tuna water and concentrate on the outside surface of the teeth by the cheeks.  Follow it with a treat!

 Chlorhexidine Oral Rinse: This rinse provides antibacterial benefits lasting for several hours. It is safe for pets and rarely causes any problems. The rinse is applied by squirting a small amount inside the cheek on each side of the mouth. The chlorhexidine binds to the oral tissues, tooth surfaces, and existing plaque, and is gradually released into the oral cavity. Many cats object to the taste of this product, while others accept it with no difficulty.

Chew Type Products: Anything that helps increase chewing can be of benefit. To the surprise of many owners, feeding exclusively dry food is of little benefit  

  • Food:  VOHC has placed the Seal of Acceptance on several specific diets that have been shown to be of benefit in decreasing dental disease
    • We recommend and carry Prescription Diet® t/d® that is approved for helping with both plaque and tartar the highest standard by VOHC.
      • Studies show by feeding it exclusively it can as beneficial as brushing 3 times a week.
  • Chews and Treats:
    • The CET Oral Hygiene Chews made specifically for cats contain a dual enzyme system that helps augment natural antibacterial systems present in the mouth. They are available in poultry and seafood flavors, and are accepted by most cats.
    • Feline Greenies ® – are widely accepted by most cats.

Unlike dogs, cats are very individualistic in their acceptance of oral home care. Frequently, trial and error experimentation is required. Try to find those techniques and products that your cat seems to prefer (or is offended by the least!).  Some cats are very particular about new flavors. Patience and a gentle approach will yield the best results.

What Home Care IS NOT. Home care is NOT a treatment for established disease.

Home care is daily plaque control designed to maintain oral hygiene and prevent the development of gingivitis and periodontal disease. It does not remove calculus and it cannot reach into periodontal pockets. Therefore, home care should only be instituted AFTER appropriate professional treatment has established a clean and healthy mouth. Home care is then used in an attempt to maintain this healthy situation or to prevent the situation from deteriorating.

Home care is NOT a substitute for regular professional examinations and treatment.

Since home care only cleans the crowns of the teeth and maybe 1 to 2 millimeters subgingivally (below the gums) it will have little or no effect on established periodontal pockets. Home care is also only effective for those teeth (or tooth surfaces) the owner is able to reach. Therefore, even with home care, your pet should have regular professional examinations and treatments.

By following a consistent program of home-care, you will greatly improve your cat’s dental health. This will mean fewer professional cleanings, less tooth loss and a happier, healthier cat. However, please remember that there is no substitute for professional veterinary care. We must work as a team to ensure a long and happy life for your pet.