What is involved in cat dental care?

There's a lot involved in cat dental care. It's a little bit more tricky than it is with dogs, although it is similar to canine dental care in the sense of preventatives and maintenance care, including everything from chewable dental sticks to prescription-based dental diets to actual dental care, which we're going to get to here. We'll talk about veterinary dental care and brushing at home, which is a bit trickier.

Dr. Daniel Anthony
Highland Park Animal Hospital

How does dental health impact the overall health and wellbeing of my cat?

Dental care is essential in our feline species. It can impact everything from the way they eat, move, and consume their food to hunting, their kidneys, and their heart. That's why we really want to focus on dental care. It's often overlooked in many of our feline species, and that's why we made this video today, so we can give you a little bit more information about dental care in cats.

What types of dental care should I be giving my cat at home?

The gold standard for any dental care, in both dogs and cats, is daily brushing. I know that's really difficult. I even have a lot of difficulty with it in my dogs and cats, but ideally, you'll want to brush your cat's teeth daily with feline-approved toothpaste. If you go down this route, you usually have to start when they're kittens, or they probably won't let you do it at all.

They have some handy dandy toothbrushes that you can purchase online and put on your finger to help with this. So if your cat is minimal to it, that's the best practice. Most of our clients either have feline dental treats that help manually debride some of the tartar and plaque that we're going to get to in just a second. There are other products that you can administer in the water, whether it's enzymes that help break down that tartar or the veterinary route, and that's where I step in. That involves the actual anesthetic dentals, where we scale the teeth, perform dental x-rays and extractions (if necessary), and help prevent that plaque and tartar buildup from causing further teeth decay.

What are some signs and symptoms of issues with oral health?

This is a wonderful question. This is the reason why you come to see me, or you may not even realize it. In cats, it can be super tricky to detect any type of discomfort or pain, but most of the time, you'll notice that your cat will have discomfort while chewing, and maybe they're favoring one side versus the other. That helps me to decide where the problem is. You might also detect that they may not be interested in food or stop wanting to eat. One of the more common things we see is they'll hide, and you'll just come to me and say, "Hey, Dr. Anthony, I swear something is up with my cat. He or she's hiding more than normal. That is a clue that something's going on that I want to check further.

Regarding the teeth, you may notice an excess accumulation of tartar or plaque, a chalky substance that builds up and causes bad breath that you may or may not notice. Bad breath in another huge one we see.

You might also notice excess drooling and inflammation of the gingiva or the pink tissue surrounding the teeth. It'll be red and inflamed, which is very common. If you really love your cat and you know them well, you can lift up their gums and look at their teeth. We usually pick up the enamel, including resorbing or little defects within the enamel itself. That's a little bit trickier. We'll pick up on most of the other things during their physical exam: whether there are oral masses and missing or loose teeth in the mouth. We help detect those things while you're here during your physical exam and like to correct or look at them when we do our dental procedures here at Highland Park. Periodontal disease is just a disease of the teeth surrounding the teeth and manifests as the gingiva being inflamed. Cats get a lot of either inflammatory infectious or non-infectious diseases around the teeth where we may need to extract their teeth. So those are some periodontal issues. We can have tooth root abscesses or other masses surrounding the teeth that can cause pain and discomfort.

How do veterinarians diagnose dental problems in cats?

Great question. The most common way we diagnose dental issues is during the exam. It's really important for us to get a good look at that oral cavity or the mouth when we're doing our physicals, and that's on us. Things that you can do at home include noticing those clinical signs. What you tell us in the exam room helps us tremendously. Our feline friends can't talk to us, so the information that you provide, whether it's videos, pictures, or just descriptions, helps us diagnose these problems in your cat. It allows us to make the best recommendation for you, whether that is something as simple as toothbrushing to doing a thorough anesthetic dental procedure where we take full mouth x-rays, scale those teeth, extract some teeth that are causing pain or discomfort, or even some oral masses. So that's up to us to help guide you.

What are some possible conditions caused by poor cat dental care, and what are the treatments?

I'm going to go a bit beyond the teeth here because you'll be surprised. There is some anecdotal evidence or true evidence that the gums are a direct route to the bloodstream and can cause further issues with the vital organs in the body, such as the heart, kidneys, and other internal structures. Your cat's dental health can affect the rest of its body. A lot of older cats get more chronic conditions that are affected by the teeth. So we may even say your cat needs a dental because it has this other chronic issue that may or may not look like it's related, but it really is. That would be something that we would discuss during one of our exams if that's the case. I know that our feline friends are a little bit trickier when it comes to oral hygiene and dental care. I get it. Cats are tricky, but that's why we love them. Our job is to help you understand the signs you're seeing at home and give you direction and options for the best things for your feline friends.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (214) 833-9821, or you can email us at info@hpanimalhospital.com. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media https://www.facebook.com/HighlandParkAnimalHospital, https://www.instagram.com/hpanimalhospital/