[From Tufts February 2012 Issue]
If you need further motivation to brush your cat’s teeth regularly, consider this alarming statistic provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association: More than 70 percent of cats show some sign of periodontal disease by age 3.
No, that is not a typo. It is age 3. Not only does periodontal disease cause bad breath, gingivitis and tooth loss, infection in the mouth can spread through the bloodstream to internal organs and lead to life-threatening conditions, including diabetes and kidney disease.
February is Pet Dental Health Month, a vital campaign sponsored by the AVMA and supported by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.
“Most people have no idea that dental health is so important to their pets, and that’s why Pet Dental Health Month is such a great idea,” says Larry Corry, DVM, AVMA president. “In fact, veterinarians report that periodontal disease is the most commonly diagnosed problem in dogs and cats.”
Daily tooth brushing aids in keeping cats’ mouths healthy and can help owners notice problems, such as oral tumors, early enough to be treated. Too many time-pressed pet owners rely solely on dental treats and foods that are said to help combat tartar, say the AVMA officials.
“Brushing is the gold standard of dental care,” says Jean Joo, DVM, veterinary dentist at Tufts VETS (Veterinary Emergency Treatment & Specialties) in Walpole, Mass. “Periodontal disease is preventable.”
Not sure how to brush your cat’s teeth? Here are some pointers:
– Massage and rub your cat’s cheeks to get him used to having his face touched. Reward him with a small treat. Do this for several days.
– Let your cat lick the pet toothpaste from the toothbrush. – Hold your cat’s head in your less-dominant hand and lift the cat’s upper lip with the same hand. Tip the index finger of your other hand in water-based tuna juice and rub back and forth over the gum line.
– Advance to rubbing the outer surface of your cat’s teeth and gums along the gum line.
– Hold a soft-bristle pet toothbrush or a finger toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gum line. Move it with an oval motion or brush back and forth for up to 30 seconds.
The AVMA offers short videos on how to brush your pet’s teeth on its website (avma.org). The group also encourages pet owners to book veterinary appointments this month to have their pets’ teeth and gums examined and assessed. By investing a few minutes each day brushing your cat’s teeth, you can help maintain his good health and prolong his life.