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Why you need to brush your cat's teeth

If you’re a cat owner, you probably already know the basics for taking care of your feline friend.

Keeping your cat’s litter box clean, their water fresh and taking them to the vet for an annual checkup are some basic ways to keep your cat healthy and happy. (Not to mention balling up receipts to use as a play-toy every once in a while.)

But did you know your cat’s teeth need attention to keep them healthy, too? Although your cat is a meticulous fussy groomer who takes charge of their bathing routine, they need your help to take care of their oral health.

70% of cats show signs of oral disease by age 3. And the infection from periodontal disease can put other vital organs at risk, like their heart, kidney and liver. 

Damage to these vital organs are both expensive to treat and dangerous for your furry friend. 

That’s why it’s important to take care of your cat’s teeth to prevent and curb dental disease before it has the chance to lead to more serious conditions.

There are things you can do at home to keep your cat’s teeth clean. And just like you, the best way to maintain your cat’s oral health is to brush their teeth.

From brushing their teeth to scheduling a professional cleaning, here’s how you can take care of your cat’s teeth and add years to your feline friend’s life.

    Kitty toothbrushes 

    Your cat’s mouth and teeth are small, and their gums can be sensitive. That’s why they need a specialized toothbrush for their brushing routine — your guest toothbrush at home will be too big for the job. 

    There are many cat toothbrushes that have small, short bristles which are catered to your cat’s mouth.

    Your cat may prefer a finger brush, which is a small rubber brush that you put on the top of your finger like a finger puppet. This may be easier to use than a regular toothbrush, as you can cradle your cat’s head with one hand and use your finger brush on the other hand to gently brush as many teeth as you can.

    How to brush your cat’s teeth

    Brushing your cat’s teeth is the best way to cut down on the plaque that can lead to periodontal disease.

    For your cat’s brushing routine to be effective, shoot for at least several times a week, if not every day.

    Just like with dogs (and people) it’s easier to get your cat comfortable with a tooth-brushing routine when they’re young.

    But if your cat is already full-grown, you can take the steps below to ease your pet into a tooth-brushing routine that will protect their oral and overall health:

    • Make sure your cat is relaxed and comfortable when you approach them.
    • Let your cat lick the kitty toothpaste off your finger, then let them lick it off the kitty toothbrush.
    • Lift your cat’s lip to expose the outside surfaces of your cat’s gums and teeth.
    • Gently place the kitty toothbrush or a gauze-covered finger in your cat’s mouth and gradually add brushing motions.
    • Aim to brush just a few of their teeth the first several times.
    • Expect this process to take anywhere between 1-2 months — cats can be very annoyed about accepting dental care, so getting your cat comfortable can take several weeks or more.

    What about toothpaste for cats?

    Just like you, toothpaste can help cut down on tartar buildup and keep your cat’s breath fresh. 

    However, the toothpaste you use has non-edible ingredients like fluoride that you learn to spit out at a young age.

    Since your cat doesn’t have this skill, they need a specialized toothpaste that helps cut down on plaque and is safe for them to digest.

    A chlorhexidine dental rinse or gel is one of the most effective anti-plaque rinses that are safe for your cat to use. Squirt a small amount of the rinse inside the cheek on each side of your cat’s mouth or use the gel as a tooth-paste on top of a kitty toothbrush o finger brush.

    If your cat doesn’t love the flavor of a chlorhexidine dental rinse or gel, there are many other kitty toothpastes that are both safe for your cat and made in tasty flavors they’re likely to enjoy, including beef, poultry and seafood.

    How much does it cost to get my cat’s teeth cleaned?

    If your cat simply can’t tolerate at-home cleanings, you may consider a professional tooth cleaning to keep your feline friend’s teeth healthy.

    A professional cleaning for your cat’s teeth can cost anywhere between $300 to $1,400. 

    The total price of the procedure depends on a few different factors, including the location and quality of your vet.

    Necessary diagnostics like preoperative blood work and X-rays to assess the condition of your cat’s teeth before the cleaning is another cost, as is anesthesia to keep your cat comfortable. The actual cleaning is its own cost as well.

    And if it turns out your cat needs additional extractions, these procedures (and potential antibiotics) will also factor in to the total cost of a professional tooth cleaning.

    When to see the vet

    It’s okay for your cat’s breath to have a faint smell. But if your cat’s breath has a strong, foul odor, they may be having oral health problems. 

    Other signs of oral health issues include red or bleeding gums, drooling, loss of appetite, or pawing at their mouth. Any of these issues could be symptoms of gum disease or tooth decay.

    If left untreated, infection in your cat’s mouth can spread to other part of their bodies and put their vital organs in danger. Be sure to visit your vet if you notice any of these issues to ensure your cat’s oral health — and consequently their overall health.

    Pet insurance can help you save money on trips to the vet, surgery, and more. 

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    Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.

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