By Dr. Andrew Jones
Your cat’s teeth, and their care are vital in terms of keeping your cat healthy and preventing disease. Periodontal (gum) disease is the number one diagnosed problem in cats; by the age of three, 70% of cats have some form of periodontal disease. Lack of healthy teeth and gums can lead to heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, stroke and even diabetes. In this article I will cover the cat teeth anatomy, the causes of dental disease, and the most important natural solutions to keeping your cat’s teeth and gums healthy at home.
Cats start with deciduous (baby) teeth- similar to people. The teeth first erupt between the second to third weeks- at four months kittens start to lose these baby teeth, and gain the full number of 30 adult teeth by the ages of 6-7 months. Cat teeth are uniquely different from dogs; none of the teeth of cats have grinding surfaces. Cat’s have evolved to eat meat, and not chew or grind plant material.
Most dental problems happen after the adult teeth have formed. Plaque, a thin coat of bacteria, accumulates on the teeth, then it progresses to tartar, leading to gum inflammation. Bacteria also grows under the gum-line, causing gum infection (gingivitis) which can lead to tooth loss if not treated. Other dental problems include broken teeth, which can show as being painful to chew. Tooth root abscess are infections which form at the tooth root; they can cause swelling under the eye. Cats are prone to a specific type of dental problem called a FORL (Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesion). This is equivalent to a cavity where the tooth decays at the gum line.
The signs of dental disease in your cat are similar to people. These include bad breath (halitosis), reluctance to chew, redness at the gum line and visible tartar on the teeth. In advanced periodontal disease the teeth are loose, and may even fall out. Some cats may be ill and quite sick if the bacteria from the mouth has spread to other organs, such as the heart or liver. Often in cats, a local area of teeth discomfort can be found when a small amount of pressure is placed on the gum line next to an inflamed area of gums. Cats will typically ‘chatter’ their teeth in response to this, usually meaning a FORL is present.
The big question then is what can you do? Fortunately there are many things, and I want to give you my most effective natural remedies.
Dental Diet. If your cat is to eat kibble, ensure that it is a dry kibble with larger pieces that have to be chewed. Some food companies now produce specific dental diets which will lower tartar buildup. They are more abrasive on the teeth and some contain an enzyme which lowers tartar formation. These foods are available at your local veterinarian.
Natural Diets. Raw meaty bones and windpipes, ( ie chicken necks) can help keep teeth clean. Cats splinte pieces of bone, and are at risk of obstruction, so do not give him bones. To rule out the risk of Salmonella (a bacterial infection), put the bones or windpipes in boiling water for 30 seconds first.
Brush. The best way to keep your pet’s teeth clean is by brushing. Ideally this should be done daily, but twice a week is a good goal. Begin by rubbing your finger around your pet’s mouth. Flavor it with tuna to make it enticing for your cat. A finger toothbrush can be used (it fits around the end of your finger). Use pet toothpaste, for if swallowed it will not upset your pet’s stomach. Baking soda is another safe natural toothpaste. The electric toothbrushes are very effective and the long neck helps you get to the back premolars.
For cats with recurring gingivitis, lactoferrin can be helpful. The dose is 1/2 a 350 mg capsule daily mixed in syrup or baby food. Propolis is a product of honeybees and is an oral antiseptic. It is applied topically to the inflamed gums.
Vitamin C is used by many alternative practitioners for dental disease. It is an immune stimulant and helps the production of normal gum and teeth tissue. The starting cat dose is 100 mg daily. The starting cat dose is 100 mg per 10 lbs daily. If your pet gets diarrhea, lower the dose.
Plaque Off. This is a completely natural product which is suitable for cats. It is a special type of seaweed which has been found to have specific beneficial effects for oral care. It comes in a granulated form which is easily added to food every day. It is rich in natural iodine and contains important vitamins and minerals and is free from artificial colors, preservatives, gluten and sugar
There are a few herbs that can help your cat’s teeth. Calendula lotion can be used to heal ulcers in the mouth and promote healing of damaged tissue. Chamomilia can be used to decrease kitten chewing, alleviating some of the signs of teething pain. Myrrh can be mixed with water and applied topically to the inflamed gum tissue to decrease gum inflammation.
Now you should be able to understand the importance of keeping your cat’s teeth healthy, and recognize the signs and symptoms of dental disease in your cat. If you see red gums, visible tartar, bad breath, reluctance to chew, or a localized area of tooth pain then your cat likely has periodontal disease. There are many things you can be doing to prevent and natural treat your cat’s teeth problems; the most important remedies include, specific diets, brushing, the use of supplements, and certain herbs for gum inflammation.
Dr Andrew Jones
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