February is Dental Awareness month for our four-legged companions. Dental health is extremely important to the overall health of our pets. Keeping their dental health in check will allow them to live happier, healthier, longer lives.
The best way to maintain healthy teeth in our pets is through daily brushing. Although training your dog to allow you to brush their teeth is usually much easier than training your cat, daily brushing is equally as beneficial for our feline friends. Training your cat to allow you to brush their teeth usually takes time and patience, but remember that in the end daily brushing can save your pet from painful dental health issues as well as prevent or delay them from undergoing expensive but necessary dental cleanings and extractions under general anesthesia.
Ideally, brushing should occur every day, but brushing at least twice per week can help to cut down on the buildup of tartar on your cat’s teeth. Brushing can be done with a small cat toothbush or fingerbrush or a small child’s toothbrush, but should always be done with a specialized enzymatic cat/dog toothpaste. Human toothpaste often contains ingredients that can be harmful to your cat including fluoride and xylitol. In addition, pet toothpaste works enzymatically in order to decrease the amount of mechanical brushing needed to remove plaque and is flavored to make the experience more enjoyable for your cat.
Training your cat to accept having its teeth brushed will be easier if you start when your cat is just a kitten and practice daily, although it is still possible to train an older cat to have its teeth brushed. In order to start training choose a calm and quiet place. Stat by holding you cat in your lap and gently rubbing your finger over your cat’s teeth. Once your cat accepts this, transition to using a soft cloth, and then to a toothbrush. Finally, apply a small amount of pet toothpaste to the toothbrush before brushing. Be sure to end each training session on as positive a note as possible. Give you cat a special treat that he enjoys such as wet food, greenies, lots of patting and attention, or play time with a laser pointer or his favorite toy.
Initially your pet will likely not tolerate the brushing for more than a few seconds. This is normal, and it will take time to gradually increase the time he will allow you to brush his teeth from a few seconds to about 30 seconds on each side. It is not necessary to brush the insides or tops of your cat’s teeth, since the majority of tartar accumulates along the outer surfaces of the teeth. It will also be necessary to open your cat’s mouth slightly in order to reach his furthest molars. This should be done once your cat is comfortable with you brushing his other teeth. The best way to open our cat’s mouth is by using one hand to tilt your cat’s head backwards while holding his top jaw with your thumb and index finger.
Remember that patience and consistency are key factors in training your cat to have his teeth brushed. Please do not hesitate to call River Road Veterinary Clinic if you have any questions about the benefits of routine brushing or how to train your cat to accept it.