Brushing the teeth of a cat or dog is needed for pets’ overall health
I've heard that oral health care is often linked to other diseases, such as gum disease and cardiovascular disease. Is there also a connection between my cat's teeth and its overall health?
Answer: Absolutely. Just like humans, cats and dogs need healthy mouths for healthy lives. In fact, February is National Pet Dental Health Month. The American Veterinary Medical Association is encouraging pet owners to regularly brush their cat's and dog's teeth. At minimum, animals with healthy mouths should be examined annually.
Brushing is the most effective way of controlling plaque and periodontal disease and is among the most important maintenance you can do for your pet's health. Studies have shown that brushing three times a week reduces plaque by 90 percent and at least once a week by 75 percent.
For cats, health conditions are more notable in the mouth than anywhere else. If a cat is not showing signs of pain, but significant dental disease is present, it is often an indication of a more serious problem.
Q: What are some tips to get started on brushing my pet's teeth?
A: Starting young helps get your pet used to having his mouth handled. No matter what the age, start slowly. Approach him when he's relaxed and happy. Start with petting and wrapping him in a towel. In your first few attempts, you might just want to get him comfortable with rubbing gauze gently along his gum line a few times and then release him. The goal is to get him comfortable with your touching his mouth.
Offer a treat at the end of each session so he associates the experience with something positive. It might take an adult animal several weeks to adjust.
When you feel that you're both ready to try brushing, use circular strokes, holding the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gum line. Brush for a few seconds on each side and work up to at least 30 to 60 seconds per side.
Try to open the mouth slightly and brush the inside of the teeth. If you can't get to them, it's OK, as most periodontal disease occurs on the outside surfaces.
The Hawaiian Humane Society welcomes questions by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
. Indicate “Pet Ohana” in the subject line. Or, write “Pet Ohana,” Hawaiian Humane Society, 2700 Waialae Ave., Honolulu 96826.