Home care for your cats can make a tremendous difference in their comfort and health. There are a wide variety of home care options from which to choose, but keep in mind that anything you can do to help prevent plaque and tartar accumulation will pay back big dividends. The more you can do at home, the less that will have to be done by a veterinarian. Below we have listed some common forms of home care that have been proven to be of benefit for cats. Frequently the best approach is to combine several methods of control to achieve best results. All methods of home care share the goal of minimizing plaque (bacterial film) accumulation, and preventing the mineralization of the plaque to form calculus (“tartar”). Cats can be resistant to home care, and require a very gradual and gentle approach to achieve any degree of success. This list is not exhaustive, but contains those things that Dr. Woodward has found to be of value in his dental practice. Please consult your regular veterinarian for other ideas.
BRUSHING: Brushing your cat’s teeth is the single most effective means to curtail dental disease. This makes sense because the bacterial film known as “plaque is the root of many dental problems. This film is easily displaced by simple mechanical disruption as the teeth are brushed. Daily brushing is required to improve dental health, while brushing every other day will help maintain the dental health in its current state. Brushing of your cat’s teeth can be accomplished, but you need to take a very gradual and gentle approach. Start by letting your cat lick the toothpaste from your finger, then off the small feline toothbrush, then gradually place the brush in your cat’s mouth and add the brushing motions. Introduction of this process may require 1-2 months. We recommend CET toothpaste, which is pet safe and come in several flavors for cats such as poultry and seafood. Avoid human toothpastes as they usually contain abrasives and detergents that can be irritating if swallowed. Small cat specific toothbrushes are available. Some cats prefer finger brushes.
CHLORHEXIDINE ORAL RINSE: This rinse provides antibacterial benefits lasting for several hours. It is safe for pets and rarely causes any problems. The rinse is applied by squirting a small amount inside the cheek on each side of the mouth. The chlorhexidine binds to the oral tissues, tooth surfaces, and existing plaque, and is gradually released into the oral cavity. Many cats object to the taste of this product, while others accept it with no difficulty.
OXYFRESH ORAL HYGIENE SOLUTION: Oxyfresh in the drinking water helps to improve the breath as well as detoxifying certain bacterial products that can interfere with healing of oral tissues. Simply add 1 cap full per quart of water daily. Most cats will accept Oxyfresh in their drinking water.
CHEW TYPE PRODUCTS: Anything that helps increase chewing can be of benefit. To the surprise of many owners, feeding exclusively dry food is of little benefit.
Several specific diets have been shown to be of benefit in decreasing dental disease. Science Diet T/D and Science Diet Oral Care are both “mesh-type” diets that scrub the teeth with a fibrous mesh as your cat eats. Acceptance of these mesh-type foods is variable. Friskies Dental Diet, and Eukanuba Dental Defense Diet both employ a chemical coating (sodium hexametaphosphate) that safely decreases tartar formation, and is very well accepted by most patients.
The CET Oral Hygiene Chews made specifically for cats contain a dual enzyme system that helps augment natural antibacterial systems present in the mouth. They are available in poultry and seafood flavors, and are accepted by most cats.
A feline version of Greenies has been developed and is well accepted by many cats.
Unlike dogs, cats are very individualistic in their acceptance of oral home care. Frequently, trial and error experimentation is required. Try to find those techniques and products that your cat seems to prefer (or is offended by the least!). Some cats are very particular about new flavors. Patience and a gentle approach will yield the best results.