My friend Andrew brushes his cats” teeth every morning. They’ve come to expect it. It’s something I never thought about doing–until I had to take one of my cats to the vet.
My cat had a foul odor coming from his mouth, and he was dripping saliva. What I found strange was that the day before he was fine. When we got up in the morning, I noticed his breath and the wetness around his mouth. When we went downstairs for breakfast, he wouldn’t eat.
At the Vet
We were lucky. The vet dentist was in. He removed my cat’s rotten teeth, and my kitty was fine–until the following year. This time we saw the partner of the vet we usually see. Since she didn’t see a rotten tooth this time, she thought his foul breath was kidney related. I didn’t believe her. I said it was the exact same symptoms from last year when he had two rotten teeth.
She seemed convinced it was kidney disease or feline leukemia. I was firm and told her, no, I think it’s his teeth. But since she is the expert, I started to worry. She wanted to run tests.
Bad Breath and Disease
“A healthy cat’s breath should not be offensive,” says Eric Davis, DVM, a fellow of the Academy of Veterinary Dentistry and director of the Dental Referral Service at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. As my vet said, bad breath can be the result of periodontal, kidney, respiratory, liver disease, or even diabetes.
“However, by far, the most common problem associated with bad breath is periodontal disease,” says Dr. Davis. “Just think how your breath would smell if you didn’t brush your teeth for a week, months or even years.”
It’s important to check your cat’s teeth and gums regularly. If you see any blood, inflammation, or if your cat wince–and not because he doesn’t want you checking his mouth–but because he feels pain, then take him to the vet.
Fortunately, the tests for kidney disease and feline leukemia came back negative. The situation resolved itself because the tooth had fallen out, and the area in his mouth that was inflamed healed–just like in the wild. It saved us money too. The dental visit, tests, and complete exam added up. A tooth extraction would have cost more.
Following my friend Andrew’s advice: “You need to make your cat comfortable with having his teeth brushed; so start early and make it part of his daily routine,” he explains. “First you will need to introduce your cat to the toothbrush. The earlier your cat is introduced to the toothbrush, the easier it will be for him to accept the brushing routine later on.”
If you are going to brush your cat’s teeth, you can buy a toothbrush that will fit on your finger. You can also buy a cat toothbrush with a handle. Both versions have extremely soft bristles. And whatever you do, don’t use toothpaste designed for humans. It will upset your cat’s stomach. You can buy tuna or chicken flavored toothpaste at your local pet shop.
According to Andrew, his cats enjoy their daily toothbrush routine. For Andrew, it’s more time for him to bond with his fur kids.