Dear Porky and Buddy,
I love your column and read it every week! I have four cats and recently took one of them to the vet. She said his back teeth looked very dirty and need to be cleaned. I have scheduled his surgery (yes, it is considered surgery because he needs to be anesthetized), and I know that his teeth would have been in much better shape if I had just brushed them.
While I brush my dogs’ teeth regularly, I am sort of reluctant to brush my cats’ teeth. Two of my cats are somewhat feral and are scared of any kind of medicating and nail clipping, so I know that brushing their teeth will be a challenge, at best.
Do you have any ideas on the best way to go about brushing a cat’s teeth?
Last week, we talked in general about the importance of paying attention to your pets’ dental health, but, as you have discovered, sometimes there is a difference between perfection and reality.
Please, don’t try to assuage your guilt about your cats’ teeth by sticking your hand in a food processor (which is exactly what a cat’s mouth is, if you think about it.) Fiddling with cats’ mouths is tricky business, as cats really hate mouth invasion.
The bottom line is, be cautious in attempting any tooth brushing in cats. Taking baby steps and always backing off before the cat gets upset is the only sensible approach.
Start with just encouraging the cat to accept mouth handling (like pairing mouth touching with smearing some of their favorite treat food). If successful, then try a veterinary toothpaste.
You don’t need to actually brush their teeth as you probably can with your dogs. If you can just get some into their mouths and on their gums, it will help.
But again, not at the expense of losing the use of your hand.
There are other possible options.
For instance, there are some water additives sold that are purported to help with tartar buildup on pets’ teeth, but you should ask your vet whether she thinks they are effective.
There is also evidence that dry hard diets help control the buildup of tartar in dogs, (but, of course, many dogs are fools that will eat anything).
Cats are not so easily tricked, but you could try.
There are also prescription diets for dogs and cats that help control tartar. Once again, ask your vet.
Some, but not all, vets recommend annual teeth cleaning for cats, but that requires anesthesia, which as you know, despite all the advances, has its risks.
You have chosen that option for one of your cats, based on the state of her teeth, but keep up the conversation with your vet as to whether that is necessary for the others.
We hope you enjoy a long happy time with all your pets, as guilt free as “humanly” possible.
The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County.
Our office has relocated to 110 W. Second St., Oswego, NY.
Phone: (315) 207-1070.
Because People and Pets Are Good for Each Other!