Dental health is important for every cat’s wellbeing. Most cats develop symptoms of dental diseases from as early as 2 years of age. However, as cats get older the dental problems become more common, especially for senior cats.
As a cat parent, you should start dental care as early as your cat is still a kitten. When your cat eats, some of the food gets stuck in between their teeth which would form a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. If the cat’s teeth are not cleaned, the bacteria start producing tartar which eventually hardens to form plaque. Plaque is difficult to remove and may spread to cause gum infection and damage to the jaw bone.
For every cat owner, dental health should be a great concern and should ensure that their cat’s teeth stay healthy even as they age. In this article, we will discuss what you need to know about senior cat’s dental problems and what you should look for in cat food for older cats with teeth problems.
Related: Best Cat Food for Older Cats with Teeth Problems
Important facts you need to know about dental problems in senior cats.
- Good nutrition is key to maintaining healthy teeth.
A balanced diet not only promotes immune health but also plays a major role in maintaining healthy teeth for your cat. Therefore, ensure that the food you feed your kitty from a young age has a balanced nutritional that will meet your cat’s nutritional needs.
- Cat’s teeth also need brushing.
You may wonder, how do I brush my cat’s teeth? Is it even possible to brush a cat’s teeth? The answer is, yes it is possible to brush your cat’s teeth. There are cat’s toothbrushes or you can use a clean gauze to clean your kitty’s teeth. Cleaning your cat’s teeth regularly helps in preventing dental diseases since it removes the harmful bacteria on the surface of your cat’s teeth. It also prevents plaque buildup which is a common dental problem in cats who do not get their teeth cleaned.
- There are stages of gum diseases.
The very first stage is called Gingivitis and it is a reversible gum disease with regular cleaning and dental care. However, if the diseases are not treated early, it may progress to more severe dental diseases and cause permanent damage to your cat’s teeth.
- Dry cat food can help in cleaning your cat’s teeth.
The act of the cat chewing dry food helps remove tartar and plaque that may build up on your cat’s teeth. Although most senior cats may choose wet cat food due to easy palatability, you can give dry cat food for seniors periodically to help in cleaning the cat’s teeth
Related: Best Dry Cat Food for Seniors
- Failure to treat dental problems can cause your cat to lose weight.
Dental problems in senior cats may make the cat not eat well. Therefore, your cat may not get the necessary nutrients needed for maintaining healthy muscle mass hence start losing weight.
Signs and symptoms of dental problems in cats
- Bad breath
- Red and swollen gums. Healthy gums are pink in color
- Yellow-brown tartar build-up on the teeth
- Chewing with one side of their mouth or turning their heads while chewing
- Cat not eating well
Common Dental Diseases in Cats
Dental diseases in cats cause serious pain which can negatively impact your cat’s quality of life. Cats with dental problems may have problems feeding hence lose weight which may result in many health problems.
These are the three common dental diseases in cats:
Gingivitis in cats causes the gums around the teeth to be red, sore, swollen and painful. The cause of Gingivitis is the buildup of plaque that remains untreated hence becomes a breeding ground for bacteria which causes the inflammation of the gums.
Plaque is hardened by absorbing minerals from the saliva to form tartar or calculus. Calculus is a rough surface where disease-causing bacteria attach to. These bacteria may cause gum inflammation.
Other diseases such as feline immunodeficiency virus, severe kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, autoimmune disease, and feline leukemia virus may also cause gingivitis. Cats with gingivitis may refuse to eat depending on the severity or show preference to soft food.
The best way to prevent gingivitis in cats is to regularly remove plaque buildup by brushing your cat’s teeth regularly. Use a cat toothbrush and a brushing gel or toothpaste specifically designed for felines as human toothpaste may be toxic to cats.
If your cat has already developed gingivitis, brushing may be painful for her due to the already inflamed gums. Luckily, gingivitis is a reversible dental condition. Consult your vet for early intervention.
Untreated gingivitis may progress to periodontitis. This is a condition that weakens the tissues that attach the tooth to the gums and bone and it is irreversible. It may lead to teeth loss or loose teeth.
Mostly, symptoms include inflammation of the gums, cat not eating, drooling, exposure of the tooth root surface, developing of halitosis and cat turning her head to the side while chewing. If you notice these symptoms in your cat, see your vet.
Evaluation of cats with periodontitis may involve administration of anesthesia to examine using the x-ray machine the head and the jaw to evaluate the extent of the damage. In severe cases, periodontitis may lead to loss of one or more teeth.
3. Tooth Resorption
Tooth resorption is a process whereby the tooth structure breaks down. It begins from the inside parts of the tooth and progresses to the other parts of the tooth. It is the most common cause of teeth loss in cats and not all cats show signs of this destructive process.
The actual cause of tooth resorption in cats is not known. However, it may or may not be associated with gingivitis. It is very painful hence the affected cat may be unwilling to feed, droll, turn their heads to the side while eating and be very irritable.
To treat tooth resorption, your vet may aim to manage the pain and prevent the condition from spreading. In severe cases where the lesions have extended to the crown of the tooth, it would be best to extract the tooth.
How to keep your senior cat’s teeth clean and healthy?
- Brush your cat’s teeth often.
Brush your cat’s teeth at least once a day to prevent tartar build-up. However, most cats do not as their teeth touched. Therefore, to overcome this, start brushing your cat’s teeth from an early age to get them used to it. They will eventually get used to it and enjoy having it done.
- Give your cat dental treats.
Dental treats for cats are crunchy treats that help remove tartar from your cat’s teeth when your cat chews them. However, before purchasing the dental treats, ensure that they are prepared with healthy ingredients. This is because, the poorest quality treats are filled with unhealthy carbohydrates, loaded with calories that may cause your senior cat to gain excess weight.
- Regular checkups with the vet.
It is important to take your senior cat for regular vet checkups. Usually after every 6 months for healthy senior cats. During the checkups, the vet will do an oral examination to ensure that your cat’s gums are healthy and not inflamed. They will also check out for other dental diseases and advise.
- Check out for signs of dental disease.
Even with a healthy diet and regular cleaning, your senior cat may still develop dental problems due to age-related issues. Check if your cat has red inflamed gums, bad breath, change in eating habits, and bleeding gums. If you notice any of these signs, seek advice from your vet.
- Feed a healthy and balanced diet.
A healthy diet not only promotes immune, digestive and renal health, but it also promotes good dental and oral health. Ensure that the food you feed your cat has all the nutrients that your senior cat needs to stay healthy.
Related: Wellness Cat Food for Seniors
- Have your cat’s teeth cleaned by a professional.
If your cat develops recurrent dental problems, it is important to get her teeth cleaned by a professional at least once a year. Your cat may be put under anesthesia for the professional to do an x-ray to see if the dental disease has spread to the root of the tooth. It the problem has spread to the root, your vet may advise tooth extraction to prevent further damage and to relieve your kitty the pain of a damaged tooth.
How to clean your cat’s teeth.
- Get a toothbrush for your cat from the vet. In case you have more than one fur baby, ensure that each cat has their toothbrush.
- Use toothpaste or gel specifically made for the cats. There are special kinds of toothpaste for cats available in chicken and malt flavor which your kitty will love
- Choose a specific time of the day when you will be brushing your cat’s teeth and make it a routine. In this case, your cat will get used to the routine and will enjoy the process.
- If using finger brushes, ensure they are strong enough just for safety in case your cat bites them
- Start by using a small amount of toothpaste on your finger for your cat to lick it off. This will familiarize your cat with the taste
- Hold your cat with her back towards you so that they do not try to escape. Be gentle with her so that she does not feel intimidated and resist
- If possible, in the beginning, get someone else to hold your cat’s paws to prevent many struggles. Soon your cat gets used to it, this may not be necessary
- Retract your cat’s lips and start touching their teeth with the toothbrush. Stop and give your cat a treat. After a few days, your cat will be comfortable with the brushing process.
What should you look for in cat food for older cats with teeth problems?
Older cats are not as active as your cats. As cats get older, their metabolism rate reduces. Therefore, they need food with fewer calories for them to maintain a healthy weight. Look for cat food for senior cats since it is prepared with a healthy protein and fortified with healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals to provide all the essential nutrients needed by a senior cat.
Therefore healthy cat food for older cats with teeth problems should have:
- High-quality animal protein.
Cats are obligate carnivores. They need high protein in their diet regardless of their age. High protein diet is important for senior cats to help them maintain a healthy lean muscle mass and a healthy weight
- Low to moderate fat content.
Senior cats are not as active as younger cats. Therefore, it is important to control the amount of fat content in your cat’s diet to ensure that they are not feeding excess calories. Since they are not as active as their younger counterparts, the fats may end up building upon their muscles making them overweight. Ensure that the food you feed your senior cat is healthy fat such as Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids which are helpful in maintaining healthy skin and coat for your senior cat.
- Fiber content.
A diet rich in fiber content is important to promote a healthy digestive system that promotes easy absorption of nutrients essential for your cat.
- Enough moisture.
Moisture in a senior cat’s diet is important to ensure that your cat does not get dehydrated. A diet rich in moisture helps in digestion and also promotes a healthy urinary tract system in your senior cat. Apart from feeding your senior cat with a moisture-rich diet, ensure that they have access to a clean bowl of water at all times so that they can drink enough water.
- Easily digestible ingredients.
Most senior cats develop food sensitivities and allergies. Therefore, choose a cat food that is prepared with all-natural ingredients that are easily digestible for your cat.
- Healthy supplements.
Most senior cat food is fortified with essential minerals and vitamins to ensure a balanced diet for your kitty. Check if the senior cat food you are buying has vitamins and chelated minerals for easy absorption by your cat.
- No artificial additives.
High-quality senior cat food should not have added flavors, preservatives, and colors. Buy cat food that has no artificial additives.
Prevention is better than cure. On average, eight out of ten cats over the age of three get tooth and gum problems. Therefore, it is important to figure out a brushing routine early and choose one that your cat can stick to.
If you do not give your cat proper food and nutrition, they will develop health problems. As cats get old, their teeth become brittle and break. It is then important to look for the soft dry cat food for old cats
Take care of your cat oral health from a young age to prevent dental diseases as they get older. They are painful and may stress your cat. A stressed cat is not a happy cat. We all want our fur babies happy and cuddly and healthy. Let’s take care of them.