Why Your Cat Needs Good Dental Care

February is dental month! Dental disease has become the number one health concern in adult cats. Your cat needs good dental care just like you do. Without it, cats are more prone to problems associated with poor dental hygiene and can get serious and painful dental diseases. Without good dental care cats can suffer from having a painful mouth and as a result, can even stop eating. Good dental hygiene is as important to cats as it is to humans and contributes to your cat’s overall well being, comfort and happiness. The good news is most periodontal disease in cats is completely preventable with good dental care and annual wellness checks.

Roughly 4 out of 5 cats develop periodontal disease. Why? Partly because dental care in cats is often overlooked and left untreated. Cats hide their pain very well though they may be silently suffering, and many cat owners don’t take their cat for regular annual wellness exams each year. Untreated gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) often progresses into gum infection, chronic disease and can even impact vital organs.

Periodontal disease is caused by harmful bacteria that builds up to form plaque and calculus along and under the gum line. This plaque causes gingivitis that can cause pockets to develop trapping food and bacteria, which can become inflamed and infected. Bacteria from the plaque then enters the bloodstream and damages the vital organs such as the heart and kidney.

Health Problems Associated With Poor Dental Care

Cats that don’t get proper dental care and have periodontal disease can develop more serious health problems. Emerging science has proven a strong link between good oral health and good heart and kidney health. So caring for your cat’s dental health can save you money down the road and save your cat’s health. Some of the health problems associated with cat’s poor dental health are:

  • Heart disease and damage to the heart
  • Damage to internal organs as cats age – liver and kidneys
  • Damage or loss of bone and tissue around the teeth
  • Fistulas from oral cavities that go into the nasal passages and cause nasal discharge, weakening of the jaw bone leading to jaw fractures, and bone infections
  • Loss of teeth – cats that don’t get dental care can lose their teeth, which is painful and can lead to more serious health issues
  • Pain and suffering – cats hide pain and suffering well, so you may not realize the pain they are in, until the problems become more serious
Symptoms of Dental Disease in Cats

There are many symptoms of dental disease that can warn cat owners that it’s time to take your cat to the vet for an oral exam, including:

  • Bad breath
  • Swollen and bleeding gums or red along gum lines
  • Change in eating habits and diminished appetite (eating may be painful)
  • Difficulty eating or eating only on one side of the mouth
  • Not eating dry food any longer, refusing to eat it and changing to wet food
  • Lack of grooming, change in grooming habits or poor grooming
  • Losing teeth or missing teeth
Preventing Dental Disease in Cats

Good preventative dental care can be done simply by getting your cat’s teeth checked and cleaned by a veterinarian as often as needed, usually once every 2-3 years, and personally checking your cat’s teeth and gums every 1-2 months. Here are some preventative measures:

  • Get a routine annual checkup with your vet once a year – with cats over 12, twice a year – that includes an oral exam
  • Home oral hygiene – do a routine home mouth check by checking your cat’s mouth every month or so for swollen or bleeding gums, ulcers, red lines along the gum line, smelly breath, and any other unusual or new concerns
  • Brush your cat’s teeth using a special brush made for cats (at your veterinarian’s office) and toothpaste made for cats (not human toothpaste, as it has chemicals and fluoride that is harmful if swallowed). Here’s a helpful video from the Pet Health Network of how to brush your cat’s teeth.
  • Have cat’s teeth cleaned by a vet under anesthesia, every 2-3 years or as needed – and have your vet take dental X-rays to check for any hidden problems.  Avoid any advertised dental cleanings done without anesthesia, these are completely ineffective, a waste of money, and leave your cat at risk and vulnerable to continued and untreated tooth decay and dental disease
  • Give your cat a good quality diet of grain-free wet food (and dry food if inclined)
Painful Dental Diseases in Cats
  • Gingivitis – red, swollen gums
  • Periodontal disease – loose or missing teeth, bleeding gums, leading to oral infections
  • FORLs (Feline Ondoclastic Resorptive Lesions) – Symptoms include bleeding from the gums or teeth, excessive salivation and difficulty eating, broken or missing teeth and bad breath. FORLs is extremely painful and should get immediate treatment. Extracting teeth is the most common treatment.
  • Oral Tumors/Cancer – Symptoms include swelling and/or lumps in the mouth and discoloration of the gums. The most common tumors are Squamous Cell Carcinomas (SCC). Cats with tumors need immediate treatment.
  • Stomatitis – Symptoms include a diminished appetite and trouble eating, excessive drooling, painful mouth, swollen gums, and weight loss. It can be caused by an autoimmune disorder and these cats often require having all their teeth extracted (roots too), with possible steroid treatment for the cat to regain its health and relieve the pain
Diseases That Can Cause Dental Infection

There are some diseases in cats that have been known to cause or worsen dental conditions and disease, including:

  • Feline Panleukopenia
  • Feline Viral Respiratory Disease
  • Chronic kidney or renal failure
  • Liver failure
  • Immune disorders
  • Nutritional disorders
Treatment of Dental Disease

Dental procedures are always done by veterinarians in their office under anesthesia. Under anesthesia, dental treatment will involve removing dental tartar and calculus, extracting any damaged teeth, taking needed X-rays and polishing the teeth. Your vet will probe to see if there’s any further damage to gums. Following any dental surgery where teeth are extracted, your vet will place your cat on an antibiotic for 7-10 days to be given daily to prevent infection.

Why Your Cat Needs Good Dental Care
Why Your Cat Needs Good Dental Care
Some Cautions

Stay far away from advertised “dental cleanings done without anesthesia” often offered in pet stores. These seem like a good deal, but they are worthless, superficial and my advice is to avoid them like the plague! These “cleanings” are not done by veterinarians, but often by inexperienced people, without the proper tools, education or knowledge. This is a complete waste of money and I believe is completely false and deceptive advertising and about profit at your cat’s expense. Your cat’s gums will not be given qualified medical attention, nor do these visits address cavities, root problems, gum disease, inflammation, or any serious oral disorder or disease. You will still need to go to a vet afterwards, because the same issues will be unresolved. My advise is to stay away!

Be careful about over-the-counter remedies that advertise miracle dental solutions. Some are sold on the Internet, some in pet stores, and many claim to reduce plaque and work preventatively but don’t actually deliver the benefits they say they do. Just like with people, good home oral hygiene and getting annual vet exams with dental checks is the best way to protect your cat from painful dental disease and health problems associated with dental disease.

A healthy mouth is a healthy body—so don’t ignore your cat’s dental care—help your cat maintain good health with preventative dental care, annual wellness and dental exams, and checking your cat’s mouth regularly.

Why it’s so important to remove plaque from your cat’s teeth and gums:


Cats Need Good Dental Care Like People Do

Top Dangers for Cats in the Home

When you think about it, our homes can present a minefield of possible hazards for cats. Here’s some help navigating the dangers, and making your home safer, happier and healthier for your cat.

Top Toxins in Your Kitchen for Cats

Top Dangers For Cats in the Home
Garlic and Onions are Toxic to Cats

1.  Garlic – in all forms
2.  Onions & Onion Powder, Chives – in all forms
3.  Cheese & Milk – cats are lactose intolerant, they aren’t able to digest dairy products due to their digestive system
4.  Alcohol – this may seem obvious, just even a tiny amount is toxic and can cause coma and death
5.  Raisins and Grapes – these can cause kidney failure in cats
6.  Coffee, Tea, Cocoa, Cola, Caffeine — these can be fatal in cats depending on the amount, and this is true for any caffeinated beverage
7.  Chocolate – any kind of chocolate can be lethal due to methylxanthines, but dark chocolate and unsweetened baking chocolate are the most toxic
8.  Candy, Gum and Foods Sweetened with Xylitol – Xylitol sweetens “diet” foods and can lead to liver failure and death
9.  Fatty Foods & Bones – avoid giving cats meat or chicken scraps from your dinner plate or meat served to humans, the danger is in the bones that they could ingest but also in the cooked and uncooked fat that is harmful
10.  Raw Fish & Meat – can lead to food poisoning due to bacteria; and certain fish enzymes destroy thiamine in cats which can cause neurological damage, convulsions and coma
11.  Raw Yeast Dough – this is toxic due to yeast fermenting leading to alcohol poisoning and yeast expanding, which if ingested causes severe gastrointestinal pain and problems
12.  Moldy & Spoiled Foods
13.  Avocados – all parts of the avocado are toxic to cats due to Persin, sometimes it can even be fatal
14.  Kitchen Cupboards – be sure to keep your cupboard doors closed as many products can be harmful for your cat; store your food in cabinets above the kitchen counter not in the cabinets above the floor where your cats may be able to open the doors and go inside

Top Toxic Household Products for Cats

Top Dangers For Cats in the Home
Household Cleaners are Toxic to Cats

These products are especially dangerous for cats, keep them secured in cabinets, cupboards and drawers and don’t leave them out where cats can encounter them.

1.  Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (Ibuprofen, aspirin, etc.)
2.  Acetaminophen
3.  Cold & Flu Medications
4.  Antidepressants
5.  Vitamins
6.  Insecticide products for home use
7.  Rat & Mouse Poisons / Bait
8.  Bleach
9.  Disinfectants, Household Cleaners
10.  Fabric Softener
11.  Lead
12.  Mothballs
13.  Lighter fluid
14.  Diet Pills
15.  Anti-Cancer Drugs
16.  Solvents, Paint Thinner
17.  Flea & Tick Products (only Advantage or Frontline in proper dosage)
18.  Liquid Potpourri
19.  Slug & Snail Poison / Bait
20.  Oven Cleaner Sprays
21.  Detergents
22.  Tobacco products of any kind
23.  Drain Cleaners
24.  Fly Bait
25.  Lime/Scale Remover

Most Harmful Household Objects for Cats

Top Danger for Cats in the Home
Cats Get Their Heads Caught Inside Shopping Bag Handles and Choke

Keep the following objects off the floors, tables and furniture and instead keep them safe in drawers, cabinets, or put away. These can cause puncture wounds, choking, or colon and internal organ damage to cats.

1.  Loose thread, string, yarns, ribbon, dental floss
2.  Plastic bags and sacks
3.  Grocery or shopping bags with handles – cats can get their head through and choke
4.  Cat Toys with string, ribbon, tiny objects that can be swallowed
5.  Batteries – especially the small disk batteries
6.  Jewelry
7.  Sharp Objects (Knives, scissors, razors, needles, etc.)
8.  Dried flower arrangements with small berries
9.  Paper Clips
10.  Hair clips, pins, small barettes
11.  Glass – if glass is broken, make sure to thoroughly clean up the floor or counter
12.  Coins
13.  Cotton Swabs
14.  Buttons
15.  Holiday decorations, lights, and Christmas tree water

Dangerous Areas for Cats in the House

Top Danger for Cats in the Home
Washers and Dryers Are Dangerous for Cats

These are the areas of the house where your cat can be seriously injured. Keep your cat away from these places to safeguard your home for them.

1.  Decks / Balconies – consider netting in your deck railings (I did this, it works great) or keep cats off of decks and balconies
2.  Washer / Dryers – cats can crawl into your washer or dryer so always check both before running them, and keep doors closed when you’re not using them
3.  Fireplace – if you have a fire going supervise your cats, clean up any exposed ashes as cats can eat them, and keep a screen up to protect cats from touching hot doors with their fur, nose, bodies
4.  Electrical Cords – cats can be electrocuted if they bite or chew on electrical cords that are plugged in
5.  Bath Tubs – cats can drown in an unsupervised bathtub
6.  Toilets – keep the lids down, as cats can drink from the toilet which may have bacteria and germs that can make them sick
7.  Cabinets, Cupboards and Drawers – cats can get inside, and not back out
8.  Open Windows – cats can fall and suffer severe injuries, even from just a story or two above the ground
9.  Garage – cats can get trapped in the garage, hide in a car engine, and find toxic products that are stored in the garage
10.  Garbage Cans – cats can get stuck in garbage cans or large containers outside looking for food

Dangers Outside the House for Cats

1.  Antifreeze & Coolant – contains ethylene glycol, which is highly toxic to cats (and dogs), even in tiny amounts
2.  Oil & Gasoline
3.  Pesticides
4.  Compost
5.  De-Icing Salts – shop for Pet-Friendly de-icing salts
6.  Fertilizers
7.  Swimming Pools & Hot Tubs

The Worst Offenders Overall – Top 10 Household Cat Poisons

1.  Topical Spot-on Insecticides
2.  Prescription Human Medications (e.g., Antidepressants, etc.)
3.  Household Cleaners & Household Products
4.  Lilies & Flowers/Plants
5.  Insoluble Oxalate Plants (e.g., Diefenbachia, Philodendron, and other houseplants)
6.  Cold & Flu Medication (e.g., Tylenol, etc.) and over-the-counter human medications
7.  Human & Veterinary NSAIDs
8.  Glow Sticks
9.  Mouse & Rat Poisons / Baits
10.  Lawn & Garden Products – fertilizers, weed killers

Top Holiday Hazards for Cats

Top Holiday Dangers for Cats
Keep your cats safe during the holidays

Christmas Tree
Watch out for tinsel, ribbon and string, when decorating your tree. If ingested, these can cause intestinal blockages and require major surgery to extract, and even cause death. Hang small ornaments toward the middle and top of the tree, they can be swallowed and also cause intestinal blockage and death. Cats can be tempted to drink the water in the tree pan, replace the water regularly, and be sure to cover the tree holder completely so your cat cannot drink it.

Holiday Poisonous Plants
Holly, mistletoe,  poinsettia’s, pine needles and lilies are the most toxic plants of all during the holidays. They can  cause vomiting, severe diarrhea, difficulty breathing, shock and even death. The Lily family is the most toxic of all plants for cats, and can cause liver and kidney failure and death within 48 hours if any part of the plant is ingested. Every part of the lily plant is considered 100 percent toxic to cats. Avoid buying them, and if you receive one, consider giving it to a friend or neighbor that doesn’t have cats.

Electrical Cords & Christmas Lights
Holiday lights and electrical cords can cause electrical shock and death if chewed on. Tape down all cords along the floor by completely covering them to prevent any temptation to chew on them for your cat.

Packaging Ribbon
Avoid leaving packaging ribbon on the ground. Try to keep all ribbon and string off the floor by putting it immediately into a paper sack or bag, and dispose of it in the garbage. If ingested, it can cause intestinal blockage requiring major surgery, and can cause death. If left untreated, it can be fatal.

Keep candles out of reach of cats and stay close to any candles you do burn. The best and safest option is to use battery-operated, flameless candles that are safe for pets. They are inexpensive, look authentic and are worry-free!

Toxic Food & Drink
Keep cats far away from high fat foods, turkey bones, chicken bones, fat trimmings and dark chocolate on your counter or tabletops. Bones can cause choking and death, fat trimmings and meat can cause pancreatitis and liver disease and damage, and chocolate can cause difficulty and rapid breathing, severe diarrhea, and gastro-intestinal distress.

Household Stress
With new houseguests and people coming into your home, coupled with changes in schedules and distractions that take our attention away -– provide your cat with a safe, quiet, secluded refuge far away from all the turmoil, noise and household traffic. Give them in a quiet room closed off from the hubbub or an open closet where they can hide and feel safe. Add a cat bed, a feeding area and begin a feeding routine before guests arrive, and put a litter box close by — until the guests are gone and the holidays are over.

Call your veterinarian or the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) for more information. $65 consultation fee.

Poison Hotline

If you think your cat has been exposed to and ingested a poison, immediately call and take them to your local veterinary clinic or emergency animal hospital.

For more help, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: (888) 426-4435 (24 hours a day, 365 days a year) A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.

Preventing Lower Urinary Tract Problems in Cats

Lower urinary tract problems in cats can be life threatening, are extremely painful, and need immediate attention and treatment by a veterinarian. Preventing lower urinary tract problems in cats is critical for your cat’s health.

Urinary crystals can quickly turn into kidney stones, and kidney stones are deadly in a short period of time, so never wait or postpone seeing your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. Your vet will determine if there are underlying medical conditions causing the symptoms through conducting a urinalysis, culture and cystoscopy and a complete medical review. If your cat is visiting the litter box repeatedly in a short period of time, straining in the box and sitting in the box trying to urinate, or urinating outside the litter box, it’s time to visit your vet.

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Building A Simple Cat Shelter in Minutes

There’s a beautiful black and white homeless cat that has lived outside our home for several years now. He wanders between several neighbors’ homes, but he has two homes that he actually calls “home” and that feed him daily—ours and our neighbor. His name is Alex and he’s lived outside for so long that he’s deeply afraid and distrustful of people. Building a simple cat shelter for Alex seemed like the right thing to do to protect him from the elements and give him a comfortable place to lay his head.

Alex appeared to have been abandoned many years ago, when he was a very young cat. He likely had been left homeless when his people moved away from the neighborhood, and left him behind. So Alex’s defenses were always up, he had learned to be on high alert to dangers, and he had become a scared, shy and cautious cat around humans. However, he trusted me enough to let me within about five feet to watch him eat and quietly talk with him. He always watches me carefully—eyeing my every physical move to see if I’m going to betray his trust. Over time though, Alex has come to know that I’m not a threat, but rather his friend who is just simply trying to make his little life better.

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How to Create a Happier, Stress-Free Environment For Your Cat

Sometimes change is unavoidable for our cats, like moving into a new home, bringing home a new baby, having house guests, or adopting a new dog or cat. All of these can truly rock a cat’s world and trigger behavior changes. Sometimes even the slightest change can cause some cats to become uncomfortable, fearful, stressed, and anxious. Here’s how to create a happier, stress-free environment for your cat and ways to enrich their environment at home.

Cats are very vulnerable to changes in their life, and they will often show us when they are feeling anxious and uncomfortable by hiding more often, obsessively licking or vocalizing more, uncontrollably chewing or drooling, sleeping all day or more than normal, urine marking or even potting outside the litter box. Sometimes external changes in the cat’s home environment can even negatively impact your cat’s overall health and quality of life.

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Safety and Protection Checklist for Cats

Cats are curious animals, and because of it, they can get themselves into trouble at times. This list of dos and don’ts will help you be a more responsible guardian of your cat, and help to keep your cat safe from harm; free from unnecessary injury and accidents; free from unnecessary disease and suffering; and keep your cat as healthy and happy as possible!

Some Don’ts

DON’T let your cat roam free in the neighborhood.

DON’T leave your cat unattended in your car. NEVER leave a cat inside a car on a warm or hot day, even for one minute.

DON’T re-home or give your cat away. Always try to keep your cat even when life requires making unexpected changes or facing unexpected challenges. If you must re-home your cat, be sure to screen and interview the potential adopters in person for their experience and history with cats; learn everything about them and meet all family members that live in the home; check their work/landlord/school/personal references; and visit their home in advance to make sure the cat will have a safe and loving environment to live. Here is a list of tips for preparing to adopt a cat.

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Signs of Dehydration in Cats

Your cat’s body is made up of 70-80% water or three-quarters of your cat’s body weight is water, so it’s critical that your cat gets enough fluids daily to maintain good health and prevent dehydration. Water is essential for cat’s urinary and kidney health, circulation, digestion, and waste removal. With hot summer days now upon us, it’s even more important that your cat has access to and drinks enough water, as dehydration can lead to a number of serious medical problems and even death. Here are the signs of dehydration in cats and why it’s so important to treat dehydration immediately.

Why Hydration is So Important

Dehydration happens when your cat loses body fluids faster than he can replace them, and it can happen when your cat is either not drinking enough water or is losing too many fluids. Fluids lost through daily urination, elimination and respiration all need to be replaced to normal levels everyday. But if your cat hasn’t been drinking enough water; has been vomiting or has diarrhea; or has been ill or had a fever; or your cat is old, then rehydration is even more critical as all of these can leave your cat severely dehydrated.

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Tips for Keeping Your Cat Safe On July 4th

Tips For Keeping Your Cat Safe On July 4th
Keep cats inside on July 4th!

The July 4th holiday may be a fun time for us humans, but it’s a stressful, terrifying time for cats. The sound of fireworks can frighten cats and send them running for cover or bolting out the door. Explosions – even miles away – can cause cats to panic. Every year, animal shelters around the country are suddenly flooded with scared, lost cats and dogs that could have been prevented with some simple precautions.

You can make the July 4th holiday less stressful for your cat by thinking ahead and following some simple tips to protect them and keep them as comfortable as possible.

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10 Important Considerations in Preparing to Adopt a Cat

Adopting a kitten or adult cat is a long-term responsibility and commitment. It’s a decision you want to give careful thought to and be prepared for, not one to take lightly or impulsively. Owning a cat is a large financial and emotional responsibility lasting anywhere from 14 to 22 years, typically. Your cat will depend on you for its health, happiness, safety and well being, so here are 10 important considerations in preparing to adopt a cat.

Renting Your Home? Check with Your Landlord First

If you live in an apartment or rental property be sure to confirm with your landlord beforehand that cats are allowed and know whether a pet deposit is required. Avoid adopting a cat and bringing it home, only to find out the landlord does not accept pets.

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How to Afford the Cost of Veterinary Care

When you adopt a cat, you aren’t thinking about the day when your cat may become ill, or get injured, or need emergency care. But cats do get sick and sometimes do require expensive diagnostic tests and emergency care. You may be faced with veterinary expenses far beyond what you can afford, or need unexpected medical care that you didn’t anticipate and don’t know how you’re going to pay for it. Of course, you want to make the best decision for your cat, regardless of the cost, but how to pay for it? Here’s how to afford the cost of veterinary care.

I have been in this situation countless times with our many rescue cats. So often, I have needed to pony up and pay for complicated dental care, full-mouth extractions, multi-day emergency hospitalizations, or treating kidney failure to the tune of thousands of dollars—and I had no idea how we were going to pay for it.

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