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Dental care

Diseases of the oral cavity are extremely common,53 yet most owners are unaware that dental disease can threaten the health and welfare of their cat. The AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats provide details of dental care and dental charting.54 Points of note include:

  • Cats need home and veterinary dental care at all life stages (see Table 1).
  • Disease affecting the teeth and/or oral cavity can cause pain and may lead to disease elsewhere in the body.
  • A minimum schedule of annual examinations is recommended for cats with healthy dentition.54
  • Client education is fundamental since cats may not show overt signs of pain and discomfort associated with oral disease:4
    • Discuss owner-usable interventions that will maintain or improve dental health;55 for example, conditioning at home using treats to allow oral examination by lifting the lips. Although best started with kittens, older cats can be taught to accept brushing using positive interactions and rewards.
    • Dental diets, treats and chews exist, but do not all have equivalent efficacy and none substitute for veterinary dental care.56,57 The use of dental treats and chews may be a realistic, practical alternative to daily tooth brushing, although data about their comparative efficacy is lacking. The Veterinary Oral Health Council in the USA requires that strict standards are met before certification of food or treats for oral care.58