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How to Take Care of Your Older Cat?s Dental Health ? and Why it Matters

All a cat has to do to make their pet parent’s heart melt is snuggle up and give a big yawn that shows off their toothy smile and scratchy pink tongue. They’re letting you know how content they are with you as their companion. But have you ever thought of using those moments to check in on your cat’s oral health? It may sound strange, but as a cat parent, you can use these opportunities to look in your cat’s mouth as a tool to help make sure their teeth stay healthy and strong.

As your cat ages, they may begin to experience dental issues that are a cause for concern. After all, good dental hygiene is important for far more than simply showcasing a set of pearly whites; it’s tied to your cat’s overall wellbeing.

Taking care of your cat’s teeth helps contribute to their quality of life as they age. And that begins with a look at why your older cat might face dental health issues and what you can do about them.

Why dental issues might occur in older cats

As cats age, the amount of plaque on their teeth accumulates if left untreated. This can lead to periodontal disease, which in turn can lead to infected teeth and gingivitis (inflamed gums).

If your older cat—12 or older—is facing dental issues, you’re not alone. Dental disease affects approximately 70% of cats.*

Beyond just damaging your cat’s teeth and potentially causing pain, periodontal disease can also lead to other, more serious ailments such as kidney, liver and heart disease.

That’s why it's important to take a proactive approach to caring for your cat’s oral hygiene. This can help prevent pain later in life and help protect your cat from the more serious complications associated with periodontal disease.

Signs of dental disease in older cats

What signs might indicate that your older cat has a dental health issue? Be on the lookout for one or more of the following:

  • Bad breath
  • Tooth discoloration or visible tartar
  • Difficulty eating, which may result in weight loss
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at the teeth or mouth
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Red, swollen or bleeding gums

Senior cat dental care

In some cases, the signs that your older cat is facing a dental issue are obvious. But in other cases, dental problems may be harder to detect. Cats also tend to be masters at hiding the pain they're in, making potential issues more difficult to spot from visual cues alone.

This is where both proactive care and treatment of any existing dental issues can help promote a long, healthy life.

Providing proactive care to help prevent age-related dental issues

Now that you know your aging cat’s teeth need a little extra care, it's time to incorporate a few important steps into your cat’s daily routine.

The place to begin is with daily at-home dental care. While it's easier to start while a pet is young, it’s never too late to incorporate the following:

  • Brushing: Once every day (ideally), brush your cat’s teeth using a cat-specific toothbrush and toothpaste. This can help reduce plaque and tartar buildup, which is important in preventing periodontal disease.
  • Dental treats: Start incorporating dental treats into your cat’s diet. These tasty treats can help reduce plaque and tartar buildup. Keep in mind, however, that treats should make up no more than 10% of your cat’s diet.
  • Oral washes and/or water additives: In addition to brushing, you can use oral washes to help prevent bacteria from building up on your cat’s teeth, or you can add a dental additive to their drinking water to help cut down on plaque and tartar buildup.

The next thing to do is to schedule regular vet visits for professional teeth cleaning. Most older cats should be visiting the vet at least twice a year for a health checkup. During their next checkup, ask your vet about your cat’s dental health. In some cases, your vet may recommend professional cleaning.

Caring for senior cats with age-related dental issues

Your older cat may already be experiencing age-related dental issues such as tooth decay, tooth loss and gum pain. While proactive care remains important, you will also want to help bring your cat comfort from symptoms related to dental disease.

Consider incorporating a diet of wet foods to help make eating easier and less demanding of your senior cat’s teeth. Try out a nutritious mousse, fresh food or canned wet food, all of which are easier to chew than harder kibble.

If you do decide to change your cat’s food, be sure to take the proper steps to make the switch easier on their stomach.

Dental issues are just one of the health-related issues that may arise as your cat ages. As a cat parent, you want to contribute to their full and healthy life in every regard, not just for their teeth. You can do so by continuing to learn more about the ways your senior cat’s needs may change as they age.


*Source: Packaged Facts "Pet Oral Care Services and Products in the U.S." 3rd Edition, 2018. 

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