Saturday, February 18, 2012

February: Pet Dental Health Month


So here we are, halfway through the month and Mother feels it's High Time we discussed Pet Dental Health Month!
I'm the one doing the discussion because, as you can see, Faraday and Maxwell are nowhere to be seen.

That's because unlike me *preen* they don't have healthy pink gums. *smiles wide for the camera* See? Did I mention they're a healthy PINK, my fave color? *squee!*

Me, having my teeth brushed by Gramma
(see the PINK toothbrush? *giggle!*)


While Allie may love the fact her gums are PINK, I'm just happy they're healthy. She falls squarely into the category of most cats, who don't face oral heath issues until their middle years (7 is the median age for plaque buildup, gingivitis and the beginning of periodontal disease in most cats).

But there are some who aren't so lucky. Some kitties experience gingivitis at a very young age.  Gingivitis is a fancy label for inflammation of the gums (or "gingivae" - thus the name gingivitis).

This Juvenile Onset Gingivitis can begin to occur in some kitties as young as 3-5 months, or when their permanent teeth begin to come in.

This isn't gingivitis as we normally understand it. It's not caused by plaque building up over time; instead, this form of gingivitis is caused by an oversensitivity to the new teeth coming in.

Sometimes the inflammation is made worse if the kitten has had a history of upper respiratory infection (either URV or Bordetellosis, a disease that rescue groups and shelters are most susceptible to and work hard to control).

This more aggravated form of inflammation is known as Stomatitis/Gingivitis, where the inflammation erupts into blisters.

 Don't assume - ask.

It's common for pet owners to not consider a dental checkup for their cat until its well into its adult life - though we are happy to see an increasing number of veterinarians including this in standard practice for wellness checks even for kittens. We advocate for dental screenings during the first year.

Whether or not your vet is in the habit of checking for gum disease in young cats, the welfare of your baby is in your hands.

So ask your vet to do a thorough examination of your kitty's gums.

The good news is that there are several opportunities to do this during the first year - what with all the booster shots your new baby should be getting!

That's what we did with Maxwell and Faraday. As both boys are oriental breeds, they are more prone to sensitive and inflamed gums than most. And sure enough, they both have it.

Faraday's gums are less inflamed than Maxwell's - and that is probably due to the many ear and upper respiratory infections Maxie suffered as a rescue kitten.

Poor Maxie had his first tooth cleaning at around 9 months - at which point he lost all of his milk teeth. Yep, all 12 front teeth had to be extracted, because the surrounding gums were so sensitive and inflamed that they were causing him a great deal of pain.

The good news is that Max is doing much better now. It took five months of aggressive treatment before we conquered his many ear and upper respiratory infections, but beat them we did.

He's on a grain-free diet and an aggressive form of oral hygiene. And his oral health has improved.

How do you fight
in young cats?

The good folks at Manhattan Cat Specialists ( a great blog to follow, too, if you aren't already) have the following advice for cats with juvenile onset gingivitis:

"It has been found that it is imperative to eliminate plaque in these cats.
To do this requires:
  • regular dental cleaning and polishing by your veterinarian.
  • daily home care, including daily brushing.
  • good nutrition, using a diet designed to control plaque.
  • use of a plaque-reducing water additive that has the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal."

And that's what we're doing with Maxie. Every 6 months, the boyz get their teeth cleaned. Check with your vet, as many offer a discount during the month of February to promote Pet Dental Health month.

(In fact, the boyz are both going in before the month is out to have theirs cleaned.) We have an additive that we add to their water on a daily basis. We feed the boyz a completely grain-free diet.

And Max gets Biotene, an antisceptic oral gel that is packed with an enzyme that is antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial, applied to his gums on a regular basis.

(Faraday won't begin his application until after his teeth are cleaned, but then he'll join the ranks of the "terminally oppressed by Mom" as I hunt them down and faithfully apply the gel!)

Unfortunately, even with this intensive care, the disease will progress in some young cats. And in that case, the pain becomes so unbearable for the cat that full tooth extraction is the only way to calm the inflammation. It's almost as if the gums have begun to react in an autoimmune manner and refuse all treatment to reduce sensitivity.

Though this sounds drastic, many cats can and do live their whole lives without any teeth at all. Please visit Mario's blog, Mario's Meowsings, to read a firsthand tale of how a kitty can lead a wonderful (and pain-free) life, tooth-free.

And please have your kitty's dental health checked out by your vet. 

It's never too early to start. And they're never too young to need it!

We're participating in this weekend's Weekend Cat Blog,
which is being hosted this week at PaulChen's foodblog.


  1. Although it's not the be-all and end-all of dental health, a canned, grain-free diet is so helpful - Boodie always had a problem with inflamed gums, bad breath, needing extractions, etc., but once my human switched her to canned, grain-free food, she improved lots! Last time she went in to see the vet, she only needed her teeth scaled, not a full cleaning - and it had been several years since her last cleaning.

    1. That's wonderful to hear for Boodie! We're doing everything we can to stack the deck in Maxwell's favor, to preserve those little teethies. Before his cleaning, we popped in to have our vet give them a quick look: red, red gums, but no real plaque.
      So they're going to hold off on his cleaning until May or June.

      Faraday, OTOH, goes in Monday evening (he doesn't know this yet! shhhhh...).

  2. This is a sore (excuse the pun!) point, as Austin has always had gingivitis since we first had him. Every time I take him to the vets, they say it all appears ok! I think as we are in the UK, they don't take as much care. I might have to change the vet as his breath is disgusting sometimes :(

    Helpful post x

  3. Allie - you did a really good post on an important subject. Since I has no toothes because of BAD BAD gum disease, it always makes me happy when I see the subject talked about. he he - that picture of you is so cute too.

    1. Mommy immediately thought of you when she wrote this & knew she wanted to direct them to your bloggie for more info!!

  4. Wow, I didn't know cats are prone to gum problems as well. Is it because of the diet? I suppose it's also because they aren't that much of a chewer compared to dogs, right?

    Thank you for making a very detailed post.

    Huggies and Cheese,


    1. We don't know if it has anything to do with chewing, actually - in Maxwell's case it's not that there's a ton of plaque there (we found that out day before yesterday).

      Our vet thinks there's just a lot of bacteria in his mouth that's contributing to it. It's almost as if his gums are infected...
      or his gums are behaving as if they think his teeth shouldn't *be* there. They're all sensitive and bright red, and painful. :(

      Thankfully most cats don't have to deal with this. Poor Maxie!

  5. That sure is good info, but fur some reason ouch come to mind! Beats the alternatives though!!!

  6. Well, WE are sure glad the vet commented on how clean an healthy our teeth an gums were at our annuals 2 weeks ago! Apparently, non-starchy wet food is helpful that way.

  7. Thanks for all this good information! Everytime we go to the v-e-t, she checks our teefs and tells our mom that they look good and don't need any cleaning. That makes us happy. Our mom once tried to brush our teefs and that didn't go very well. She hasn't tried since.

  8. Good post and information. Thanks.

    Re your comment - Word verification can't be found in the new interface settings for some reason. You have to switch back to the old interface and look under Settings. Strange but true.

  9. What a great post about dental health! Poor Harley has lots of tartar even since he was young, maybe because of his EGC. He is having a dental in a couple of weeks, and we use Leba III oral spray.

  10. Such a great and important post! Thank you for sharing this with us all, Allie. Moosey has good teefs, but Sammy's aren't so good. :(

  11. This is a very informative post. A lot of people don't think about their cats dental health. We buy a spray that we also use to help on their teeth. We'll have to write about it before February is over!

  12. Great post. Very helpful for pet owners. Many people need to realize pet dental health is equally important.

  13. How does gingivitis occur? - This is the bottom line question. Bacteria in our mouth cause this gum condition. Bacteria feed on plaque. Plaque accumulates on your teeth and remains soft at first. With time it gets hardened and calcifies on the teeth. This plaque and microscopic food particles and bacteria come altogether in the gum line, which gives birth to irritation and ultimately gingivitis.

    Gum disease curable
    Gum disease
    Periodontal disease


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