A healthy mouth, something as humans we worry about a lot with our tooth brushing, flossing, mouthwash, breath mints, and regular professional cleanings. In human medicine it is clearly understood that other human's don't like to see abnormal looking teeth or smell unruly breath and, more importantly, we understand the health benefits of dental care (heart, kidneys, fertility, etc). Unfortunately for our feline friends, human attitude is only in the past years catching up and understanding the importance of dental health in all creatures especially our pets whom we expect to be with us for a long time and want them to be happy and healthy. I can never emphasize enough how enriching pets are for us and for our families. (And yes, we enrich their lives too with good food, attention and love.)

As much as I have tried, it is notoriously difficult to brush a cat's teeth. Easy in theory, and I have heard many good suggesions....finger brushes, cotton swabs dipped in tuna joice, and I know of wonderful owners who brush all feline family members' teeth, I love it! My cat, not so easy, and it is her veterinarian and mother pushing the issue!

This fact is what makes it so important to have your cat's teeth checked regularly, ever 6-12 months pending on the cat's age, lifestyle and oral health. Every veterinarian's exam should include comments on dental health, and if not, please ask! Your cat deserves it. Owners always should be an advocate for their pet's health, part of the health care team! Any problems are well hidden in a cat mouth, but there are tail tell signs:

1) Bad breath! As humans we get very upset about this, what do you think your grooming crazy feline thinks?

2) Red gums. Indicating inflammation, pain and infection.

3) Thick debris on the teeth. In cats, it is often shades of brown or white, and can resemble a rocky or coral like growth.

4) Difficult chewing or changes in how a cat prehends food.

5) Any sign of pain, hiding, lethargy, crying out. (This is where cats are tough, they hide pain until the bitter end, so please if you think they might be in pain, they are! Take them to their doctor!)

As a veterinarian, it is very rewarding to speak to owners that have had dental procedures performed to help their cat and to hear how much more active and happy that cat is. No one wants a bad tooth, or unhealthy mouth!