If you’re a cat owner, you probably know that taking care of your furry friend’s overall health involves more than just providing food and love. One essential aspect that often gets overlooked is dental hygiene. According to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, dental diseases are unfortunately common in cats, with up to 90% of cats over the age of four suffering from some form of dental disease. Neglecting your cat’s dental health can lead to serious health complications and discomfort. In this article, we will explore the importance of cat dental care, the cost of dental cleanings, and how you can keep your cat’s teeth healthy between cleanings.
How Much Does a Cat Dental Cleaning Cost?
Teeth cleaning for cats can range from a few hundred dollars to over $2,000, depending on various factors. Factors that can affect the cost of a dental cleaning for your cat include:
- Who is conducting the teeth cleaning: A general practitioner may charge less than a board-certified veterinary dentist.
- The extent of the procedure: A simple tartar scraping will be less expensive than a complete dental X-ray and ultrasonic cleaning.
- Pre-cleaning prep: Some vet clinics require X-rays and tests before proceeding with a teeth cleaning.
- The cat’s overall health: Older cats or those with health issues may require more tests and closer monitoring during the cleaning.
- The severity of dental disease: Extensive deterioration of teeth will require more extensive work to restore oral health.
It’s crucial to remember that the cost of dental cleaning is an investment in your cat’s well-being and can help prevent more costly treatments in the future.
Other Vet Visit Costs
While we’re discussing veterinary visits, it’s worth mentioning that there are various costs associated with pet care. Some other common veterinary expenses include ACL surgery, cataract surgery, cherry eye surgery, and vaccinations. However, let’s focus on the topic at hand: cat dental cleanings.
What Does a Cat Dental Cleaning Involve?
A professional dental cleaning for your cat goes beyond simple brushing. According to the American Veterinary Dental College, a typical dental cleaning includes:
- An initial oral exam by a veterinarian or veterinary dentist.
- Blood testing to determine if anesthesia can be safely used.
- Anesthesia and sometimes local anesthetics for pain management.
- Complete oral exam and X-rays to identify hidden issues.
- Cleaning below the gum-line.
- Scaling and polishing the visible parts of the teeth.
- Polishing to prevent plaque buildup.
It’s important to note that professional dental cleanings require anesthesia. While some may be tempted by anesthesia-free cleanings, it’s not a good idea. Anesthesia helps prevent pets from moving, reducing stress and pain during the procedure. Anesthesia also allows for proper X-rays to identify underlying dental health issues.
The Importance of Cat Dental Cleanings
Maintaining good oral health is crucial for your cat’s overall well-being. Without proper dental care, cats can develop infections, plaque, and gingivitis, which can cause pain and lead to serious health complications if left untreated. Diseased or loose teeth can interfere with eating and cause mouth infections, and the bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and potentially damage other organs.
Why Anesthesia-Free Cleanings Aren’t Recommended
You may have heard of anesthesia-free dental cleanings, but they aren’t the best option for your cat. Anesthesia-free dental care has its limitations:
- Periodontal disease, which affects tissues beneath the gum-line, can’t be reached without anesthesia.
- Anesthesia-free cleanings can leave grooves on the teeth, creating a perfect environment for bacteria.
- Pets may experience discomfort and pain without anesthesia.
- X-rays, crucial for early detection, can’t be taken without anesthesia.
To ensure a thorough and safe dental cleaning, anesthesia is necessary.
How Often Should You Clean Your Cat’s Teeth?
Every cat’s dental health is unique, and you should consult your veterinarian during regular wellness visits to determine the frequency of dental cleanings. The American Veterinary Dental College recommends professional dental cleanings at least once a year for most cats. However, the frequency may vary based on factors such as age, diet, pre-existing conditions, and lifestyle habits. Older cats or those with pre-existing dental issues may require more frequent cleanings. Regular dental care at home and annual veterinary dental care can prevent periodontal disease.
Signs of Dental Issues in Cats
It’s crucial to be vigilant and look out for signs of dental issues in your cat. The American Veterinary Medical Association suggests you pay attention to the following signs:
- Bad breath
- Broken or loose teeth
- Discolored or tartar-covered teeth
- Abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food
- Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
- Pain or bleeding in or around the mouth
- Swelling in the mouth or surrounding areas
If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to have your cat’s teeth checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Three Most Common Dental Diseases in Cats
The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine highlights three common dental diseases in cats:
- Gingivitis: Gingivitis causes red, painful, and swollen gums due to bacterial plaque buildup. Signs include bad breath, bleeding gums, and discoloration. Timely pet dental cleanings can reverse gingivitis and prevent further complications.
- Periodontitis: Periodontitis affects the gums, ligaments, and bone of the mouth. It develops after plaque, tartar, and gingivitis damage the tissues that anchor the teeth. Signs include red, swollen gums, bleeding, reluctance to eat, excessive drooling, and tooth loss. Periodontitis is irreversible but can be managed with thorough cleanings and preventive care.
- Tooth resorption: Tooth resorption occurs when the tooth’s structure erodes, leading to breakdown and loss of teeth. Symptoms include red, swollen gums, pain, difficulty eating, and excessive drooling. Treatment involves removing affected teeth.
Does Pet Insurance Cover Dental Cleanings?
Whether pet insurance covers dental cleanings depends on the coverage you’ve chosen for your cat. Some plans may cover dental care for medical issues but not routine cleanings. However, if your insurance doesn’t cover the cost, there are alternatives. Some veterinary clinics offer in-house payment plans, allowing you to split the bill into manageable monthly installments. Another option is using the CareCredit credit card, which includes veterinary care expenses. CareCredit offers short-term financing options with no interest if the full amount is paid within the promotional period.
How to Keep Your Cat’s Teeth Healthy Between Cleanings
While professional dental cleanings are essential, there are steps you can take to promote good dental hygiene between cleanings:
- Brush your cat’s teeth: With patience and training, you can brush your cat’s teeth at home. Start by getting them used to the toothpaste’s taste before gradually working up to brushing. Focus on the outside of the teeth and use positive reinforcement.
- Choose dry cat food: Dry food can help prevent plaque formation by crunching and cleaning the teeth. However, consult your veterinarian for the best dietary options for your cat’s overall health.
- Consider dental chews and treats: There are dental chews, oral solutions, gels, and prescription dental diets that can help slow down dental disease progression. Look for products accepted by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) for cats.
Caring for your cat’s dental health is crucial for their overall well-being. Regular dental cleanings can prevent infections, heart problems, kidney disease, and oral cancer. By understanding the importance of dental care, recognizing dental issues, and taking preventive measures, you can ensure that your cat maintains healthy teeth and gums. Remember to consult your veterinarian for personalized advice and schedule regular dental cleanings to keep your beloved feline friend happy and healthy.