Brushing your Cat’s Teeth

Tooth Brushing
Brush a cats teeth? This may seem like a daunting task, but your cat can gradually learn to accept daily dental care at home. The key is to start slowly and make the experience as pleasant as possible. Place a small amount of the liquid from a can of water-packed tuna on your finger and allow him to lick it off. Repeat, this time holding his mouth closed and stroking the outside surfaces of his teeth lightly.

Eventually, over a period of one or more weeks, you can substitute a piece of gauze, a finger toothbrush, or a small, soft toothbrush instead of your finger. Remember, unless your veterinarian directs you otherwise, you only need to clean the outside tooth surfaces. This reduces the chance of a painful bite! Once your cat comfortably accepts the brushing process, you can introduce toothpastes designed for pets in place of the tuna water.

The most important aspect of tooth brushing is the mechanical action, but toothpastes can add helpful ingredients like fluoride, enzymes that help break down plaque, and antiseptics that prevent bacterial growth. They are flavored to please your cats palate too. Never use toothpaste designed for people the ingredients may irritate your cats mouth and cause an upset stomach.

Plaque begins to develop within hours after brushing. Within about three days, plaque is converted into tartar. Therefore, daily brushing is recommended. Less frequent brushing is still beneficial, but may allow the gradual development of periodontitis. A daily brushing routine not only keeps your pets mouth healthy but also keeps his breath smelling fresh.

Cat Bite Wounds

Cats are highly territorial and often fight when they meet outside or, less commonly, within the household. During fights, cats inflict deep bite wounds that inject bacteria from the mouth into the internal tissues. Cat bite wounds frequently become infected and abscessed. An abscess is a pocket of infection that the body has walled off.

Signs of Abscesses
If you know your cat has been in a fight, its a good idea to examine him carefully for signs of injury. Bite wounds may leave only tiny puncture holes on the skin. Veterinary care is always recommended for cat bite wounds. More often, you wont know that your cat has been fighting until an abscess forms. Signs of an abscess include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, pain and the appearance of a swollen area. Hair may be lost in the area, and the skin may rupture, leaking foul-swelling pus onto the fur. The most common areas for bite wounds and abscesses are the face, legs, and the base of the tail.

Your veterinarian can usually diagnose the abscess based on a physical exam. It may be necessary to shave hair from parts of the body to look for bite wounds.

Abscess Treatment
Cats typically require anesthesia for initial drainage and cleansing of the infected area. All of the pus and dead tissue will be removed. The wound is encouraged to heal without trapping bacteria under the skin again. This usually means that the wound is left open so that the internal tissues heal first, before the skin. Drains may be placed temporarily under the skin. In addition to giving oral medications, it may be necessary for you to administer topical antiseptics or antibiotics directly to the wound area. Hot packing the area with a warm, wet washcloth for 5-10 minutes twice daily is also beneficial. Most cats heal well with proper treatment.cat bite wounds

Even though an untreated abscess usually ruptures and drains on its own, recurrence is extremely common without professional care. Cats with abscesses can also get sick enough to stop eating and become severely dehydrated. Prompt medical attention is a must for all cat bite wounds and abscesses.

Biting is the most common means by which some serious cat diseases are spread. Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), and Rabies can all be spread by bites. If your cat goes outside he should be vaccinated against FeLV and Rabies. Your veterinarian may also advise testing for exposure to FeLV and FIV after a bite.

Preventing Abscesses
The main mechanism for preventing abscesses is keeping cats indoors, where they are less likely to fight. Routinely checking your cat for injuries is also a good idea.

Debra Garrison, DVM