Dental Disease in Cats
Much like us, cats can suffer from various dental problems that can cause pain, discomfort, and serious issues with their overall health. Neglecting your cat's dental health can lead to serious consequences, affecting not only their ability to eat but also their overall quality of life. Dental issues in cats can lead to infections, tooth loss, and even systemic diseases that impact their internal organs.
What are common cat dental disease symptoms?
If your cat is experiencing dental problems you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Bad Breath (halitosis)
- Excessive drooling
- Weight loss
- Difficulty with or slow eating
- Missing or loose teeth
- Visible tartar
- Bleeding, swollen or noticeably red gums
- Pawing at their teeth or mouth
If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, bring them to the veterinarian for a dental exam right away.
What are some common cat teeth problems?
While there is a wide range of dental problems in cats which affect the gums, teeth, and other oral structures, here are three particularly common ones to watch out for.
It's estimated that about 70% of all cats will develop some form of periodontal disease by the time they reach the age of 3.
This disease is an infection caused by bacteria found in plaque—the soft film of bacteria and food debris that builds up on teeth over the course of the day. If your cat's plaque isn't regularly brushed away or cleaned, it will harden and form tartar that extends below their gum line.
When the bacteria gets trapped below your cat's gum line it will begin to create pockets of infection between your cat's teeth and gums. If periodontal disease progresses to its advanced stage, it can result in loose or missing teeth.
Feline stomatitis is an incredibly painful inflammation and ulceration (opening of sores) of your cat's gums, cheeks, and tongue.
Some breeds, such as Persians and Himalayans, are predisposed to developing this condition, but any cat can develop stomatitis.
Cats suffering from this condition are often in extreme pain that causes them to lose their appetites. In some cases, cats will become malnourished because it is so painful for them to eat. If your cat develops a mild case, at-home care might be enough to treat their stomatitis, but severe cases require surgical intervention.
Tooth resorption in cats describes the gradual destruction of a tooth or multiple teeth in your cat's mouth. This is a relatively common condition in cats, potentially affecting up to three-quarters of middle-aged and older cats.
It isn't known what causes tooth resorption, but unlike a cavity, it creates a lesion that cannot be filled. The resorption starts on the inside of the tooth and works its way outward toward the crown and tooth enamel.
Unfortunately, by the time most cases tooth resorption are spotted, the tooth is dying and painful. The treatment recommendation for tooth resorption is typically surgical extraction of the affected tooth.
How do I prevent dental disease in my cat?
Maintaining your cat's dental health can significantly enhance their overall well-being and isn't difficult. Here are some preventive measures to keep in mind:
- Brushing your cat's teeth regularly using a pet-safe toothbrush and toothpaste can help prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar. Starting when your cat is young can help to make brushing a normal part of their day to day life.
- Providing dental treats and toys specifically designed to promote oral health can help reduce plaque and massage the gums. Be sure to ask your vet which dental treats they recommend.
- Feeding your cat a high quality food that provides balanced nutrition can contribute to improved oral health. If your cat is showing signs of dental problems, ask your vet if a food formulated to help treat dental issues would be right for your feline family member.
Does my cat really need checkups?
Routine veterinary checkups are crucial for monitoring your cat's dental health. During these visits, the veterinarian will examine your cat's mouth, and let you know whether professional teeth cleaning is necessary to address any developing dental issues. Regular check-ups ensure that dental problems are caught in their early stages, preventing them from developing into more serious conditions..
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.