While it's not talked about often, dental care is an important part of routine care for your feline friend. Otherwise, serious oral concerns can occur. Here, our White Hall vets talk about the importance of cat dental care and what some of the most common dental problems are.
Your cat's mouth is important to almost everything they do. This includes communicating, eating and exploring their world. When they are suffering from dental problems it can have a detrimental effect on both their physical health and happiness.
It is important to treat dental concerns right away before they become a larger concern affecting other parts of your cat's body. Infection and bacteria may begin to circulate throughout your pet's body, damaging organs like their kidneys, liver, and heart and leading to more serious impacts on their overall health.
Dental Disease Affecting Cats
Each oral health concern will affect your cat's body differently but generally speaking here are the most common symptoms of dental diseases in cats. Symptoms of dental disease can include:
- Bad Breath (halitosis)
- Excessive drooling
- Weight loss
- Difficulty with or slow eating
- Missing or losing teeth
- Visible tartar
- Bleeding, swollen, or noticeably red gums
- Pawing at their teeth or mouth
If any of the above signs appear in your cat you should contact our White Hall vets as soon as possible for an examination. Dental concerns should be addressed as soon as possible.
Commonly Seen Cat Dental Problems
There is a variety of cat teeth problems that can plague your feline friend but some of the ones our vets most commonly see include:
Your cat could have unpleasant breath due to multiple issues affecting the oral cavity, ranging from gum disease to infections of the teeth, gums, or oral structures. Halitosis could also be an indication of an underlying systemic disease like diabetes or kidney disease.
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 day. If your cat's plaque isn't regularly brushed away or cleaned, it will harden and form tartar that extends below its gum life.
When the bacteria gets trapped below your cat's gum line and against its teeth, it will begin to irritate and erode the structures supporting your kitty's teeth. If untreated, periodontal disease will cause a severe infection of your cat's gums, loose and missing teeth, and organ damage as the bacteria travels throughout your pet's body.
Tooth & Gum Infections
Infections in the oral cavity can result from injury, foreign bodies stuck in the mouth, teeth, or gums, immune system issues, or other dental conditions.
Infections of the gum tissue make them swollen and reddened, while an infection that is contained in one area is an abscess. As in humans, this can be an incredibly painful condition.
Treatment needs to be instituted as soon as an abscess is diagnosed. This involves extracting the infected tooth or performing a root canal, and treating the infection with antibiotics and pain control.
Feline stomatitis is an incredibly painful inflammation and ulceration—opening of sores—of your cat's gums, cheeks, and tongue.
Some breeds are predisposed to developing this condition, like Persians and Himalayans, but any cat can develop stomatitis.
Cats suffering from this condition are often in extreme pain and have reduced appetites because of that. 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 its stomatitis, but severe cases require surgical intervention.
Fractured / Broken Teeth
One of the most common places that fractures happen in cats' teeth is the very tips of their fangs. Because the internal tooth pulp extends almost to the end of the tooth, even small fractures can expose the tooth's root and cause the cat no small amount of pain.
Fractures can appear above or below the gum line, and affected teeth sometimes seem greyish. Fractures above the gumline are visible to the naked eye, though some fractures may extend below the gumline. Fractured teeth may also appear to be gray.
The appropriate treatment will depend on the severity of the fracture, which is why it's important to have your cat seen by a veterinary professional. If left untreated these fractures can cause other more painful conditions such as infections.
Tooth resorption in cats is the slow deterioration of a tooth or multiple teeth in your cat's mouth. Our vets most commonly see this condition in older cats.
When a cat suffers from tooth resorption, its body begins to break down its tooth's hard outer layer, loosening it and causing pain. This destruction occurs below your cat's gumline so it can be quite challenging to detect without a dental X-ray. However, if your cat suddenly develops a preference for soft foods or swallows its food without chewing, it may be suffering from this condition.
Oral cancer is one of the most commonly-occurring feline cancers, potentially affecting the animal's gums, tongue, jawbone, lips, or palate. Cats afflicted with oral cancer may develop oral masses, facial swelling, drooling, loss of weight, sudden loss of teeth, and halitosis.
For the best chance at treating oral cancer, early detection is key. Masses and other signs of cancer can be detected during routine dental cleanings and examinations, which is why taking your cat's preventive care seriously is important.
Ways to Prevent Dental Disease In Cats
Just like people, the number one way to help prevent dental disease and other oral issues is by routine brushing and cleaning your cat's mouth. Your cat's teeth and gums will have a much better chance of remaining healthy if plaque is brushed or wiped away before it can cause damage or infection.
For the best results, you should begin cleaning your cat's teeth and gums while they are still a kitten and will be able to quickly adjust to the process.
On top of at-home brushing, regular visits to your vet for dental checkups starting when your cat is a year old will help to prevent disease with professional cleanings and oral health treatments.
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.