Many of us know the pain and discomfort of dental health problems such as tooth decay and gum disease, but pet parents are often unaware that their feline friend could be suffering from similar, painful dental health issues. Our Norristown veterinary team explains how to spot dental health problems in your cat, some of the most common dental diseases in cats, and how these issues can be prevented or treated.
Your Cat's Dental Health
The oral health of your cat is critical to their overall health and well-being. Your cat eats and vocalizes using their mouth, teeth, and gums, so when their oral structures become diseased or damaged and stop functioning properly, your cat experiences pain, which interferes with its ability to eat and communicate normally.
Furthermore, the bacteria and infections that cause oral health problems in many cats will not stay in your cat's mouth. If left untreated, the infection and bacteria from your cat's mouth could spread throughout their body, causing harm to vital organs such as their kidneys, liver, and heart, as well as having a greater impact on their overall health and lifespan.
Signs of Cat Dental Issues That Pet Parents Should Watch For
Specific symptoms will differ between conditions, however, if you notice any of the following behaviors or symptoms, there is a chance that your cat is suffering from dental disease.
Some of the most common symptoms of dental disease in cats can include:
- 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
Bring your cat to your Norristown vet as soon as you can for an examination if you notice any of the aforementioned signs of dental disease in them. The better for your cat's long-term health is to diagnose and treat dental disease as soon as possible.
Dental Diseases Commonly Seen in Cats
While there are numerous health issues that can affect your cat's gums, teeth, and other oral structures, three conditions, in particular, should be avoided.
- By the age of three, approximately 70% of all cats will have some form of periodontal disease. Plaque is an infection that leads to this disease. Plaque is a soft film of bacteria and food particles that forms on teeth throughout the day. If your cat's teeth aren't regularly brushed or cleaned, plaque will harden and form tartar, which will extend below their gum line. When bacteria become trapped beneath the gum line and up against the cat's teeth, the structures supporting the cat's teeth begin to irritate and erode. Periodontal disease, if left untreated, can cause bacteria to damage your cat's organs, loose and missing teeth, and severe gum infection.
- Feline stomatitis causes the gums, cheeks, and tongue of your cat to become inflamed and ulcerated, which causes sores to open up. However, any cat can develop stomatitis. Persians and Himalayans are predisposed to developing this condition. Cats with this condition are frequently in excruciating pain and as a result, have decreased appetites. Because eating can be so painful for cats, they sometimes become malnourished. Treatment for your cat's stomatitis at home might be sufficient if they develop a mild case. But in severe cases, surgery is necessary.
- Tooth resorption in cats refers to the gradual loss of a tooth or teeth in your cat's mouth. This condition can affect up to 75% of middle-aged and older cats, making it fairly common in cats. When a cat suffers from tooth resorption, the body begins to dissolve the tooth's tough enamel, causing the tooth to become loose and painful. Because this damage occurs beneath your cat's gumline, it may be difficult to detect without a dental x-ray. However, if your cat suddenly begins to prefer soft foods or eats without chewing, it may be suffering from this condition.
Preventing Dental Issues in Cats
Brushing your cat's teeth on a regular basis is the best thing you can do to help prevent the emergence of dental issues with your cat's teeth. If plaque is removed with a brush or a damp cloth before it can harm the gums or infect the teeth of your cat, the chances of their remaining healthy are significantly increased. Even though this may seem impossible, if you start the procedure when your cat is still a kitten, it can become a routine and stress-free part of your cat's daily schedule. Dental treats and foods are also available to help you maintain your cat's dental health if they won't allow you to brush their teeth.
To keep your kitty's teeth in tip-top condition take your pet for a professional dental examination and cleaning once a year. Taking your kitty for a dental appointment is like taking your cat for a routine dentist appointment and will include a thorough examination of your cat's teeth as well as a deep cleaning and possibly even X-rays.
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.