Many of us know the pain and discomfort of dental issues like tooth decay and gum disease, but pet parents are often unaware that their feline friend could be suffering from painful dental health issues. Our Milledgeville vet team explains how to spot dental health problems in your cat, some common dental diseases in cats, and how these issues can be prevented or treated.
Your Cat's Dental Health
Your cat's oral health is important to their overall health and wellbeing. Your cat uses their mouth, teeth and gums to eat and vocalize, so when their oral structures are diseased or damaged, and stop functioning properly, your cat experiences pain, which will interfere with their ability to eat and communicate normally.
Aside from this, the bacteria and infection that cause many oral health issues in cats won't just remain in your kitty's mouth. Left untreated the infection and bacteria from your cat's mouth may begin to circulate throughout your pet's body, damaging organs such as their kidneys, liver and heart and leading to more serious impacts to their overall health and longevity of your feline friend.
Signs of Cat Dental Issues To Watch For
Different symptoms will have different underlying causes, but if you notice any of the following behaviors or symptoms, there is a chance that your cat is suffering from dental disease.
Some 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
If you notice any of the above signs of dental disease in your cat, bring them to your Milledgeville vet as soon as possible for examinations. The sooner your cat's dental disease is diagnosed and treated the better for your cat's long-term health.
Dental Diseases Commonly Seen in Cats
While there is a wide range of health issues that can affect your cat's gums, teeth and other oral structures, there are three particularly common conditions to watch out for.
- Approximately 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 life. When the bacteria gets trapped below your cat's gum line and against their teeth, it will begin to irritate and erode the structures supporting your kitty's teeth. If untreated, periodontal disease can cause a severe infection of your cat's gums, lead to loose and missing teeth, and even cause organ damage as bacteria travels throughout your pet's body.
- Feline stomatitis is a very painful condition causing inflammation and ulceration (opening of sores) of your cat's gums, cheeks and tongue. Persians and Himalayans are predisposed to developing this condition but any cat can develop stomatitis. Cats suffering from stomatitits are often in extreme pain and have reduced appetites because of that. In some cases, cats experience malnourishment because it has become too painful for them to eat. If your cat develops a mild case, at-home care might be enough to treat their stomatitis. However, severe cases require surgical intervention.
- Tooth resorption in cats refers to gradual destruction of a tooth or multiple teeth in your cat's mouth. This is a fairly common condition in cats and could potentially affect up to three-quarters of middle-aged and older cats. When a cat suffers from tooth resorption, their body begins to break down their tooth's hard outer layer, loosening it and causing pain. This destruction occurs below your cat's gumline, making it challenging to detect without a dental x-ray. However, if your cat suddenly develops a preference for soft foods or swallows their food without chewing, they may be suffering from this condition.
Preventing Dental Issues in Cats
The best way to deter the development of dental problems in your cat is by brushing your cat's teeth regularly. Your cat's teeth and gums will have a better chance of staying healthy if plaque is brushed or wiped away before it can cause damage or infection. While it may seem unlikely that cats will cooperate, if you begin the process while your feline friend is young it can become a normal and stress-free part of your cat's daily routine. If your cat won't tolerate you cleaning their teeth, dental treats and foods are also available to help you keep your cat's teeth healthy.
To keep your kitty's teeth in good 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.