Dental problems can cause your cat significant pain, and lead to other health issues. Today, our Natick veterinary team explains how to spot dental health problems in your cat, what the most common dental diseases are in cats, and how these issues can be prevented or treated.
Your Cat's Oral Health
The oral health of your cat is crucial to their overall health and well-being. Because your cat eats and communicates through their mouth, teeth, and gums, when these structures become diseased or damaged and stop working properly, your cat will experience pain, which will interfere with their ability to eat and communicate normally.
Furthermore, the bacteria and infections that cause many oral health problems in cats will not stay in your cat's mouth. If left untreated, the infection and bacteria from your cat's mouth may spread throughout their body, causing damage to organs such as their kidneys, liver, and heart, as well as having a more serious impact on their overall health and longevity.
Symptoms of Teeth Problems in Cats
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 Natick veterinarian as soon as possible if you notice any of the above signs of dental disease. The sooner your cat's dental disease is identified and treated, the better off he or she will be in the long run.
Common Cat Dental Diseases
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 infection is caused by bacteria found in plaque, which is a thin film of bacteria and food debris that forms on teeth throughout the day. If your cat's plaque isn't brushed away or cleaned regularly, it will harden and form tartar, which will extend below the gum line.
When bacteria become trapped beneath your cat's gum line and against their teeth, it irritates and erodes the structures that support their teeth. Periodontal disease, if left untreated, will result in a severe infection of your cat's gums, loose and missing teeth, and organ damage as the bacteria spreads throughout his body.
Feline stomatitis is an incredibly painful 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 with this condition are frequently in excruciating pain and have a reduced appetite as a result. Cats may become malnourished as a result of the pain they experience when eating. If your cat has a mild case of stomatitis, an at-home treatment may be sufficient. Severe cases, on the other hand, necessitate surgical intervention.
The gradual destruction of a tooth or multiple teeth in your cat's mouth is referred to as tooth resorption. This is a fairly common condition in cats, with up to three-quarters of middle-aged and older cats suffering from it.
Tooth resorption occurs when a cat's body begins to break down the hard outer layer of its tooth, loosening it and causing pain. Without a dental x-ray, this destruction occurs below your cat's gum line, making it difficult to detect. This condition may be present if your cat suddenly develops a preference for soft foods or swallows their food without chewing.
Preventing Dental Issues in Cats
Routine brushing and cleaning of your cat's mouth is the most effective way to help prevent the development of dental problems. If plaque is brushed or wiped away before it can cause damage or infection, your cat's teeth and gums will have a much better chance of remaining healthy.
To help keep your kitty's teeth in tip-top condition bring your pet in for a professional dental examination and cleaning once a year. Dental appointments at Wellesley-Natick Veterinary Hospital are like taking your kitty for an appointment at the veterinary cat dentist.
To avoid developing oral health issues in the first place, start brushing your cat's teeth and gums while they are still a kitten. They will quickly adjust to the process. If your cat refuses to have its teeth cleaned, dental treats and foods are available to assist you in keeping your cat's teeth healthy.
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.