Our beloved kitties are at risk of developing painful and uncomfortable dental health problems just like people. Today, our Tracy vets discuss some of the most common dental problems among cats including how to identify them and treat them.
It's very important for your cat's oral and overall health that you maintain an excellent oral health routine. Cats need to keep their mouths, teeth, and gums healthy so they can continue their daily tasks including eating and meowing. When their oral structures stop working the way they are supposed it can cause them a lot of pain, and they won't be able to eat or vocalize as effectively as they should.
On top of this, the infections and bacterias that cause most oral health issues in felines won't stay in your cat's mouth if they are left untreated. Infections and bacteria can move and start circulating throughout your kitty's body, causing damage to other organs such as their kidneys, liver, and heart having a more serious effect on their overall health and wellbeing.
Recognizing Dental Problems in Your Cat
Each oral health problem has its own set of specific symptoms you should be able to identify in your cat but, if you spot any of the behaviors or symptoms below in your feline companion they could be experiencing a dental condition:
- Bad Breath (halitosis)
- Difficulty with or slow eating
- Weight loss
- Excessive drooling
- Visible tartar
- Pawing at their teeth or mouth
- Bleeding, swollen, or noticeably red gums
- Missing or loose teeth
If you see your cat displaying any of the dental health symptoms listed above call your vet as soon as possible to schedule a dental examination for your kitty. The earlier your cat's dental condition is diagnosed, the easier the issue should be to treat.
Common Dental Problems in Cats
While there are many health conditions cats can develop that could affect their teeth, gums, and other oral structures, below are three of the most common ones you should look for.
It's estimated that about 70% of all cats will develop some form of periodontal disease before they are 3 years old.
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 and against their 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.
The treatments for periodontal disease can include plaque and tartar removal for mild cases and tooth extraction and surgery for more extreme cases.
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 usually in a great deal of pain, which leads them to have a reduced appetite. Sometimes, cats can become malnourished because it's extremely painful for them to eat.
If your cat develops a mild case of this condition, their treatment could include prescription antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, or chlorhexidine rinses or gels. If your kitty has a more severe case they might need to be surgically treated.
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.
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 gum line so it can be quite difficult 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. This condition is usually treated with tooth extractions.
Preventing and Protecting Your Cat From Dental Problems
Just like in people, the number one way to help prevent the development of dental disease and issues with your cat's teeth is routine brushing and cleaning of 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 young 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.