Although we love our feline friends, many pet parents are often unaware that their cat could be suffering from painful dental health issues. Our New Hope veterinary 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.
Feline 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.
Not only that, the bacteria and infection that causes 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
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
If you notice any of the above signs of dental disease in your cat, bring them to your New Hope 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.
Common Dental Diseases 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.
- This is an extremely common disease in cays, affecting as much as 70% of all cats by the time they reach the age of 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 solidify and form tartar that spreads 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 can cause severe gum infections, loose and missing teeth, and organ damage as the bacteria travels throughout your pet's body.
- Feline stomatitis is an extremely painful inflammation and ulceration (sores rupturing) 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 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, veterinarian-approved at-home care might be enough to treat their condition. More severe cases will likely require surgical intervention.
- Tooth resorption in cats describes the gradual destruction of a tooth or multiple teeth in your cat's mouth. This condition commonly occurs in cats, potentially affecting up to 75% of cats that are middle-aged or older. When a cat suffers from tooth resorption, their body begins to break down the tooth's hard exterior, loosening it and causing pain. This damage happens below your cat's gum line so it can be 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.
Preventing Dental Issues in Cats
The 'gold standard' method of preventing dental problems in your cat is to brush their teeth regularly. 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. Although brushing a cat's teeth might seem like an impossible task, it is achievable with many cats, especially if you begin the process while your feline friend is young. 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 tip-top condition take your pet for a professional dental examination and cleaning once a year. Taking your kitty for a dental appointment is as important as you attending the dentist yearly. Your vet will thoroughly examine your cat's teeth and gums, perform a deep dental cleaning, and, if necessary, take dental 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.