Many of us have experienced painful dental health problems such as tooth decay and gum disease, but pet parents are often unaware that their feline friend may be suffering from similar, painful dental health issues. Our Hattiesburg and Petal vets discuss 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
Your cat's oral health is closely linked to their overall health and well-being. Your cat uses their teeth, gums and mouth to vocalize so naturally, your feline companion will experience pain that can interfere with their ability to eat and communicate normally if these oral structures are damaged or diseased, and stop functioning properly.
In addition, bacteria and infections that lead to many oral health issues in cats won't just remain in your kitty's mouth. Left untreated, infection and bacteria from your cat's mouth may start to circulate throughout your pet's body, causing damage to their heart, kidneys, liver and other vital organs. This may lead to more serious health impacts overall and shorten your cat's longevity.
Signs of Cat Dental Issues that Pet Parents Should Beware Of
While different conditions will cause varying symptoms, there's a chance your cat is suffering from dental disease if you notice any of these symptoms.
Some common symptoms of dental disease in cats include:
- Pawing at their teeth or mouth
- Difficulty with or slow eating
- Missing or loose teeth
- Excessive drooling
- Weight loss
- Visible tartar
- Bleeding, swollen or noticeably red gums
- Bad breath
If you notice any of the above signs of dental disease in your cat, bring them to your Hattiesburg and Petal 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 severe infection of your cat's gums, loose and missing teeth, and organ damage as the bacteria travels throughout your pet's 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 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, at-home care might be enough to treat their stomatitis. But severe cases require surgical intervention.
- Tooth resorption in cats describes the gradual destruction of a tooth or multiple teeth in your cat's mouth. This is a fairly 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 gumline so it can be 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 absolute best way to help prevent the development of dental problems with your cat's teeth is to brush your cat's 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. While this may seem far-fetched, 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 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.