Maintaining good oral hygiene for cats is a crucial step to take to prevent a variety of health problems including dental disease. Our Hermitage vets discuss common dental problems in cats, what they look like, and how you can treat and prevent these issues.
Cat Dental Health
Your cat's oral health is also important for their overall health and well-being as poor oral hygiene can cause several issues not just in the mouth. Since your cat uses their mouth, teeth, and gums to eat and vocalize, oral problems can severely impact your cat's day-to-day life making it difficult for them to eat and communicate.
Not only that, the bacteria and infections 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 on their overall health and longevity of your feline friend.
It is important that aside from taking good care of your cat's oral care at home, they also have regular appointments for professional cleanings and examinations.
Signs of Cat Dental Issues
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:
- Difficulty with or slow eating
- Visible tartar
- Bleeding, swollen, or noticeably red gums
- Pawing at their teeth or mouth
- Bad Breath (halitosis)
- Excessive drooling
- Weight loss
- Missing or loose teeth
If you notice any of the above signs of dental disease in your cat, bring them to your Hermitage 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.
- 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, loose and missing teeth, and organ damage as the bacteria travels throughout your pet's body.
- 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 gum line 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.
- 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.
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 people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms.