Dental problems in cats can lead to a variety of health issues throughout your pet's entire body. In this post, our Fountain Valley vets discuss common dental problems in cats including symptoms, causes, treatment, and prevention.
Oral Health In Cats
The oral health of your cat 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 damaged, diseased, or/and stop functioning properly, your cat experiences pain, which will interfere with their ability to eat and communicate normally.
In addition to this, the bacteria and infections that cause many oral health issues in cats won't just stay in the mouth. Left untreated the infection and bacteria from your cat's mouth may begin to circulate throughout their body, damaging organs such as the kidneys, liver, and heart, which could lead to more serious impacts on the overall health and longevity of your feline friend.
It is important to bring your cat in for regular professional cleanings and examinations to help detect and prevent your companion from dental disease.
Common Dental Disease in Cats
While various dental health issues can affect a cat's teeth, gums, and other oral structures, there are three relatively common conditions you need to be aware of.
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 above and below the 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 result in serious gum infection, loose and missing teeth, and organ damage as the bacteria travels throughout your pet's body.
Tooth resorption is the gradual destruction of a tooth or multiple teeth in a cat's mouth. This is a relatively common issue in our feline companions, affecting approximately three-quarters of middle-aged and older cats.
When a cat suffers from tooth resorption, their body begins to break down the 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 a very 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 often suffer from extreme pain, and as a result, have reduced appetites. 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.
Signs of Dental Problems in Cats
While the specific symptoms will differ between conditions, if you notice your kitty exhibiting any of the following behaviors or symptoms, they may be suffering from dental disease.
Some of the most common symptoms of dental disease in cats can include:
- Pawing at their teeth or mouth
- Excessive drooling
- Difficulty with or slow eating
- Weight loss
- Bleeding, swollen, or noticeably red gums
- Bad Breath (halitosis)
- Visible tartar
- Missing or loose teeth
If you see your cat displaying any of the signs detailed above they could be suffering from a dental health condition, and you should take them to your Fountain Valley vet as quickly as possible for an examination. The sooner your cat's dental disease is diagnosed and treated the better for your cat's recovery and long-term health.
Preventing Cat Dental Problems
One of the best ways to help prevent your cat from developing dental problems is to brush their teeth routinely and keep your kitty's mouth clean. 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.
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. When you bring your cat to Brookfield Pet Hospital Plus for a dental appointment it's like taking them to a dentist for a checkup.
To prevent oral health issues from developing in the first place, you should begin cleaning your cat's teeth and gums while they are still a kitten and they should be able to quickly adjust to the process. If your cat won't allow you to clean their teeth, dental treats and foods are also available to help you keep 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. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.