Like people, our feline friends can develop dental conditions and diseases throughout their lives that can cause them discomfort or pain. Here, our Corpus Christi veterinary team explains how to identify dental disease in your cat, a few common examples of feline dental diseases, and tips for prevention.
Your cat's oral health is incredibly important to their general health and happiness. Obviously, our feline companions use their mouths, teeth and gums to eat and vocalize and when their oral structures stop functioning properly or are causing them pain, not only will they be able to do those as effectively, they will be uncomfortable and in pain.
Plus, the bacteria and infection that causes many oral health issues won't just remain in your cat's mouth if it isn't promptly treated. Infection and bacteria may begin to circulate throughout your pet's body, damaging organs like their kidneys, liver and heart and leading to more serious impacts on their overall health.
Identifying Dental Disease In Cats
While different oral health issues will have different specific symptoms you will be able to identify in your cat, if you notice any of the following behaviors or symptoms, there is a chance that your cat is suffering from dental disease. Symptoms of dental disease 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 Corpus Christi vet as soon as possible for examinations. The sooner your cat's dental disease is diagnosed, the better.
Common Dental Diseases In Cats
While there are many health issues that can affect your cat's gums, teeth and other oral structures, there are three particularly common ones to watch out for: periodontal disease, stomatitis, and tooth resorption.
Approximately 70% of cats develop some form of periodontal disease by the time they're 3 years old. This condition is caused by an infection due to bacteria 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 removed (e.g. by brushing), 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 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.
Feline stomatitis is the extremely painful inflammation and ulceration of your cat's gums, cheeks and tongue.
There are some breeds, like Persians and Himalayans, that are more prone to 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 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 the hard outer layer of their tooth, which loosens it and causes them pain. This destruction occurs below your cat's gumline, so it can be very difficult to identify the issue without a dental x-ray. However, if you cat suddenly develops a preference for soft foods or swallows their food without chewing, they may be suffering from this condition.
Preventing Dental Disease In Cats
As with people, the best method of prevention of dental disease in cats is the 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 a kitten and will be able to quickly adjust to the process.
In addition to regular visits to your vet for dental checkups starting when your cat is 1 year old will help to prevent disease with professional cleanings and oral health treatments.
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.