Throughout their lives, cats may develop a dental disease or condition. Today, our Chino Hills vets explain some common dental diseases found in cats and what symptoms can indicate your feline friend is suffering from an oral health issue.
Although your cat's oral health is incredibly important for their overall well-being, most pet owners do not provide their cats with the at-home dental care they need.
Besides causing your cat pain and discomfort in their mouth, 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—leading to more serious impacts on their overall health.
How do you identify dental disease in your cat?
While different oral health issues will have different symptoms, some signs that generally indicate that your cat is suffering from dental disease 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 cat dental disease symptoms, bring your cat to the vet as soon as possible for examinations. The sooner your cat's dental disease is diagnosed, the better.
What are some 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, here are three particularly common ones to watch out for.
It's estimated that about 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 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 will cause a severe infection of your cat's gums that can result in loose or missing teeth.
Feline stomatitis is an incredibly painful inflammation and ulceration—opening of sores—of your cat's gums, cheeks, and tongue.
Some breeds are predisposed to developing this condition, like Persians and Himalayans, but any cat can develop stomatitis.
Cats suffering from this condition are often in extreme pain that causes them to lose their 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.
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.
It isn't known what causes tooth resorption, but unlike a cavity, it creates a lesion that cannot be filled. The resorption starts on the inside of the tooth and works its way outward toward the crown and tooth enamel.
Unfortunately, by the time most cases tooth resorption are spotted, the tooth is dying and painful. The treatment recommendation for tooth resorption is always surgical extraction of the affected tooth.
How do I prevent dental disease in my cat?
Just like in people, the number one way to help prevent the development of dental disease and issues with your cat's teeth is 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 so they get used to the process.
On top of at-home brushing, regular visits to your vet for dental checkups starting when your cat is a year old will help to prevent disease with professional cleanings and oral health treatments.