Like humans, our cats can develop dental conditions and diseases that cause them discomfort and pain. Today, our Laguna Woods veterinary team shares 7 common dental diseases in cats, how to identify them, and prevention.
Your cat's oral health is very important to their overall health and wellness. Cats use their mouth's 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.
Signs Of Feline Dental Disease
Although different oral health issues will have different specific symptoms, 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 detect any of the above signs of dental disease in your cat, bring them to your vet as soon as possible for an oral examination. The sooner your cat's dental disease is diagnosed, the better.
Common Dental Diseases In Cats
Although there's a range of health issues that can affect your cat's gums, teeth, and other oral structures, here are seven particularly common ones to watch out for.
1. Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Your cat could have unpleasant breath due to multiple issues affecting the oral cavity, ranging from gum disease to infections of the teeth, gums, or oral structures. Halitosis could also be an indication of an underlying systemic disease like diabetes or kidney disease.
2. Periodontal Disease
It's estimated that approximately 70% of cats develop some kind of periodontal disease by the time they are 3 years old.
Periodontitis 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 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.
Oral cavity infections can be a result of injury, foreign bodies stuck in the mouth, teeth, or gums, immune system issues, or other dental conditions.
Infections of the gum tissue make them swollen and reddened, while an infection that is contained to one area is an abscess. As in humans, this can be an incredibly painful condition.
Treatment needs to be instituted as soon as an abscess is diagnosed. This involves extracting the infected tooth or performing a root canal, and treating the infection with antibiotics and pain control.
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 a lot of 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.
5. Fractured Teeth
Fractured teeth are a fairly common cause of dental issues in cats, especially at the tips of their fangs. Because the internal tooth pulp extends almost to the end of the tooth, even small fractures can expose the tooth's root and cause the cat a huge amount of pain.
Fractures can appear above or below the gum line, and affected teeth sometimes seem greyish in color. Fractures above the gumline are visible to the naked eye, though some fractures may extend below the gumline. Fractured teeth may also appear to be gray.
The appropriate treatment will depend on the severity of the fracture, which is why it's important to have your cat seen by a veterinary professional. Untended, fractures can cause other issues like abscesses or infection.
6. Tooth Resorption
Tooth resorption in cats is the slow deterioration 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, its body begins to break down its tooth's hard outer layer, loosening it and causing pain. This destruction occurs below your cat's gum line so it can be quite 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.
Oral cancer is one of the most commonly-occurring feline cancers, potentially affecting the animal's gums, tongue, jawbone, lips, or palate. Cats afflicted with oral cancer may develop oral masses, facial swelling, drooling, loss of weight, sudden tooth loss, and halitosis.
For the best chance at treating oral cancer, early detection is key. Tumors and other signs of cancer can be detected during routine dental cleanings and examinations, which is why taking your cat's preventive care seriously is important.
Preventing Dental Disease In Cats
Just like people, the best way to prevent dental disease and other oral issues is by routinely brushing and cleaning 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.
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.
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.