Our feline friends are just as capable as people of developing dental conditions and diseases throughout their lives. tOften discomfort or pain is the result. Here, our Tumwater veterinary team explains how to identify dental disease in your cat, a few common examples of oral health issues your cat may experience and ways you can prevent dental disease from ever developing the first place.
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 Your Cat
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 Tumwater vet as soon as possible for examinations. The sooner your cat's dental disease is diagnosed, the better.
Common Cat Dental Diseases
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 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 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 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 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 their tooth's hard outer layer, loosening it and causing pain. This destruction occurs below your cat's gumline so it can be quite difficult to detect 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
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 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.