If your cat is showing signs of pain along with not eating or vocalizing then they may be experiencing the symptoms of dental issues. Today, our Westfield veterinary team shares some of the common dental problems that they see and how you can help prevent these potentially serious conditions from occurring.
How Dental Disease Affects Your Cat's Oral Health
Your cat's oral health is important to their overall health and well-being. Your cat uses their mouth, teeth, and gums to eat and vocalize, so when its oral structures are diseased or damaged, and stop functioning properly, your cat experiences pain, which will interfere with its ability to eat and communicate normally.
The health of your cat's teeth and mouth isn't the only concern. Left untreated, the infection and bacteria from your cat's mouth may begin to circulate throughout your pet's body, damaging organs such as their kidneys, liver, and heart and leading to more serious impacts on the overall health and longevity of your feline friend.
What Are The Signs of Dental Problems in Cats?
Specific symptoms will differ between conditions, however, if you notice any of the following behaviors or symptoms, there is a chance that your cat is suffering from dental disease.
Some of the most common symptoms of dental disease in cats 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 Westfield vet as soon as possible for examinations. The sooner your cat's dental disease is diagnosed and treated the better for your cat's long-term health.
What Are The Common Types of Dental Disease 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 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 about 70% of all cats will develop some form of periodontal disease by the time they reach the age of 3. That's most of the cat population which makes periodontal disease one of the most common issues affecting our feline friends.
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 day. If your cat's plaque isn't regularly brushed away or cleaned, it will harden and form tartar that extends below its gum life.
When the bacteria gets trapped below your cat's gum line and against its 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.
Infections in the oral cavity can result from 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 in one area is an abscess. As in humans, this can be an incredibly painful condition.
If your cat has an abscess treatment will need to occur as soon as possible. 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.
If your cat experiences stomatitis they will most likely be in a large amount of pain. This will affect everything they normally would do with their mouth. 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 its stomatitis, but severe cases require surgical intervention.
5. Fractured Teeth
Cats suffer relatively frequently from fractured teeth, 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 no small amount of pain.
Fractures can appear above or below the gum line, and affected teeth sometimes seem greyish. Fractures above the gumline are visible to the naked eye, though some fractures may extend below the gumline. If you begin to notice that a tooth is turning grey this could also indicate a fracture within the tooth.
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 infections.
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 gumline 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 its food without chewing, it 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 loss of teeth, and halitosis.
For the best chance at treating oral cancer, early detection is key. Masses 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 Issues in Cats
The absolute best way to help prevent the development of dental problems with your cat's teeth is routine 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.
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. Dental appointments at Westfield Animal Hospital are like taking your kitty for an appointment at the veterinary cat dentist.
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 will 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. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.