What are common cat dental problems? In this Vet Minute, contributing veterinarian, Dr. Amy Hanson, talks about commonly seen cat teeth issues and dental disease in cats and why it’s important it take your cat to the vet for regular cat dental care. Some of the topics Doctor Hanson will discuss include cat gingivitis, stomatitis in cats and feline restorative lesions.
What Dental Problems Do Cats Have?
There are several cat dental problems. Cat’s are kind of unusual creatures and they like to have their own little issues. One of the things we see, especially in young and juvenile cats, they do have a tendency to get some feline gingivitis. Gingivitis in cats is associated with them getting their permanent teeth and a lot of times we have breeds that have a little bit more problems with gingivitis. Breeds like Maine Coon, Abyssinians, Ragdolls, can have a little bit more problem with feline gingivitis or red gums. Sometimes it is described in the literature as red gum disease. But for the most part, really big ones that we see in cats are resorptive lesions, which are painful disintegrations of the tooth. Their own immune system kind of eats into the tooth and causes the pulp cavity where the blood supply and the nerve supply to the tooth is located. This is a very painful process and usually can only be corrected with extracting that particular tooth. Another issue that cats have is stomatitis. It’s in the literature under several different names. It can be mild to severe inflammation of the gingival tissue. In some of these cats it can become so severe they actually have to have their entire set of teeth extracted in order to stop their immune system from attacking their own teeth. And like I said it can range from very mild disease that can be sometimes treated with just dental prophylaxis and also some medications. To some of them that need to have full mouth extractions for it.
How Do I Know If My Cat Has a Tooth Problem?
Since a cat can’t tell us something is wrong in their mouth, there are cat teeth problem symptoms you should watch for when it comes to these feline dental health issues. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult in a cat to know that somethings going on because they like to hide their illnesses. They don’t want anyone to know that anything is going on. Some people will see that even though their mouth hurts, they will continue to eat. So a lot of times we see little subtle things like dropping their food when they’re eating, or using just one side of their mouth to chew on, pawing at the mouth and some of them will vocalize when they eat or jerk away from their food because they have a pain sensation in their mouth. If it goes on, the bacteria that is in the mouth can actually get into the blood stream and go to other organs, so you can have infections in other organs of the body. And just mainly it’s a painful process. That pain and all that stress releases some hormones that can cause other issues in the cat. Sometimes we can see weight loss without any explanation, the bloodwork looks fine. One of my own cats started grooming all of the fur off of his back legs. We did bloodwork, everything came back as normal, but we did find one resorptive lesion on one tooth and when we took that tooth out, everything went back to completely normal. So cats are little alien creatures and they like to sometimes manifest illness in very different ways. That’s why it’s important to have annual exams with your veterinarian so that we can catch some of these things.
How to Treat Cat Dental Disease
If you suspect your cat has a dental issue, what are your options for treating these issues and is a vet visit needed at that point? Brushing your cat’s teeth on a regular basis is the best preventative care you can have. But I know, some cats it’s very difficult for individuals to actually brush a cat’s teeth. There are some at home dental treatments for cats. Regular vet visits and exams that include an oral exam are really important to catch these things. It might be a resorptive lesion way in the back of the mouth that you’re just not seeing or you’re not seeing any behaviors that indicate that that cat’s having pain. So regular visits, dental prophylaxis cleanings are a good thing. It helps just like you and I, we get all that plaque and bacteria underneath our gum line and getting a professional cleaning done gets that plaque and bacteria out from underneath the gum line. Many places also have dental radiography that’s included with their cat dental cleanings. That gives us an idea of what’s going on underneath the gum line where we can’t see and we can catch problems there. Some cats may need more than once a year cleaning. Some of them that have the stomatitis or are prone to the resorptive lesions may need every six months. But it’s very important at least once a year to have your cat examined by a veterinarian and they can make any oral recommendations that they see fit.
If you need help with dental disease in cats or other cat dental issues, call a Pet Care Pro at 800.786.4751.
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Written by: Amy Hanson, DVM
Amy Hanson, DVM
Dr. Amy Hanson is an associate veterinarian at the Cat Clinic of Lawrence in Lawrence, Kansas. She is a 2010 graduate of Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Her special interests include felines, acupuncture and dentistry. Her hobbies include showing cats and she is a judge for the American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA).