With feline ownership comes many responsibilities. One of these is the health of your cat’s teeth. While basic needs such as food, water and shelter are obvious to even the newest pet parent, many don’t realize the importance of looking after their pet’s teeth. The health of your cat’s teeth is no exception. Although around 8 in every 10 cats over the age of three experience tooth and gum problems, there are some things that you can do to help preserve your feline’s teeth for as long as possible.
About feline teeth
Cat’s teeth are extremely sharp, and have evolved specifically for the way that they eat, cutting and tearing through meat and fish so that chunks can be swallowed whole. This is in contrast to dogs who have flatter back teeth and can grind and chew their food before swallowing. However, the health of your kitty’s teeth isn’t just important for eating. Dental hygiene and the condition of your pet’s teeth has also been linked to their overall health and wellbeing. This is because a number of oral problems, such as gum disease, have been shown to contribute to poor general health and the development of conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
Signs that their may be something wrong with your cat’s teeth
So, how do you know if your kitty has a dental problem? As she is unable to tell you verbally, your cat will be relying on you to pick up on some of the symptoms that she may have something wrong with her teeth. These symptoms will vary depending on exactly what the problem is but could include:
- Bad breath
- Lack of appetite
- Eating differently to usual, such as holding her head at a funny angle when eating
- Salivating excessively
- Pawing at her mouth
- Reluctance to have her face and mouth touched
Common dental problems in cats
Although dental problems can take a variety of forms, there are four types of oral disease which are more likely to affect your pet.
Periodontal disease is the leading cause of dental problems in both cats and dogs, and is the primary medical problem seen in all felines. Most cats will already be experiencing some degree of this progressive condition by the time they reach three years of age, but if caught early, it is possible to eradicate the problem completely.
Periodontal disease is caused by the accumulation of bacteria that is found in plaque along the gum line. Over time, these bacteria can spread under the gums where they cause irritation, swelling and bleeding. However, these are among the mildest symptoms and left untreated, the infection can become widespread and extremely painful. Symptoms of moderate to advanced periodontal disease include foul breath, pus in the gums, fever, deterioration of the jaw bone, tooth loss and even infection in other parts of the body including the major organs.
Treatments for periodontal disease including professional cleaning, scaling and root planning, and periodontal pocket surgery may be recommended. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you which treatment is needed depending on the severity of your kitty’s periodontal disease.
Tooth resorption is a progressive condition and is the most common cause of tooth loss in cats. It is more prevalent in older cats, although it can affect a feline at any age. Tooth resorption is characterized by the loss of tooth structure, starting with the outer enamel surface where lesions will begin to appear. Eventually the lesions can spread throughout the layers of the tooth, finally reaching the pulp which contains the roots which keep the tooth alive.
Tooth resorption is extremely painful, but caught early, it may be possible for your veterinary dentist to remove the affected part of the tooth before the condition spreads. Cats who have been found to suffer from tooth resorption are usually recommended to have six-monthly professional cleans to help keep the condition at bay.
Oral cancer is the 4th most common cancer diagnosed in felines and can occur in various parts of the oral cavity including the tongue, gums, lips and soft palate. Although oral cancer in cats can be fatal, early diagnosis can ensure that your kitty starts treatment as soon as possible, giving her the best chance at making a full recovery.
This painful and debilitating condition is caused by the ulceration or inflammation of the soft tissues that line your cat’s mouth. Although any cat may develop this condition, some breeds have a genetic predisposition to its development including Persians and Himalayans. It is characterized by an oral cavity that is extremely red and swollen, and many cats refuse to eat while suffering from the condition due to the extreme pain it causes.
Treatment for stomatitis often requires the surgical removal of the affected tissues, though improved oral health and professional cleaning may also be beneficial.
Contact Memphis Animal Clinic today at 901-617-4711 to discuss your pet’s dental health and the recommendations for his or her pet dental care.