Oral health problems are capable of causing significant pain in your cat and can contribute to other health issues. Here, our Des Moines veterinarians explain how to spot dental health issues in your cat, what some of the most common health problems are, and how these issues can be prevented and treated in your cat.
Your Cat's Oral Health
Your cat's oral health is critical to both its overall health and general well-being. Your cat uses their teeth, gums, and other oral tissues to eat and vocalize, so when these structures become diseased or damaged and stop being able to properly function, your cat will experience pain and interference in their ability to eat and communicate like it normally would.
Not only that but the bacteria and infections that cause many of the oral health issues that are common in cats won't just stay in their moth. Infections in your pet's mouth will begin to circulate throughout their body if you let them become advanced enough, damaging their internal organs like the heart, kidneys, liver, and spleen and causing even further impacts on your cat's health and longevity.
How To Spot Dental Issues 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:
- Missing or losing teeth
- Bad Breath (halitosis)
- Excessive drooling
- Difficulty with or slow eating
- Weight loss
- 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 Des Moines vets as soon as possible for examinations. the sooner your cat's dental disease is diagnosed and treatment begins, the better your cat's health outcomes will be.
Common Cat Dental Diseases
While there is a wide range of health issues that may affect your cat's gums, teeth, and other oral health structures, there are 3 particularly common oral health issues that you should keep an eye out for in your feline friend:
Approximately 70% of all cats will develop some form of periodontal disease by the time they reach the age of 3.
This disease is 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 routinely brushed away or cleaned, it will harden and form tartar that extends below the gum line in your cat's mouth.
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.
Feline stomatitis is an incredibly painful inflammation and ulceration—opening of sores—of your cat's gums, cheeks, and tongue.
Persians and Himalayans are predisposed to developing this condition but any cat can develop stomatitis.
Cats that are suffering from this condition are often in serious pain and have reduced appetites because of this. In some instances, cats will become malnourished because eating is so painful for them. If your cat develops a mild case, at-home care may be enough to treat its stomatitis, however, 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 fairly common condition in cats, potentially affecting up to three-quarters of middle-aged and older cats.
When a cat is suffering from tooth resorption, its body begins to break down its tooth's hard outer layer, loosening it and causing pain in the process. The destruction here occurs below the gum line so it can be difficult to detect without the use of a dental X-ray. However, if your cat starts preferring soft foods all of a sudden and swallows its food without chewing, it may be suffering from this condition.
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 Des Moines Veterinary Hospital are like taking your kitty for an appointment at the veterinary cat dentist.
To prevent oral health issues from developing in your cat in the first place, you should start by cleanings your feline friend's teeth and gums while they are still only a kitten and will be able to adapt to the process. If your cat won't allow you to clean its teeth, dental treats and foods are also available to help you to 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.