Demystifying Dental Disease in Cats

Demystifying Dental Disease in Cats

As an owner of three amazing cats, their dental health is important to me as I have learned of the risks associated with it.  Dental disease in cats is one of the most common conditions seen by our veterinarians.  It includes periodontal disease, gingivitis, and resorptive lesions that can lead to other conditions such as heart or kidney disease.

Dental problems can be below the gum line where they are not seen even in exam, the full extent of the disease is not clear until the cat can have x-rays and undergo dental surgery.  (Rachel explained to us earlier in the month why we perform dentals under anesthetic.)  Bacterial plaque builds up first and if not removed becomes tartar which leads to infection and gingivitis.  If left untreated, it can lead to irreversible periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease is when the bone and ligaments that support a tooth are destroyed resulting in the loss of teeth.  It can also cause infection around the tooth socket which can become a painful abscess.

Cats also commonly suffer from ‘resorptive lesions’, which are the gradual destruction of enamel leading to “holes” in the affected teeth.  Once the sensitive part of the tooth is exposed, they can be intensely painful.  The only method of treatment is extraction.

If your cat is experiencing dental disease you may notice physiological signs as well as changes in their behaviour.  Common signs of dental disease include:

  • strong smelling breath with bad odour
  • red and/or swollen gums
  • tartar build up on teeth
  • difficulty chewing, dropping kibbles or swallowing whole, food refusal or reluctance   to eat
  • pawing at mouth or shaking head
  • weight loss
  • grumpy or decreased sociability

A home dental care plan is important but cats should have their teeth regularly examined by a veterinarian.  Because teeth can have such an impact on the health of your cat and the function of their internal organs, yearly exams are highly recommended with regular bloodwork to check their organ function.  Pets, especially cats, often manage their pain in silence.   If you suspect your cat may have dental disease, call and schedule an exam, catching it early is key.


Kim, CCS

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