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Common Feline Dental Issues

Posted In: Feline Health & Wellness

Most cats experience dental problems at some point in their lives. But, it isn’t always easy for cat owners to recognize dental problem, especially since many problems exist below the gum line. It’s important to discuss your cat’s dental health with your veterinarian at least once a year. Some of the most common dental issues in cats are:

  • Gum Disease
  • Tooth resorption
  • Stomatitis
  • Mouth Cancer

Gum Disease

Gum Disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an inflammation of a tooth’s supporting structures and is one of the most common diseases in cats. By the time most cats are 4 years old, they will have gum disease. When food particles and bacteria accumulate along the cat’s gum line, plaque is formed. When plaque is combined with saliva and minerals, the irritation leads to gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease. Left untreated, gum disease will progress. The gum tissue will recede, and roots of the tooth will be exposed.

X-rays are very important in determining the extent of gum disease because up to 60% of the symptoms are hidden beneath the gum line. The only visible symptoms many times are bad breath and the appearance of tarter on the teeth. But by this time, disease has already begun. Therefore dental examinations with x-rays at an early age are recommended. It is also important to note that gum disease and infection can lead to kidney, lung, and heart problems.

Tooth Resorption

This is the most common of the feline oral diseases. Purebred cats like the Persian and Siamese seem to be more prone to tooth resorption. It is the gradual destruction of a tooth or multiple teeth. It often looks as if the gum is growing over the tooth. It is a progressive disease, which means it spreads and causes the tooth to break or to form a lump on the gum line.

Many cats don’t show signs of tooth resorption or even discomfort, though it is sure to be extremely painful. If a cat does show symptoms, those symptoms might include:

  • Drooling
  • Bleeding
  • Difficulty eating
  • Vomiting
  • Bad breath

Tooth extraction is the only treatment, but cats can get along just fine with fewer teeth. Most are back to their regular eating habits within 24 hours.  

Stomatitis

Many cats with tooth resorption also have stomatitis. Cats with stomatitis have red, inflamed gums. The cause of stomatitis is still unknown, but we do know that it is very painful for cats. Symptoms may include:

  • Swollen and red gums and tissues
  • Loss of appetite/not eating
  • Vocalizations, meowing in pain when trying to eat
  • Odor in mouth

There is no cure for stomatitis but since plaque is a trigger, removing the teeth can help up to 90% of cats who are diagnosed with this. It seems drastic, but it also has a very good success rate.

Mouth Cancer

About 80% of oral cancer in cats is Squamous Cell Carcinoma. These tumors grow quickly and invade bone and tissue. As with many cancers, there is no known cause of this carcinoma. Symptoms may include:

  • Drooling
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Odor in mouth
  • Weight loss/loss of appetite
  • Loose teeth
  • Growth in the mouth

This type of cancer progresses very quickly, so it is important to diagnose it and begin treatment right away. The treatment your veterinarian recommends will depend on the growth in your cat’s mouth, if it has spread, and your cat’s overall health.

The Animal Medical Center of Mid-America has veterinarians at three locations that can answer questions about your pet’s health. Call 314-951-1534 or click here to request an appointment online.