Cats dental disease is one of the most common medical conditions we see in our office. The most common problem is gingivitis – an inflammation of the gums caused by the accumulation of plaque – which can develop into periodontal disease, and tooth resorption. These problems affect more than half of all cats over the age of three!
The Clinical Signs Of Cats Dental Disease
Most cats do not show signs of dental disease even though they are experiencing pain, which may be indicated by pawing at the mouth or shaking of the head. They may chew with obvious discomfort, drop food from their mouth, have difficulty swallowing or drool excessively. Their saliva may contain blood and they may have an unpleasant breath odor.
Dental disease and oral pain may account for your pet’s fussy appetite. Many cats will refuse dry food and only eat moist or canned foods. Some cats will have a diminished interest in food or may cautiously approach their food bowl and then show an unwillingness to eat. This may lead to weight loss, which can at times become quite noticeable.
What causes cats dental disease?
Gingivitis and periodontal disease are caused by your pet’s body’s immune response to the daily accumulation of plaque. It may be normal for some kittens and adult cats to have a slight degree of redness that appears as a thin line along the edge of the gum, without evidence of dental disease.
Tooth resorption is a progressive destruction of the tooth root resulting in slowly deepening holes in the affected teeth. Once sensitive parts of the tooth become exposed, these wounds become extremely painful and the only effective and humane treatment is to extract the tooth. While the cause of this disease is unknown, poor oral hygiene can play a role in the disease process.
What should I do if my pet shows signs of cats dental disease?
If your cat has evidence of tartar accumulation, gingivitis or is exhibiting any signs of mouth pain or discomfort, you should take him or her to your veterinarian for an examination. You will be advised of the most effective course of treatment, which may involve having your cat’s teeth examined, professionally cleaned and x-rayed under general anesthesia.
The rate of tartar accumulation is highly variable between cats, and in some cases, this may necessitate professional cleaning on a regular basis, usually every 6-12 months.
Though you may be tempted, do not try to remove tartar from the teeth yourself with any form of metallic instrument. Aside from potentially harming your cat’s mouth, you may damage the surface of the tooth by creating tiny scratches, which will provide areas for bacteria to collect and encourage faster plaque formation, which only makes the problem worse.
What can I do to prevent cats dental disease in my pet?
The best way to prevent dental disease is to reduce the rate at which plaque and tartar builds up on your pet’s teeth. Recent advances in pet nutrition have resulted in water additives, treats and diets that can reduce tartar accumulation. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC.org) only endorses products that have been shown to reduce the accumulation of plaque and/or tartar.
The most effective way to reduce plaque and tartar is to brush your pet’s teeth. A number of toothbrushes are specially designed for a cat’s mouth. Never use human toothpaste on cats – these are foaming products and contain ingredients that should not be swallowed as they could cause internal problems.
With gentleness, patience and perseverance it is possible to brush your pet’s teeth and provide the oral care needed to prevent cats dental disease. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your cat’s dental health – don’t hesitate – call our office today to schedule a consultation!