Cat “Meowth” Problems
By Matt Encinosa, DVM
Most people are aware that their dogs can get dental disease, but what about cats? Our furry feline friends are often overlooked when it comes to dental care. According to Cornell University Feline Health Center, “Between 50 and 90% of cats older than four years of age suffer from some form of dental disease”.
Some of the most common forms of dental disease in cats include periodontal disease and resorptive lesions. Periodontal disease starts as inflammation in the gums which progresses to infection and eventually can result in loss of a tooth. Resorptive lesions are holes that can form in teeth which can damage the roots and cause potential fractures and severe pain. Some cats develop a very painful condition called stomatitis which is a much more severe form of oral inflammation often requiring dental surgical intervention.
Common symptoms that can cue you into whether your cat may have dental disease include drooling, difficulty eating (usually with hard food), weight loss and loss of appetite, bad breath, and potentially swelling of the face or lymph nodes.
Brushing your cats’ teeth may be helpful in preventing dental disease if they allow you to do it. There are also dental diets and treats that may be beneficial.
Your vet may recommend doing a dental cleaning under general anesthesia and dental x-rays to screen for any issues below the gumline. It can be difficult to do a complete dental exam in many cats without anesthesia, so this also allows for a more thorough oral exam to identify if there are any growths or lesions not related to the teeth. Ultimately, if any teeth are compromised, the best treatment may be extraction. Bringing your cat to your local veterinarian annually is the best way to identify an treat dental disease early.