One of the most commonly overlooked health issues for cats
is the status of their oral health.
It is not surprising to learn that 85% of adult felines have periodontal disease. Dental disease is the single largest cause of health problems in cats. Proper dental care will add years to your family member’s life as they become older.
For most owners, opening their cat’s mouth is usually difficult and unwanted. However, we can show you the best method to easily open the mouth and check for the common signs of gingivitis, periodontal disease, and other conditions that can affect the health of your family member.
The normal bacterial population of a cat’s mouth is very high compared to other species. For example, if a dog bites another dog, it usually causes a contusion or laceration. In comparison, if a cat bites another cat, it can lead to an infection that develops into an abscess.
With this in mind, when cats develop dental tartar, gingivitis, or food allergies, the resulting inflammation allows these same bacteria to cause infections in that cat’s own mouth. Further, these bacteria seep into the bloodstream, causing damage to the kidneys, liver, and heart.
Cats also demonstrate a condition known as tooth resorption (TR), also called odontoclastic resorptive lesions (ORLs or FORLs). This disease can actually cause the tooth to dissolve and, as you can imagine, is painful to cats. The exact trigger of this disease is still under investigation.
Please note that Cat Care Clinic has recently added the latest in digital dental X-ray technology, which allows us to detect dental root and crown issues and treat accordingly. We can find and remove tooth roots that have resulted from past crown fractures or dental work done elsewhere.
Feline dental disease will present with one or more of the symptoms
or findings listed below.
- Excessive salivation
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Inflamed gums (redness along the gumline)
- Dental tartar (This presents as a brown mineral deposit most commonly seen on the larger teeth such as premolars and molars. They are located on the sides of the mouth.)
- Tooth resorption or fracture
- Missing teeth
- Pain response when gently pressing on the gums
- Dropping food from the mouth
- Reduction or cessation of eating
- Tissue proliferation caused by inflammation or neoplasia
- Loss of bone density
- Lethargy and dehydration
Many other symptoms may be present should other organs be involved.
One of the purposes of providing this information is to emphasize that having Cat Care Clinic veterinarians conduct an annual examination of your family feline can keep you out of the dog house.
The vast majority of the conditions previously listed can be avoided. Our staff can also inform you of what not to do, which is equally important. For example, be very careful if you decide to try brushing your cat’s teeth. Pet owners may be well meaning, but the cat’s teeth are not the same shape as that of people. Improper use of toothbrushes can excoriate the gums and allow bacteria to invade the bloodstream! Yuck! Finger cots and digital brushes can also present a problem. Generally, cats do not like to have fingers in their mouths. Dental rinses may be useful, but your family member may not cooperate with the “rinse and spit” command.
The type and texture of cat food do play a useful role in dental health. There are select diets, such as Hill’s Prescription T/D, that will help to a certain degree. However, this must be weighed against the need to eat canned foods. Canned foods contain larger amounts of water (70%) than kibble (10%). Hydration status and chewing ability will always overrule food texture.
Remember, Cat Care Clinic is here to help. Our staff will show you how to check for feline dental disease in between visits and also advise you on the best time for scheduling your cat’s dental cleaning. We will tell you what is involved and what you will need to do to help with your cat’s oral health.