What cat owners should know about dental care

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16 March 2020
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While cats are one of the cleanest of species, they can develop serious dental disease.

Research suggests that by the time they are four years old, most of them will have significant gingivitis which can rapidly progress into periodontal disease. Usually, cats with oral health issues will show no significant symptoms. This is why it is so important to visit their vet regularly and ask them to assess their oral health. Dental issues that are spotted early are a lot easier to treat.

Prevention

Preventing oral disease is not difficult. The first and most important factor is good nutrition. A cat that eats healthy foods is less likely to develop an oral disease. The second factor is to have an annual visit to the vet. Usually, in order to determine oral health, there are two steps. The first one is a physical exam, but in most cases, it is not enough. To get the full picture, a cat will need x-rays. After the exams, you will be able to determine if you need a cat dental formula, which is like a mouthwash for cats, or if vet treatment is required.

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Dental disease in cats

Cats are most affected by gum disease. The most common problem found in cats is called FORL (Feline Odontoclastic Resorption Lesions). These are cavity-like lesions that affect the neck of the tooth (the section closer to the gum). While these are painful, most cats adapt to pain and are able to live with it. When lesions keep growing, most vets will recommend tooth extraction in order to avoid further spreading. The only way to spot these lesions is with X-rays, and it is one of the reasons why the annual exam should never be overlooked. Gingivitis and periodontal disease are also fairly common, and painful. Medication is the recommended treatment.

Symptoms of oral health problems in cats

Cats are usually very good at hiding oral health problems, as they naturally adapt to live with the pain. However, there are a few red flags to pay attention to. The first one is bad breath, which is usually due to oral disease. Pawing at their mouth and excessive drooling are also indicators of an issue. Nasal discharge and blood in a cat’s saliva are important symptoms that indicate that you should visit your vet immediately.

Pay attention to gum disease

Gum disease is the most common oral health problem in pets. By the time a cat is four years old, there is an 80% chance they will have developed gum disease. It has four stages: early and advanced gingivitis, and early and established periodontitis. Detecting gum disease in cats is not easy, but early detection is essential in order to establish an effective treatment. This is why an annual dental checkup should take place, even if your cat is not showing any alarming symptoms. Early gingivitis, for example, is considered fully reversible.

Tooth extraction

When gum disease reaches an advanced stage, tooth extraction may be necessary. When a cat’s teeth are severely affected, they should be extracted to avoid a more serious problem. A tooth suffering from dental caries is a danger for other teeth, and it can rapidly progress into an abscess, which is potentially life-threatening.

Caring for a pet means looking out for their overall health. A proactive approach to dental health is always recommended. Pay attention to important mood changes that may indicate an underlying issue. Schedule yearly appointments with your veterinarian, and keep an eye on your cat’s breath and eating patterns. Loss of appetite is usually a sign of an oral health problem, as can be a sudden change in sleep patterns or mood. Call your vet if you suspect a health problem.