Although your cat can’t tell you if she has a toothache, there are five signs that can clue you in to the fact that her mouth may be bothering her.
1. Bad breath
It’s not normal for a cat’s breath to smell fishy or rotten. If you need to turn your head away when your cat breathes on you, or if your skin stinks after she licks you, that’s a good sign that your cat is having dental troubles.
2. Eating funny
If your cat seems to chew with only one side of her mouth, or if she’s dropping her food when she eats, that may mean that she’s having oral pain.
3. Decreased interest in food
If your cat approaches the food bowl and acts like she’s hungry, but then seems reluctant to eat, her mouth is probably bothering her.
4. Reluctance to be touched around the mouth
If your cat used to enjoy having the sides of her face petted and no longer does, it may be because her mouth hurts.
5. Excessive drooling
If your cat is salivating more than usual — especially if the saliva contains blood — that’s a sign of dental disease. Cats may also paw at their mouths or shake their heads because of the pain.
If your cat is experiencing any of these symptoms, lift her lip by her molars, if she’ll let you. If you see yellow-brown gunk on her teeth, that’s tartar buildup. If your cat’s gums are red, that’s gingivitis, or inflammation of the gum tissue.
Severe oral disease can result in bleeding gums, broken teeth, and a host of other painful problems. If you see gingivitis or tartar buildup, or if your cat is showing the signs above but won’t let you touch her mouth, call The Cat Doctor and schedule an appointment.
Feline periodontal disease occurs when plaque accumulates on tooth enamel, causing inflammation of the gingival tissue. Cats might not exhibit any symptoms, though some will paw at their mouths, refuse food, have bad breath, or stop grooming. If your cat shows any of these signs, contact your veterinarian immediately. A dental cleaning and extraction of any effected teeth will be necessary to restore your kitty’s oral health.
What is are Feline Resportive Lesions?
Resorptive lesions are areas in which the tooth
enamel is eaten away by a type of cells called odondoclasts. The areas where the enamel has eroded fill in with painful red lesions. These lesions can occur on the tooth root or crown, and if left untreated can event
ually destroy the entire tooth. If the lesions occuron the root below the gumline, they can often only be detected on radiographs. We do not know the exact cause of resorptive lesions, but we do know that they are very prevalent, occurring in over 60% of cats over six years of age. Resorptive lesions are extremely painful; cats will react to a dental probe touching them even when under general anesthesia. Extraction is the treatment of choice for resorptive lesions.
What is involved in a dental procedure?
Dental care in cats involves scaling and polishing, as well as extraction of any teeth that are unhealthy. The gold standard for veterinary dental care involves radiographs to determine the health of the teeth below the gumline, though not all facilities have dental radiographs at their disposal. The Cat Doctor knows that radiographs are a vital piece of equipment to have in order to get the full picture of the disease process under the gumline. Because we can’t simply ask a cat to sit still while we use the ultrasonic scaler to clean her teeth, this is all done under general anesthesia. (To see what is involved in a dental procedure here at The Cat Doctor, please visit our Dentistry page!) After the dental cleaning, an at-home regimen will be recommended to prevent future dental issues.
What can I do at home to prevent dental disease?
Brushing your cat’s teeth multiple times each week is the best way to maintain a healthy mouth, but not all cats will tolerate this. We find that very few cat owners (veterinary professionals included!) actually brush their cats’ teeth. Fortunately, there are other ways to keep Fluffy’s mouth healthy. There are a number of foods that have been formulated to promote oral health and are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). Despite the long-held theory to the contrary, feeding regular kibble does not seem to have any effect on oral health versus feeding a canned diet. There are also water additives and treats approved by the VOHC if you cannot feed a dental-specific diet. Above all else, it is important to have your cat’s mouth examined regularly to catch any dental disease early.
Keeping your cat’s mouth healthy will keep your cat healthy and allow you to enjoy many happy years together.