Being February designated as National Pet Dental Health Month, I thought it would be useful to write this Post about the main Dental Problems with Cats and the importance of taking care of the dental health of your furry friends.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, at three years age 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of oral disease, being Periodontal disease the most common infection seen in veterinary practice today. If left untreated, teeth and gums may become infected, creating bacteria which can spread into the bloodstream and infect other parts of the body. Common problems can lead to pain and, in some cases, extensive surgical procedures.
Just as we have come to realize that our own oral health is linked to our overall health; Veterinarians want people to understand that dental health care is essential to maintaining the overall health and well-being of the family pet. Sadly, pet dental health is often overlooked.
A dog or cat life begins with a healthy mouth. A healthy mouth should include pink gums that tightly grip the teeth. They should be firm and not swollen. A mouth full of clean, white teeth not only looks nice, it’s a good indicator of the pet’s dental and overall health. Healthy teeth and gums generally mean a happy, healthy pet.
Unfortunately, not all dogs and cats have healthy teeth and gums. For many, it’s a genetic situation, while for others, diet may be the problem. Whatever the cause, it’s no exaggeration to say that almost every pet has some form of painful and/or infectious oral disease that can lead to life-threatening illness or even death. On the other hand, according to the Veterinarians, almost every pet with oral disease can be helped, if not completely cured, with the right oral care.
In any case, as we talked in previous posts, the first step should always be to take your cat to a veterinarian for evaluation and a full physical to determine the status of your his/her health.
Signs of Dental Problems with Cats
Cats are masters at hiding pain and discomfort. They won’t complain or draw attention to the problem like a human will. As a result, cats can suffer from an ailment for a long time before we notice something is wrong. If your cat starts pawing at the mouth or head shaking, it can be a sign he/she is in pain. They may chew with obvious discomfort, drop food from their mouth, swallow with difficulty, or drool excessively – their saliva may contain blood, all those are signs of Dental Problems.
Halitosis, or an unpleasant breath odor, is also common. Many cats will refuse dry food and demonstrate a preference for moist or canned foods. Some cats will have a decreased interest in food or may hesitantly approach their food bowl and then show a reluctance to eat. This may lead to weight loss, which can become quite noticeable.
6 Common Dental Problems with Cats:
Gingivitis is the first stage of one of the most common Dental Problems with cats and dogs. When caught early, it can be stopped through regular cleaning and good oral therapy. When left unchecked, it can lead to periodontitis, which often causes tooth loss and can trigger other serious health problems.
If your cat begins having Gingivitis, you will notice that once tartar becomes prevalent on your pet’s teeth, his gums will begin to redden, swell, and bleed if touched. The condition will progressively worsen and increase in pain. Your pet may drool, refuse to eat or have difficulties eating, and produce foul breath. These are all signs of dental decay. Gingivitis is reversible in the early stages before it becomes Periodontitis.
What are the possible causes of Gingivitis?
Several factors can contribute to the onset of gum disease. Dental plaque, a thin film containing bacteria that regularly forms on the teeth, is the main cause. If the plaque is not removed, the bacteria can cause inflammation of the gums. Gradually, the gums depart from the teeth, leaving plaque to seep under the gums. At this stage, the inflammatory process begins to destroy the supporting tissues of the tooth.
Dental plaque, whether above or below the gum line, hardens and becomes a calcareous deposit, commonly called tartar. Tartar is also covered with bacteria, but it is more difficult to remove because of its strength and its adhesion to the tooth. Bacteria, therefore, continue to damage the gums.
2) Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease is the number one Dental problem with cats—more than weight problems, kidney disease, or any of the other issues we normally associate with felines. By the age of 3, most cats have some degree of periodontal disease, though we often miss the subtle signs when it is early and easily treatable.
Periodontal disease begins as a buildup of plaque and tartar on the tooth. Over time, as the plaque spreads below the gumline, it leads to inflammation, infection, and tooth loss. Starting a home oral care regimen early can make a big difference later in life by keeping the amounts of plaque and tartar lower. As periodontal disease progresses, professional cleaning and scaling are usually required to clean the teeth and remove diseased tissue.
Known as the “silent killer”, Periodontitis is differentiated from gingivitis by bone loss and succeeding tooth loss and it is linked to multiple dogs dental and cats dental problems including heart disease, stroke, emphysema, kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, osteomyelitis, blindness, loss of jaw bone, problems during pregnancy, nasal infections, oral cancer
3) Halitosis or Bad Breath
Stinky breath is a very common complaint in veterinary medicine. Halitosis is the result of multiple different problems in the oral cavity, from simple periodontal disease to an infected mass.
Halitosis is always worth mentioning to your veterinarian, but when it is accompanied by signs such as changes in appetite, difficulty swallowing, vomiting, or diarrhea it is extremely important that you visit the veterinarian. It may be the only sign of a more serious underlying problem such as diabetes or kidney disease and the sooner it is addressed, the better.
Bad breath in dogs and cats can be caused by a poor diet. If pets are unintentionally fed a diet that includes spoiled foods, bad breath can result. More commonly, pets that are fed kitchen scraps can develop halitosis since the food is sometimes left for an hour or more before the pet eats it. Even pets that are fed a diet of dry pet food or a combination of dry and wet pet food can develop bad breath if they do not receive the proper dental care.
The presence of teeth that are decaying can also lead to bad breath. Decaying teeth are often the result of poor dental care for the pet. If the decaying tooth is not treated, not only can it continue to cause bad breath, but it can also lead to health problems for the pet.
Feline stomatitis is an extremely painful condition caused by severe inflammation or ulceration of the tissues lining the oral cavity, they actually become allergic to the plaque on their teeth. Although some breeds such as Himalayans and Persians may be predisposed to this condition, stomatitis is seen in all breeds of cats and can begin before a cat even reaches 1 year of age.
Cats who develop stomatitis have extremely reddened, inflamed mouths and resist having their teeth examined. They often have reduced appetites due to the pain caused by eating, and in severe cases develop malnourishment because it is so painful to eat.
The only treatment that has produced consistent results is the extraction of either all of the teeth or, in some cases, only those teeth behind the canines to decrease the plaque-retentive surfaces. While this may seem extreme, many of these cats show amazing progress and return to normal eating habits very quickly after the surgery.
Cancer of the oral cavity is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in cats. Cancers can occur in the gums, lips, tongue, jawbone, or palate. Signs of oral cancer include masses in the mouth, swollen face, drooling, weight loss, sudden tooth loss, or bad breath. While different types of cancer can be found in cats, squamous cell carcinomas form most of these masses.
Early diagnosis is key for successful treatment of oral cancer, which can be very difficult to manage when larger masses start to invade bone. Many masses are found during routine cleanings and oral examinations while they are small and more easily managed, which is one of the many reasons regular preventive care is so important.
6) Tooth Resorption
Feline tooth resorption is a common and underdiagnosed condition, affecting up to three-quarters of cats over the age of 5. The tooth consists of both bony material (dentin and enamel) and the soft tissues of the tooth root, which includes blood vessels and nerves. For reasons still not fully understood, the body starts to resorb the dentin, loosening the tooth and causing painful exposure of the root.
Because this erosion begins below the gumline, it can be impossible to determine which teeth are affected without dental X-rays. The signs are subtle, usually involving a cat who suddenly develops a preference for soft food, or swallows his or her food without chewing. Tooth resorption can occur on a single tooth or multiple teeth. Once diagnosed, 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.
The best advice for dog and cat owners is to have your pet’s teeth checked and cleaned regularly. You wouldn’t skip a dental checkup, so why should your pet? Remember, its health is in your hands.
What should I do if my cat has signs of Dental Problems?
If you see that your cat has evidence of tartar accumulation, gingivitis or is exhibiting any signs of mouth pain or discomfort, you should take him to your veterinarian for an examination. You will be advised of the most appropriate 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 individual cats, and in some cases, this may need professional cleaning on a regular basis, every 6-12 months.
Do not try to remove tartar from the teeth yourself with any form of metallic instrument. Aside from potentially harming your cat’s mouth or him harming you, you may damage the surface of the tooth by creating microscopic scratches; these will provide areas for bacteria to cling to and will encourage faster plaque formation which only makes the problem worse. This is the reason your dental hygienist always polishes your teeth after removing tartar with dental instruments.
What can we do to prevent Dental Problems with cats?
In addition to preventing your pet’s bad breath by feeding your cat or dog a proper diet, it is vital to provide proper dental care.
The most effective way to prevent and reduce plaque and tartar is to brush their teeth since the beginning. However, If you’ve ever tried to brush your cat’s teeth, you’ll know it isn’t the most pleasant task, especially because the act of brushing his/her teeth is completely un-natural for your pet.
Although there are toothbrushes specially designed for a cat’s mouth, which should be used with pet toothpaste that is non-foaming and safe to be swallowed, can you imagine how much easier it would be if you could just pop something in his mouth that would clean his teeth simply and naturally?
Luckily that alternative exists and it’s named: “brushless” dog dental/cat dental health care: spray or gel. DentaSure ® All-Natural Oral Care Spray is an easy-to-use herbal product made with 100% natural ingredients like grape seed extract and grapefruit seed extract, Propolis extract, pure Stevia that you spray in your cat’s or dog’s mouth every day over a period of several weeks. The product not only does away with home brushing but also helps protect your pet from the trauma of undergoing anesthesia for a professional cleaning.
Last time I took Georgia (my cat) to the vet, he quoted $600+ for dental cleaning under anesthesia with the risk she might not do well with the drugs they use for the procedure due to her breathing problems. I really did not want Georgia to undergo anesthesia and I started the hunt for an alternative method.
Two days later, I was lucky to find DentaSure ® All-Natural Oral Care Spray and have been using it twice a day for a couple of weeks now. The results are amazing! her breath has changed and the tartar is getting all soft.
In my next Post, I will write a complete review about DentaSure ® All-Natural Oral Care Spray the real solution to Dental Problems with Cats and dogs, to share with other pet owners the benefits of this amazing product, stay tuned!
I hope you enjoyed this Post and if you have any questions, please leave a comment below.
Keep on living with Cattitude, until next Post!