Feline Oral Health: 4 common conditions affecting cats
Last but never least, our feline friends. Cats are unique in many ways, but unfortunately, like dogs, dental disease is common in cats as well - affecting 80% of felines over age 3. In addition to periodontal disease, many conditions affect the oral health of our felines. Here are 4 of the most common:
1. Fractured Teeth
Dogs are chewers and fetchers, but even though cats don’t always behave in the same manner, they are susceptible to fractured teeth just like dogs. However, in cats, the teeth that are most commonly affected are the canine teeth (or fangs as some people like to call them). The big deal about feline fangs is that the pulp (collection of blood vessels and nerves in the center of the tooth) extends almost to the tip of the canine tooth in cats, making even the tiniest of fractures a big deal. Fractured fangs do not always require removal – consult with your veterinarian to see if root canal therapy is warranted.
2. Feline Stomatitis
Feline stomatitis or Feline Chronic Gingivostomatitis (FCGS) is a very painful condition resulting from severe inflammation and/or ulceration of the soft tissues of the mouth. Cats with this disease usually have bad breath, trouble eating, and trouble grooming themselves. They often lose weight and can exhibit drooling and bleeding from the mouth. This disease is thought to be autoimmune in nature (although we don’t know the cause 100%). Basically the body’s immune system reacts abnormally to the plaque bacteria accumulating on the teeth. This causes an inflammatory response and can cause the body to attack the dental tissue as well. Treatment usually starts with medical management in combination with frequent professional dental cleanings; however, most cats are unable to be controlled with medical therapy alone and ultimately end up needing full mouth extractions (removal of all teeth). Feline stomatitis is a debilitating condition and can also be a life threatening one. Studies show 80% of cats undergoing full mouth extractions do very well once they heal. The remaining 20% of cats require additional medical therapy after surgery to control residual inflammation. Many family members worry about their cat going through life without teeth, but you’ll be surprised at how well they tolerate it! Research is continually being performed to find new and better ways to treat this condition such as cryotherapy, stem cell therapy, Laser therapy, and immunomodulatory drugs.
3. Tooth Resorption
This condition is exactly what it sounds like – cells destroying the tooth layer by layer. Tooth resorption affects 75% of cats age 5 or older – which means it is really common! Sometimes we are able to see a resorptive lesion during a routine physical exam (see photo). Other times, tooth resorption is diagnosed with dental x-rays while the cat is under anesthesia for a professional dental cleaning. We are not sure why tooth resorption occurs, but we do know the lesions are painful. Cats with this condition may lose weight, have a poor appetite, or show behavior changes at feeding time: they may inhale their food quickly without chewing, chew only on one side of their mouth, or you may notice food falling out of his mouth while he is trying to eat. Teeth affected by this condition require extraction or subgingival amputation depending on the condition of the tooth root. The American College of Veterinary Dentists recommends cats who have been diagnosed with tooth resorption see their veterinarian every year, and undergo a professional dental cleaning (including dental x-rays) twice a year.
4. Oral Tumors
Like their canine counterparts, oral tumors are common in cats. Both benign and malignant tumors can be found in cats. Pet parents who are brushing their cat’s teeth daily will have a better chance of noticing a change sooner than someone who never opens their cat’s mouth. With any tumor, especially the malignant types, early detection is key. Any swelling or lump in the mouth should be evaluated immediately by your veterinarian.
This concludes the My Vet & Me dental series! I hope you learned how important professional dental cleanings are for our fur babies, and hopefully you feel confident talking with your veterinarian about dental care for your fur baby. More good news? Many veterinary practices offer a discount on professional dental cleanings during the month of February!
– Leigh Hofmeister, DVM