As a conscientious pet parent, you provide a nutritious diet, routine veterinary care and lots of love. And you probably know you should be brushing your furry friend’s teeth—at least your dog’s teeth. But cats suffer from the same dental health problems and are just as in need of proper dental care. February is National Pet Dental Health Month. Dental disease affects not only your cat’s teeth and gums, it can have serious consequences for his or her overall health. So take a moment to learn how to detect, prevent and treat common dental diseases your cat could be suffering from.
Signs of Dental Problems
Cats will rarely show you when they are sick or in pain. In fact, they will go out of their way to hide it. It’s an instinctual behavior their ancestors used to hide any weakness from predators. That means you need to watch your kitty for any physical or behavioral signs that could signify a tooth or gum problem. These signs might include:
- Bad breath—Strong or offensive odor can be a sign of gingivitis or gum disease.
- Swollen, red gums—This a common sign of gingivitis and periodontal disease.
- Tartar buildup—That orange or tan line at your cat’s gum line signals the start of dental diseases such as gingivitis or periodontal disease. The rate of tartar build up varies wildly among cats.
- Refusing or reluctance to eat—Any condition causing dental pain may cause your cat to have difficulty chewing.
- Loose or broken teeth—This can be caused by trauma or underlying infection.
- Pawing at the face or swollen face—This signifies inflammation and pain.
- Discolored tooth—This is a sign of endodontic disease—any inflammation of the tooth pulp.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Just like your dentist, your veterinarian will be able to diagnose the onset of dental disease through a physical examination, and if necessary, dental x-rays. That will determine what is going on, how severe it is, and how to treat it. Your vet will likely recommend a dental cleaning under anesthesia to scrape off the tartar that can lead to dental disease. If there is an infection involved, your vet will remove the infection and treat with appropriate antibiotics and pain killers.
While your kitty is sedated for a cleaning, it will be easier for your veterinarian to check for other problems such as broken or loose teeth, abscesses, or tooth resorption, which is a progressive destruction of the tooth, resulting in tiny holes and lesions. The only effective treatment for these conditions is extraction.
Tartar is virtually inevitable in a cat. However, there are things you can do to slow its build up.
- Dry cat food will reduce tartar buildup.
- Just like your dog, your feline friend can benefit from daily teeth brushing.
- Cat chew toys can scrape off some soft tartar.
- Yearly dental checkups, which can be done at the time of your annual wellness exam, and dental cleanings every few years, and more frequently as your kitty ages, will help prevent dental disease.
Nearly all cats will show signs of dental disease by the time they are 3 years old. If your cat has signs of dental disease, it’s important to get it treated before it becomes more serious. If it’s been a while since you’re had your cat’s teeth and gums checked, don’t put it off. Call Powell Veterinary Service at 970-352-9164 and schedule a dental exam for your furry friend.