The veterinary world is learning more and more all the time that proper pet dental care is a vital component of keeping our animals happy and healthy. While cats and dogs are no different in this respect, it is important to note that our feline friends have some important dental needs all their own. Understanding dental care for cats better helps our fabulous pet owners take better care of their household divas.
The Importance of Teeth
Good dental care for cats is extremely important for their health and longevity. According to the American Veterinary Dental Association up 70% of cats have some form of dental disease by the age of three.
Plaque is formed when saliva and food combine with bacteria on the teeth. Plaque eventually mineralizes, forming tartar. Accumulation of this tartar leads to inflammation in the tissues surrounding the tooth and holding it in place.
Untreated, periodontal disease has serious consequences. It can lead to:
- Oral pain
- The loss of teeth
- Localized infection (here is where the tuna breath happens)
- Bacterial invasion of the blood stream
- Damage to major organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys
Preventative Dental Care
Staying ahead of the game is the most important part of dental care for cats. By paying attention and trying to prevent issues, we can head off many problems and address those that cannot be prevented promptly. A preventative dental care plan should consist of:
- Annual oral exams (as part of your wellness exam and/or under anesthesia as recommended)
- Periodic comprehensive dental cleanings
- A home dental care program
While daily tooth brushing is ideal, many cats can be a little challenging. Use a gentle approach and start your cat out as a kitten if possible. We can recommend a good-tasting, cat-specific toothpaste- never use human toothpaste.
Oral rinses, dental treats, and prescription oral health foods can also be an effective part of a home dental care routine. The knowledgeable Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center staff is happy to help you sort through available products and make recommendations for your individual situation.
Unique Aspects of Dental Care for Cats
Besides the periodontal disease that all of us are prone to, cats tend to develop a few dental issues that are more common in the feline species than any other. Knowing that these exist and treating them properly can make a huge difference in quality of life for affected kitties.
Feline gingivostomatitis – This condition is caused by an allergic reaction in the cat’s body to the plaque on and around the teeth. Cats with this condition develop very red, painful swellings in the mouth, especially on the gum line that can cause difficulty eating and even grooming. In most situations, the best course of action is to surgically extract the teeth in order to stop the painful reaction.
Feline oral resorptive lesions – Over half of cats over the age of six will experience feline oral resorptive lesions, also called FORLs. This painful condition results when normal cells in the tooth called odontoblasts create holes in the tooth near the gum line. This results in something similar to a cavity. As the lesions progress they can become infected and they are often extremely painful. We do not know why some cats develop this condition, however most cats with one FORL lesion will develop many more over his or her lifetime. Affected cats may show pain, exhibit drooling, bleeding from the mouth, or have difficulty eating, but most often hide their pain and do not show any noticeable outward signs. Diagnosis is only made by skilled exams and radiographs of the teeth. It is important that all cats have a dental exam every year to get their teeth checked and radiographed to make certain they do not have this underlying painful condition. Treatment often includes extracting the affected teeth.
Good dental care for cats is such an important part of loving our devoted friends. Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center understands how vital it is and is here to help you understand dental disease and head it off any way we can.