Dental issues are common in cats. Because cats can be very good at hiding pain and illness, cat parents may not know that something is going on until obvious outward signs appear. Many cat parents are also reluctant to brush their cats’ teeth or are unaware of the fact that teeth brushing is even needed for pets. Additionally, the sad fact that cats don’t get taken to the veterinarian for routine health exams as often as dogs are, means they don’t have the opportunity to have their mouths checked. Good at-home dental hygiene and professional cleanings are important for keeping your pet’s mouth healthy just as those things are important to our own dental health.
Signs of Dental Problems
If you aren’t caring for your cat’s teeth on a regular basis, you may not realize a problem has developed until it has advanced so far that outward signs appear. Signs of dental problems or discomfort can include:
- Pawing at mouth
- Foul breath
- Sensitive mouth
- Vocalization during chewing
- Receding gums
- Red or inflamed gums
- Loose, broken, or missing teeth
- Tilting the head to chew on one side
- Dropping food from mouth
- Swallowing dry food whole
- No longer eating dry food at all
- Approaching food bowl and appearing hungry but then showing reluctance to eat
You may initially label the cat’s rejection of dry food or total rejection of all food as being a finicky feline but it has nothing to do with being picky and everything to do with oral pain.
The Cause of Dental Disease
Tartar build-up is the most common cause of dental disease. Plaque forms on the surface of the teeth and when it doesn’t get removed naturally, it hardens and forms tartar. This leads to gum inflammation and infection.
What You Should Do if You Suspect Your Cat has Dental Issues
If your cat is showing any of the signs listed above or you see tartar on the teeth, gum inflammation or if you notice a red line at the gum line, take your cat to the veterinarian for a dental exam. Your veterinarian will probably recommend a professional cleaning. This is a procedure done under anesthesia.
Your veterinarian may also recommend follow-up at-home care in the form of regular tooth brushing or the regular application of a dental spray, gel or foam.
Some cats accumulate tartar more quickly than others so that will determine how frequently a professional cleaning may be needed.