Feline dental care is one of small animal medicine’s most overlooked and under-treated areas. Cats are affected by many of the same dental problems that affect dogs, including periodontal diseases, fractured teeth, and oral growths. Cats are also plagued with tooth resorption and inflammation.
More than half of cats over three years old have tooth resorption(s) (TR). These tooth defects have also been called cavities, neck lesions, external or internal root resorptions, FORLs, and cervical line erosions. Affected tooth roots often erode and disappear when they are replaced by bone. The lower third premolars and molars are most commonly affected; however, tooth resorptions can be found on any tooth. The specific cause for tooth resorption in cats (and dogs) is unknown, but theories supporting an autoimmune response have been proposed.
Cats affected with tooth resorption may show excessive salivation, bleeding in the mouth, or difficulty eating. Tooth resorptions can be pretty painful, but many affected cats hide their pain, so these issues may not be identified until a visit to the Veterinarian for an oral examination with x-rays. The Veterinarian will use diagnostic aids, including an explorer dental probe or cotton swab applied to the suspected resorption; when the probe touches the lesion, it causes discomfort and jaw spasms. In this case, the vet will extract the affected tooth to relieve the animal.
Cats can also be affected by stomatitis, an inflammatory condition. The cause of this disease has not been determined, but an immune-related cause is suspected. Signs in an affected cat include bad breath, difficulty swallowing, weight loss, and excessive salivation. X-rays often reveal moderate to severe periodontal disease with bone loss. Managing a case of oropharyngeal inflammation can be challenging. Often attempts at conservative therapy are not effective, nor is medical care. Extracting specific or all the teeth resolves the syndrome in 60 per cent of the cases. The remaining 40 per cent require life-long medication to manage this condition.
Some cats have fractured teeth from cat fights and other forms of external trauma. The canines are most commonly affected. Fractured teeth are naturally sensitive because the nerve is exposed. The affected tooth can be sensitive even if the nerve is not exposed. Root canal therapy or extraction generally brings relief.
Cats are also affected by cancer in their mouths. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of oral cancer. Less common feline oral malignancies include melanoma, fibrosarcoma, lymphosarcoma, and undifferentiated carcinomas. Not all feline oral swellings are malignant Biopsies are essential for diagnosis.
Cats can be affected by many oral and dental conditions, which, once diagnosed and treated, can result in cats being pain-free. Regular dental checks with your Veterinarian can identify if there are any potential issues and treat any that may be present. If your cat has a dental issue, your vet may need to take an x-ray to see the entire tooth and any underlying issues. This ensures correct diagnosis and treatment.
Join Brighton Vet for Dental Awareness Month in August and take advantage of a free dental check for your cat.
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