Has your cat become more grumpy as they age? Does your feline friend seem to be in pain or discomfort, especially when eating?
You might not have thought about it, but they might be suffering from some form of tooth or gum disease.
This is a common problem in cats – in fact, the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine reports that between 50% and 90% of cats older than 4 years of age suffer from some kind of dental disease. That’s a big number – more than half of all cats that are 4 years old or older!
Since our feline friends can live for much longer than that, they might be in pain and discomfort for the majority of their lives.
Fortunately, most such dental problems in cats can be treated.
First, though, you have to know what the main problems are:
- Gingivitis: Swelling, redness, and even bleeding can occur if your cat has gingivitis. It can lead to your cat refusing to eat hard food, experience pain when eating, develop a drool or halitosis (bad breath). Gingivitis can be prevented and treated by brushing your cat’s teeth – just like in humans. You must, however, use special toothpaste for this, since toothpaste for humans is toxic to cats.
- Periodontitis: Untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, a serious condition where the tissue holding your cat’s teeth in their mouth breaks down. This leads to tooth loss and possibly even life-threatening infections. Periodontitis should be treated by a trained vet, since it involves removing plaque and polishing teeth. In extreme cases, teeth might have to be removed to save your kitty’s life!
- Tooth resorption: This dental problem begins within the cat’s tooth (or teeth) – the tooth structure breaks down from within, leading to tooth loss, and this can spread to other teeth as well. Between 30% and 70% of cats show signs of this problem, but it’s easy to miss if you don’t know what to look for. In cases of tooth resorption, treatment ranges from controlling the pain and progression of the process, to removing the tooth or teeth in question.
You can put your cat on a special diet to improve their dental health, but it’s always good to consult with a certified veterinarian to figure out the best way to make sure your cat’s teeth and gums are healthy and strong.
Dental disease can cause your feline companion great pain and even threaten their life, so it’s something you should take seriously!