What Is Cat Dental Disease And How To Prevent It

what is dental disease in cats

Dental disease in cats is extremely common. Your cat’s teeth are just as prone to decay as yours are. Without care your kitty is at risk from a number of oral diseases.

In this article you’ll discover all about feline dental disease, the symptoms and how you can help keep your kitty’s teeth clean and healthy. We’ll be looking at tartar, what causes it, and how you can slow down build up.

You’ll discover what breed of cat are more commonly affected, plus what age your kitty should start regular checkups. We’ll also look at periodontal disease and how your vet will diagnose it.

You’ll learn how to brush you cat’s teeth and the best toothpaste to use. Plus, foods that help break up plaque.

A little bit about your cat’s teeth

Your cat will have two sets of teeth in her lifetime just like humans. She’ll have 26 baby teeth and 30 adult teeth.

Unlike humans though, your cat’s teeth are evolved for seizing prey and tearing flesh. Cats teeth don’t have as many flat surfaces as those of dogs or humans.

Your cat isn’t able to chew food unlike her doggy friends, as many of her teeth are are pointy in shape and not designed for chewing. Cats have fewer molars than we do.

If you watch your kitty eating, you’ll notice she breaks her food up into smaller pieces and then swallows it whole. In contrast, dogs chew their food as they have teeth with flat surfaces.

This means they’re are far less prone to cavities. These are little black coloured holes found on a tooth’s flat surface.

Cat’s get holes in their teeth, but they’re the same colour as the tooth. This is known as resorption and is very common.

Why you should never ignore dental disease in cats

Dental disease in cats is something to be taken seriously. Your kitty’s health could be at serious risk if ignored. Bacteria can spread deep into the tooth causing infection.

Your cat’s internal organs may also be at risk, affecting the heart valves and kidneys. This is why it’s so important you get your cat’s teeth checked.

Dental disease can be reversed if caught in it’s early stages. It will be less traumatic for your cat as well, and she’ll go on to lead a happy life free from pain.

Some insurance policies cover dental treatment in cats so it’s always worth checking. You could save a lot of money by shopping around.

What are the symptoms of dental disease in cats?

Cats are clever at hiding pain and discomfort. This makes it very hard for you as a cat parent. There are some signs though that you may not associate with tooth pain.

Unfortunately, most dental disease in cats occurs beneath the gumline so not always visible. The only time you’ll notice anything is when the disease has already progressed.

Does your cat seem off her food?

feline dental disease can cause loss of appetite

While it’s normal for your cat to eat less from time to time, it’s not normal if she seems in pain. A cat with dental disease is likely to stop eating dried food.

Try putting a dish of soft foods next to one with kibbles. If your cat ignores the dried food it may a sign she can’t eat it.

Cats can be very finicky, but a sudden dislike of favourite kibbles could mean it’s painful for her to eat them. Try watching your cat eat and see if she’s avoiding one side of her mouth.

Drooling

Drooling is common with dogs but not so much with cats. The only time you may see your cat drool is if she’s totally relaxed.

It’s a worrying sign though if your cat is drooling constantly, as well as having bad breath. Blood in your cat’s drool is a definite sign of dental disease requiring urgent attention.

Other signs your cat may be suffering discomfort from dental disease are pawing at her mouth or shaking her head. It’s been found that over 80% of cats have problems with their teeth or gums by the time they’re three years old.

What causes dental disease in cats?

As we’ve already seen, cats have totally different tooth structures to ours. Though cavities are rare, dental disease is prevalent among felines.

Your cat’s diet may play a role in developing dental problems. Feeding only wet food does nothing to stop plaque forming.

Some food may get stuck in small pockets around the teeth. This quickly encourages a build up of bacteria. Many vets encourage the addition of dried food in your cat’s diet to remove plaque.

Feeding your cat kibbles may help dislodge bits of plaque, though this hasn’t been entirely proven. Cat’s don’t chew their food, so kibbles don’t get much chance to scrape the teeth.

Bacteria from rotting food, can irritate your cat’s gums making them red and inflamed. This is similar to what humans and dogs suffer from.

What is periodontal disease in cats and how to prevent it

regular checkups to prevent dental disease in your cat

If you ignore plaque and allow bacteria to build up, your cat could develop periodontal disease. This affects the tissue surrounding the tooth.

Your kitty will suffer from receding gums and possible tooth loss unless it’s treated. If caught in the early stages periodontal disease can be reversed.

Most vets recommend annual checkups, and six monthly if your cat has suffered from any form of dental disease. Just think of it like you visiting your dentist every year!

How to care for your cat’s teeth.

It’s never too late to start looking after your furry friend’s teeth, but ideally start from kittenhood. If you adopted your cat at an older age, chances are she may already be suffering from dental problems.

Your kitten should start having oral examinations from about 8-10 weeks old. Your vet will do a series of checks while giving her first vaccinations.

If you adopt your cat from a rescue center she will have been checked over and may have been been given any required treatments. This will have included vaccinations but you’ll still advised to get her examined regularly for dental disease.

Brushing your cat’s teeth

how to brush a cats teeth

The idea of brushing your cat’s teeth may seem intimidating, but with patience and a lot of praise it can be done. Firstly, you need to get kitty used to having her lips lifted up, exposing her teeth

You could do this while she’s sitting on your lap. Make sure your cat is calm and relaxed, and gently brush your fingers along the side of her mouth.

Then try very gently lifting her lips. Do this a few times so your kitty gets starts tolerating it. This could take a few hours or days depending on your cat.

The next step I recommend is putting a tiny piece of toothpaste on your finger tip and letting your cat sniff it. She may try licking the paste if it smells good.

Try lifting her lip slightly and rub the gums and teeth with your finger. Don’t worry if you can’t do this first time.

It can take a while for your cat to tolerate this new routine! Even if you only manage a couple of seconds it’s ok.

Don’t give up if your cat seems stressed about the whole thing. Just keep practicing and praise your cat even if she only lets you touch her mouth for a few seconds.

Using a toothbrush

Once your cat gets used to you rubbing her gums with your finger, start using a toothbrush. You can buy toothbrushes designed for cats.

Alternatively, one for babies is fine. Just as long as it’s very small. Never use toothpaste for humans as it can be very harmful to your cat if swallowed. Toothpaste formulated for cats is usually available in different meaty flavours and contains enzymes for abrasive cleaning.

Gingivitis, a common dental disease in cats

Gingivitis is a condition normally associated with humans, but cats are also prone to it. The tiny spaces between your cat’s teeth and gums are breeding grounds for bacteria.

Bits of food and debris get trapped in these spaces, and resulting infections make the gums appear red and inflamed. You may even notice signs of blood along the edge of the gums.

A virus may be the culprit

lysine for cats

Gingivitis may not always be the result of trapped foods. It’s possible your cat may have a virus. Calcivirus not only causes inflamed gums, but your cat may also have runny eyes and a stuffy nose.

Treatment is usually a course of antibiotics, but there is a natural way to treat it as well. You still need to get treatment from a vet, but lysine has been found to slow down progression of the virus.

You can buy this in powder form as a supplement. Cats don’t make this essential amino acid, but rely on diet to get it. Some cats just don’t have enough lysine in their body to fight infection and giving it to your cat in supplement form is easy.

What is feline stomatitis and how do I know my cat has it?

Feline stomatitis is a dental disease that can cause a lot of pain and discomfort. It’s caused by an overreaction of the immune system to plaque.

As I previously mentioned, loss of appetite, excessive drooling and bad breath are all signs of dental disease. The only way to if your cat has stomatis is to see your vet.

In it’s advanced stages, stomatitis could prove life threatening to your cat. The disease could spread to other organs which is why it’s vital to get your cat examined.

Stomatitis can be treated, but sadly would require all your cat’s teeth to be extracted. This could prove life saving and an end to all the pain and misery.

Your kitty will still be able to eat as cats are good at adapting. Soft foods will be the only option to start with. However, your cat may even be able to eat kibbles in time.

Keep your cat’s teeth clean for a happy, healthy kitty!

In this article you’ve seen how important it is to look after your cat’s teeth. In fact, it’s just as important as your own dental care regime.

We’ve discovered a few interesting facts about your cat’s teeth, and why your kitty is prone to dental disease. You’ve seen how easy it can be to brush your cat’s teeth.

You’ve also seen a few tips and tricks for cleaning your cat’s teeth without being scratched or hated! Setting aside time each day for grooming your cat is important.

tooth cleaning should be part of your grooming ritual, and needn’t take much time. As I mentioned earlier, it may take time for your cat to tolerate, but you’ll be rewarded with patience and kindness.

You’ve discovered a few types of dental disease in cats including gingivitis and stomatitis. You’ve also learned how you can help prevent them and treatments your vet may suggest.

Just imagine how you’d feel if you suffered pain and discomfort due to oral neglect. Your cat can’t tell you how she feels, which is why it’s so important to look after her teeth.

Remember, your kitty can’t pick up a toothbrush and clean her teeth. If your’s can though, I’d love to see the video lol!

Please feel free to share your experiences or comments below as I’d love to hear from you

Wishing you a purrfect day 🙂
Take care
Kathy

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4 comments

  1. Hello, I like your post! It is exciting and in detail. I never think cats can have so many teeth diseases like gingivitis and stomatitis. It is terrific to know! I’m not a very big fan of cats, but I like to know about them more because my daughter has two cats (she love them, and it is OK with me). After reading your article, I will examine my daughter how much she knows about diseases and how she takes care of her cats. I will show your post to her so she can read it.
    I like your explanation on how to clean teeth, and I will try to clean using your tips ( it will be a lot of fun for my grandson). I use to buy teeth cleaning bones for my dog ( he passed away three weeks ago), I’m wondering do the cats have a similar product I can buy?

    1. Thank you Jidrone, yes, our pets can have the same illnesses and conditions that we get. I’m sure your daughter will find this post useful. So sorry you lost your dog.

  2. Hey Kathy, really enjoyed this post on cat dental hygiene. I never realised how important of a topic it is. I will take this information on board and share it with my fellow cat lovers. I really enjoyed your writing style and will definitely be back to learn other crucial bits of info about one of my favourite animals on the planet!
    All the best
    -Will

    1. Thank you Will. Yes, most people would probably never imagine cats need dental treatment! I’m glad to hear that cats are one of your favourite animals, and I’m sure your cat loving friends will enjoy this article as well 🙂

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