Periodontal Disease in Cats
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Unfortunately, oral diseases in cats are more common than we'd like to be. This is especially so in older adult cats. The threat to their oral health can mean potential discomfort and infection, affecting their overall health more than we may think. While the food cats eat can give them a somewhat odorous breath, it is important to spot the difference between bad breath and disease.
Periodontal disease is another word for gum disease and can be due to a range of conditions. One of the worst progressions of this disease is called periodontitis, the inflammation of the gums which can lead to bleeding gums and even bone and tooth loss. The build up of tartar and/or abscesses in the mouth can be symptoms of feline periodontitis, so contacting a veterinarian when spotted is imperative. AnimalWised provides all the information on the causes, symptoms and methods of prevention for periodontal disease in cats.
What is periodontal disease
Periodontal disease includes various infectious conditions which generate progressive inflammation in the skeletal and muscle structures which support the teeth. Currently, it is estimated that around 80% of the world's feline population suffers from periodontitis to some degree or another. This disease is the main cause of tooth loss in adult cats and can severely threaten their teeth.
Causes of feline periodontitis
Like most dental problems, peridontitis in cats begins with the formation of bacterial plaque on teeth and gums. When we don't brush our cat's teeth well enough, remnants of food accumulate between teeth and gums. This food residue acts as its own form of sustenance to the bacteria present in a cat's mouth, using it to reproduce rapidly and create the plaque. By three years of age, 70% of cats will show some signs of oral disease.
As saliva comes in contact with this plaque, its minerals react with the enamel of the tooth. This meeting of bacteria and enamel results in something called tartar. The tartar adheres to the teeth where bacteria continues to reproduce and feed, opening their way under gums and causing gingivitis (inflammation of the gums). When gingivitis is not treated quickly, the bacteria reaches the tissues and bones which support the teeth eventually leading to periodontal disease.
Symptoms of periodontal disease in cats
Periodontal disease progresses rapidly and silently, so it is essential to recognize its early symptoms to allow for an early diagnosis. Remember to periodically check the mouth of your cat and do not hesitate to go immediately to the vet if you observe something unusual.
Clinical signs of feline periodontitis:
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Bleeding and redness of the gums
- Excessive drooling (sometimes accompanied by blood)
- Difficulty chewing (usually resulting in loss of appetite)
- Constant impetus to touch or scratch the mouth
- Swelling of the mouth and face
- Secretions from the nose
When not treated in time, periodontitis results in gum recession, can compromise the nerves and leads to tooth loss. If the bacteria continue to advance and reach the bloodstream of the animal, they can affect the heart, liver and kidneys. This can result in serious infections and eventual insufficiency in these organs. When periodontal disease progresses sufficiently it can lead to a serious medical situation and because of these complications can be lethal. This is why it requires veterinary attention so that the stage of progression can be assessed and appropriate treatment taken.
Remember that teeth falling out in cats and the consequences of periodontal disease in cats can compromise their well-being and seriously affect their lifestyle. Seek a vet's advice, particularly if you have noticed more than one of these symptoms combined.
Treatment of feline periodontal disease in cats
When observing any anomalies in your cat's mouth, it is essential to ensure there is no underlying problem. In the majority of cases, this means a visit to the veterinary clinic. There, a professional will be able to verify the presence of tartar and/or gingivitis. Additionally, they can request clinical analysis and X-rays to see the progress of the bacteria into the bone structure of the mouth and jaw. If a diagnosis of periodontal disease is confirmed, the treatment will depend on the severity of the infection and its progress in an individual animal.
Generally, antibiotics are administered to control the progress and eliminate the bacteria. The specialist will likely also recommend a special feed for cats with gingivitis. When the disease is moderate and there is no loss of bone mass, a surgical procedure to remove tartar followed by a scale and polish are usually effective in reversing the damage.
However, when periodontitis is more advanced extraction of the tooth is usually inevitable. Once removed, antibiotics can be added directly into the socket to aggressively treat infection. Additionally, in severe cases, the treatment may also extend to any organs affected by the progression of bacteria through the body.
How to prevent periodontal disease in cats
To prevent your kitty from developing periodontal disease, it is essential to provide adequate oral hygiene throughout their life. This should include periodic brushing with dental products suitable for cats. Human toothpaste can provide digestive problems for the cat, so don't use them. The reason we do this is because domesticated cats won't necessarily clean their own teeth with the sticks and stones they would have used in the wild. If you want a fuller picture of what you need to consider, check out our article on how to clean a cat's teeth properly. Also, when you are brushing, it is important you check their mouth properly so that you can look out for the following signs:
- Any change in gum color
- Unpleasant smell
- Tooth loss or chipping
You can also consult your vet if worried about changing your cat's feed to one which is better for their teeth. Some may recommend a BARF diet where the eating of raw meat can possibly prevent the accumulation of bacteria on the teeth. It can also have a positive affect on our cat's digestion, metabolism and immune system. However, there are some considerations to be made with this diet. Also, hard dry feed for cats can help remove plaque and tartar build up by acting as an abrasive.
As always with feline health, whether your cat is pedigree or mixed breed, preventive medicine is imperative. The risk of certain diseases and health conditions is too great and easily avoidable. Following a cat's vaccination and deworming schedules means they can have the bet protection. When something like periodontal disease occurs, a strong immunity is needed for a better prognosis. Also, providing adequate physical and mental stimulation along with a balanced diet helps keep your kitty strong and preserve good health.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to Periodontal Disease in Cats, we recommend you visit our Bacterial diseases category.