Why is My Cat Losing Teeth?

By Matthew Nesbitt, Journalist specialized in animal research. March 5, 2018
Why is My Cat Losing Teeth?

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Your cat losing their teeth can seem like quite a shocking occurrence. It's not something you may expect to happen and it can make you worry about their overall health. If your cat is a kitten, losing their teeth is a natural aspect of their physical development. They are called ‘milk teeth’ and this process is similar as to what happens in we humans. However, if your adult cat loses their teeth, other considerations need to be made. More often than not it is the symptom of an oral injury, infection or underlying condition. A healthy adult cat with fully developed adult teeth should not continue to lose teeth or even pieces of their teeth.

If you have observed a new gap in your cat's smile, you may want to discover why your cat is losing teeth. Fortunately, AnimalWised is here to help. Following the advice in this article you can improve their oral hygiene as well as troubleshoot for any possible health problems.

Kittens: losing their baby teeth

Cats are born without teeth as their mouth and tongue are designed to suckle on their mother's teats for milk. During the weaning process, the little ones begin to start developing ‘milk teeth’ so they can graduate to solid food. This usually occurs from the third week of life onward.

The first set consist of 26 individual teeth, but they will only become visible around the 6th or 7th week. At this point, the teeth are small yet sharp, especially the canines. This means even a bite from a kitten can be quite painful.

At around 3 or 4 months of age, cats will start to experience the loss of their milk teeth. This is when the baby teeth give rise to their adult teeth creating the dental structure of an adult cat. These consist of 30 individual teeth, thicker and more durable than the previous set. Their growth can cause a certain amount of discomfort in young cats as they grow through the gums.

During this transition of baby to adult teeth, your kitten may nibble on furniture, objects or whatever is lying around. This is the same as when toddlers are teething. Its purpose is to alleviate the discomfort caused by the teeth coming through. To avoid damage to your property (as well as yourself), it's best to have toys or teething products to help them get through this time. Additionally, it can be difficult to feed due to the pain, so you may want to add a little warm water to their food in case it is too hard to for them to break down.

We recommend you check your kitten's teeth daily during this process to avoid any improper growth which can lead to pain and infection. If you do detect any anomalies in this development, take your cat to the veterinarian so they can give them a look over and see if any particular action needs to taken.

Why is My Cat Losing Teeth? - Kittens: losing their baby teeth

Is it normal for adult cats to lose teeth?

An adult cat's set of teeth should be composed of 30 individual teeth. The powerful canines (the ones which look like fangs) stand out the most and are used to tear flesh from their obligate carnivore diet. Its upper jaw should have 6 incisors, 2 canines (1 on each side), 6 premolars (3 on each side) and 2 molars (one at each end). In the bottom jaw is the same with the exception of 4 premolars instead of 6.

It is not uncommon for a cat to lose 1 or 2 permanent teeth during their adult life. However, tooth loss for adult cats in general is a sign of imbalance in their body. Many pet owners neglect the oral hygiene of their cats. This can lead to the accumulation of tartar and can make it difficult to tell whether they have lost a tooth.

Loss of teeth in adult cats: possible causes

When an adult cat loses a tooth, we should be alert to the possibility of infection or injury in their mouth. Therefore, it is essential to periodically check the teeth, gums, tongue and mouth cavity of your cat. When you do this, you need to look out for any wound, change of color, change of texture, excessive drooling, unpleasant aroma (in the form of bad breath) or pus. If you do notice the health of your cat's mouth is low or there is something specifically wrong, a vet check-up will be necessary.

The main factor associated with loss of teeth in adult cats is feeding. Felines, unlike humans, do not have bite surfaces[1] on their permanent teeth (which allow chewing). For a wild cat, this is not usually a problem as their diet consists of almost solely raw meat. Its powerful molars act like scissors which slice the food and negate the need to chew.

However, domestic cats generally only eat dry feed and wet food in the form of patés. On the one hand, this is a healthy diet for cats which avoids the possibility of developing many of the pathologies related to the consumption of raw meat (such as toxoplasmosis). On the other hand, it can promote poor oral hygiene due to the accumulation of tartar caused by food waste.

When we do not provide adequate oral hygiene for our cats, the excessive accumulation of tartar on their teeth and gums can lead to problems. These include dental injuries (such a broken or loose teeth) and some related diseases such as gingivitis and periodontal disease. If we don't deal with these dental problems swiftly, it can lead to the loss of teeth, possible infection and digestion problems.

This lack of good oral hygiene can also lead to the loss of teeth in other ways. The weakened teeth are more likely to come loose or be knocked out if they have a fall or even get into a fight. Even healthy teeth can become damaged in this way. If they are snagged or are hit against something hard, it can cause the loss or damage of teeth.

Why is My Cat Losing Teeth? - Loss of teeth in adult cats: possible causes

How to prevent the loss of teeth in adult cats

The best way to prevent tooth loss in cats is to ensure they have good overall oral hygiene. This won't just protect against tartar, but will help your cat stay healthy in general and help fight infection. Part of this job is to keep your cat's teeth brushed. If you don't know how often you should do so or even how you may clean your cat's teeth, AnimalWised has this article on how to clean your cat's teeth for advice.

Another important consideration in keeping your cat's teeth healthy is to consider their diet. Some veterinarians may suggest a raw food diet (known as BARF) for your cat. However, making sure your cat has all the nutrients you need doesn't necessarily mean a raw food diet. Knowing what is the best diet for your cat is more about assessing their overall nutritional needs which can just as easily be achieved with commercially available feed. Also, your cat's own tastes may have something to say about what they will want to eat.

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 Why is My Cat Losing Teeth?, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.


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