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Small Animal (Dog, Cat)

Feline Dental Disease

By November 15, 2023 December 15th, 2023 No Comments

Feline Dental Diseases 

 By: Shelby Gadsby, DVM

Did you know that some studies have shown that over 50% of cats over the age of 3 years old will have some form of dental disease? That’s a good portion of our cat population!  Unfortunately, our feline friends are very good about hiding discomfort and pain, especially when it comes to dental diseases. In this blog post, we will discuss the most common types of dental diseases in cats and the signs that you can look out for at home. 


What are the common signs of dental disease? 

  1. Difficulty eating, such as dropping food or difficulty swallowing. It can also include a decrease in appetite or suddenly preferring wet food over dry. Weight loss may also be seen. 
  1. Drooling, with or without blood 
  1. Foul odor from the mouth 
  1. Pawing around the mouth 
  1. Shaking the head 
  1. Jaw chattering 


What are the common dental diseases in cats? 

  1. Gingivitis: This is an early stage of dental disease where the gum tissue becomes a dark pink to red color, inflamed, and swollen. It typically starts because of plaque buildup – plaque is a thin film overlying the tooth that houses bacteria, you cannot see this. Without daily brushing and other at home interventions, this plaque hardens into calculus. This calculus is the thick hard material that you can see built up on your cat’s teeth and can only safely and thoroughly be removed via a full dental cleaning with an ultrasonic scaler under anesthesia. The trapped bacteria then irritates the surrounding areas including the gum tissue, thus causing the inflammation known as gingivitis. 
  1. Periodontal disease: This is a progression of gingivitis. The trapped bacteria can then extend under the gumline, causing bone loss around the teeth. It can also cause tooth root abscesses and draining tracts. More advanced stages require teeth to be extracted and further progression can cause oronasal fistulas (a communicating hole between the nose and mouth) and even jaw fractures. 
  1. Resorptive lesions: This is a painful condition in cats and while the mechanisms of how the disease occurs is not fully understood at this time, essentially the body starts to eat away at the teeth and causes painful “holes” to form, where the blood vessels and nerves are exposed. Extraction is recommended for these painful teeth. 
  1. Stomatitis: This is an advanced and very painful inflammation within the mouth. This is a complex disease process that is also not completely understood at this time, but essentially the body is having an inflammatory reaction to the teeth. In mild cases, we might be able to get away with a dental cleaning under anesthesia and/or steroids and antibiotics to manage, but typically these cats need more aggressive treatments. Every case is different and if your cat is diagnosed with this condition, we recommend discussing the best plan of action with your veterinarian. Sometimes only “cheek teeth” extractions are required (i.e. all of the teeth behind the canines) to control this condition, while others may need full mouth extractions and/or steroids for life to control the inflammation. 


While we can’t necessarily prevent conditions like stomatitis or resorptive lesions, routine at home dental care is important to slow down the progression of gingivitis and periodontal disease. The Veterinary Oral Health Council has a list of tested and approved products to use for dental health on their website ( It is important for cats to have an annual wellness exam where your veterinarian can examine your cat’s teeth and make a plan for their dental health and overall health moving forward. 


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