Periodontal Disease in Cats

Maine Coon Cat

Like any other pets, cats can suffer from a variety of dental conditions, including periodontal disease. Of course, some of the most common ones are plaque, tartar, and cavities, but periodontitis can also affect many cats, especially geriatric patients.

In today’s article, we’re looking at how this condition is developed, its causes, its symptoms, and what can be done to treat it as best as possible.

What Is Periodontal Disease in Cats?

Also known as cat gum disease, periodontal disease is a condition that takes some time to develop, which is why it is more common in seniors.

Plaque and tartar are at the root of this health issue, and if pet owners don’t make sure that their cats have excellent oral hygiene, they have no way of preventing them from developing periodontal disease.

As its name suggests, ‘periodontal’ disease refers to any condition that does not affect the tooth itself. Sometimes, the amount of tartar that some cats get on their teeth hinders the way they can eat, but not only that — it also affects the health of their gums, which eventually leads to tooth pathologies, too.

Plague can rapidly harden into tartar, and once this has happened, removal is considerably more difficult. The calculus effectively irritates the patient’s gums to the point they cause entryways for any pathogens, including the bacteria that commonly exist in cats’ mouths.

Some cats can have excessive tartar growths on their teeth. Combined with poor gum health, this can lead to tooth loss. While periodontal disease takes several years to develop, once the process has reached a specific stage, it can no longer be reversed.

Symptoms

Cats can show a wide range of clinical signs, and they depend on the exact stage of their periodontal disease. Most cats tend to be in pain when they eat dry food, or they might be more reluctant to eat every now and then.

Other cats can develop halitosis, meaning bad breath, while others can have severe gingivitis, drool excessively, and become withdrawn because of the amount of pain they are in.

It’s also worth noting that cats that are about five months of age can get gingivitis while their teeth are changing. However, this usually does not involve periodontal disease or pathologic gingivitis and typically goes away on its own. It is perfectly normal for the kitten to be in pain due to the inflammation, but if you have any concerns, take her to the vet clinic for a check-up.

Periodontal disease is far more common in pets that are at least 7 to 8 years old, so practicing excellent oral hygiene is particularly important for them.

Different Stages

There are four stages of periodontal disease in cats. The first typically involves gingivitis. The second involves a deeper invasion and inflammation of the tissue, but with adequate treatment (surgery and local cleaning), the condition is still reversible at this point.

Stage 3 periodontal disease happens when almost half of the bone support of the tooth has become compromised. Most commonly, the tooth has to be extracted to prevent the spread of the disease to the surrounding teeth.

Finally, stage 4 periodontal disease is the most severe one of all, and it is reached when more than half of the bone support has been compromised. Tooth extraction is mandatory in this case as otherwise, the spread becomes inevitable. Your cat can lose all of the rest of her teeth if she does not receive treatment at this point.

Can Feline Periodontal Disease Be Treated?

The therapy that your veterinarian will recommend depends on the staging of the condition. As you might have noticed, stage 1 and stage 2 can lead to the tooth being saved, but stages 3 and 4 almost always require extraction.

Furthermore, this condition is often associated with bacterial complications due to chronic gingivitis. Depending on the severity of these oral infections, the veterinarian might have to administer antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and pain killers.

The vet will also make certain recommendations with regard to what you can safely feed to your cat keeping in mind that most pets have to be put on oral-specific diets.

Plaque removal for the rest of the teeth that might have not yet been affected is almost always necessary. In fact, some cats have to be taken to the vet clinic every several months for plaque and tartar removal, especially if they tend to develop it quickly.

Prevention

It might sound like a chore, but cleaning your cat’s teeth is possibly the best way of preventing her from getting periodontal disease. There are a variety of gels and cleaning solutions that can be used these days, and simply brushing your cat’s teeth regularly can make a significant difference.

Not only does poor oral health affect your cat on the whole due to the pain and local inflammation (and her inability to feed or even drink water properly), but it is also connected to various other health issues.

Both in humans and animals, poor oral health almost always leads to cardiovascular complications. So, unless you want your cat to have heart problems, you have to do your best to prevent periodontal disease.

Getting veterinary dental cleaning regularly is a good idea, and so is using a dental diet for your cat.

Periodontal disease tends to be more severe in cats with FIV or calicivirus.

Finally, we’d also like to note that dental issues are more common in certain breeds like Siamese or Oriental, so these have to be seen by a vet even more often.

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