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humans and other animals, most cats will develop dental disease;
even young cats can have problems with their gums and teeth.
Most problems will go undetected- it is unusual for a cat to
tolerate leaving their mouth open long enough for their owner to
have a really good look! This job is best left to the vet at your
cat’s annual health check.
Dental disease can vary from mild dental plaque with no
gingivitis, to moderate calculus (this is a plaque build-up which
has calcified and hardened), to severe periodontal disease
(affecting the bone around the tooth) and gum disease. Unlike
other animals, cats can also get a potentially serious tooth
condition in which holes can form at the gumline, leading
to pain and tooth erosion. The correct name for these is ‘feline
odontoclastic resorptive lesions’, but they are more commonly
known as ‘neck’ or ‘ring’ lesions. These holes may be visible,
but are sometimes located underneath the gum and may only be
detectable during a dental procedure.
Another important factor to keep in mind is that when dental
disease is present, this can lead to bacteria from the mouth
entering the blood stream and causing infection and
disease in other areas of the body, for example the kidneys,
the heart or the joints.
There are a number of factors involved in the formation and
progression of dental disease, but the most common one is diet.
It is important to provide food to help brush your cat’s teeth-
either a specially designed ‘dental’ dry food, and/or raw chicken
wings/necks (under supervision), or chunks of raw meat (but not
‘pet meats’!) to chew on a few times a week.
There are some infections that have been implicated in dental
disease, including Feline Calicivirus (one of the ‘flu’ viruses)
and FIV, and the vet’s assessment will take these into account.
Other steps you can take to care for your cat’s teeth include
brushing them with a specially designed finger brush or
toothbrush with pet toothpaste (not human toothpaste), or the
application of a veterinary mouth gel.
Most cats will need to have dental work on their teeth at least
once in their lifetime. This is performed during a general
anaesthetic and includes scaling the teeth to remove any
build up, probing the teeth to check for any holes in the
enamel and polishing the teeth to smooth the surface and
delay future plaque build up. Sometimes teeth have severe
infection or ‘ring lesions’ and can’t be saved so need to be
removed, and this is done at the same time. Cats are routinely
given a course of antibiotics after a dental to treat the
bacterial infection that accompanies dental disease. Some cats
will need to have dental work on a regular basis.
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