Oz: Oral hygiene care for pets can be quite challenging

People assume that their cat’s teeth are just fine, where in fact, cats are especially prone to a dental condition called tooth resorption.

Pet owners have to address the condition of their pet’s teeth at some point.

As humans, we are very used to maintaining our oral hygiene, by brushing at least twice a day.

Any dentist will instruct you to have a professional dental cleaning at least twice a year.

Most animals are not comfortable with their mouth being handled, so maintaining a daily oral hygiene routine for pets is quite challenging and most owners are unable to keep it.

Some pet owners don’t pay any attention to their pet’s dental condition, and sometime detect a problem only when it is advanced.

In dogs it’s easier to notice signs that the teeth need attention by bad breath and discolouration of the teeth by dental tartar and calculus.

A cat’s oral health is often overlooked. Cats are much more finicky about their mouth being opened and handled.

Their teeth are smaller and the changes in them are less visible.

People tend to assume that their cat’s teeth are just fine, where in fact, cats are especially prone to a dental condition called tooth resorption.

The tooth is composed of three parts. The pulp—also known as the root canal, where the tooth blood vessels, nerve and lymph tissue are found.

Around it there is the bony hard tooth called dentin, and the exterior protective layer covering the tooth is called enamel.

Tooth resorption is a very common dental disease in cats, where the enamel and dentin are progressively eroding till the tooth pulp is exposed.

Eventually, the tooth becomes irreparably destroyed.

This condition is very common and affects about 60 per cent of cats at some point of their life, usually after the age of five years old.

This condition is extremely painful, even though cats tend to not show any signs of pain.

The teeth lesions most commonly affect the premolar teeth, although as the disease progresses, more and more teeth are affected.

The tooth resorption starts just under the gum line and spreads from there. Over time, all areas of an affected tooth, from root to crown, may become involved.

The exact reason for this condition is still unknown.

Due to the high incidence percentage, there are numerous research studies being conducted trying to identify the cause for the condition and the means for its prevention.

The most common symptoms that cat owners can look for are if the cat tends to swallow the food without chewing it.

Tilting the head while eating and chewing only on one side of the mouth, sudden preference for strictly soft food and, in very advanced conditions, the cat may lose its appetite.

Diagnosis is done by a combination of visual, tactile and radiographic means.

The lesions will usually start out as little erosions along the gumline with associated inflammation and redness of the gums in the area.

They can progress to large holes in the teeth, and eventually can destroy most of the tooth.

In severe cases, the entire crown of the tooth can be lost and the gums tend to overgrow and overlap the missing tooth.

The most common treatment for the condition is by extracting the affected tooth.

An annual routine oral exam by your veterinarian is very recommended.

Your cat cannot voice its pain to you. Your cat may be under a great deal of pain every time it eats, or when something just touches its teeth.

Take your cat to be checked by its doctor and put your mind at ease that you’re not overlooking and missing a silent, yet severe, disease.