Friday, February 15, 2013

February is National Pet Dental Health Month!

Orange cat with fractured canine and gingivitis
Annual oral exams are important!
Many people think that as long as their cat is still eating, their dental health is great! Unfortunately, this is not often the case.

 The American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) has this to say about the diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease:
“Unfortunately, other than bad breath, there are few signs of the disease process evident to the owner, and professional dental cleaning and periodontal therapy often comes too late to prevent extensive disease or to save teeth. As a result, periodontal disease is usually under-treated, and may cause multiple problems in the oral cavity and may be associated with damage to internal organs in some patients as they age…. Studies in dogs have shown that periodontal disease is associated with microscopic changes in the heart, liver, and kidneys.”

Feline resorptive lesion on a canine tooth
Resorptive lesion has broken through the tooth from below
In cats and dogs, much dental disease occurs beneath the gum tissue where we can’t see it – so even if your cat’s teeth are pearly white, there may be problems eating away at the tissues that keep your cat’s teeth firmly rooted in their sockets. Most cat “cavities” or resorptive lesions start below the gumline as well, eroding the roots of the teeth first, before they start to affect the crown or visible portion of the tooth. These resorptive lesions are so painful that even while sleeping under anesthesia, cats will react strongly to gentle probing of the affected tooth! In the canine tooth pictured here, a small red defect in the tooth is visible, but if you look at the x-ray pictured below, most of the internal structure of the tooth is destroyed, and the root of the tooth has completely fused with the jaw. This cat had already lost the other lower canine to disease.

Because of this, it is generally a good idea to have your cat’s teethcleaned before visible disease appears. If we can clean the teeth before they are damaged, we can keep the periodontal ligament healthy and strong, and help prevent damage that may cause the loss of your cat’s teeth.

Radiograph of a diseased canine tooth
Tooth destruction
In addition to scheduling regular, routine dental cleanings as insurance against oral decay, you can supplement your cat’s diet with oral health diets such as Science Diet Oral Care or Royal Canin Oral Sensitive 30, or any diet that has a larger-sized kibble that cats have to actually crunch on. Most cats that eat regular maintenance diets end up swallowing the majority of their tiny dry kibble whole! The Veterinary Oral Health Council has compiled a list of foods, treats and oral health products that have been scientifically proven to improve oral health in cats and dogs.

Just imagine what your own mouth would feel like if you went for long periods of time without brushing your teeth! According to the AmericanAnimal Hospital Association, dental check-ups should begin when your patient is five months old. At Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, we look in your cat’s mouth at every visit! We recommend a fluoride treatment around 6 months of age, and at that time, your cat gets a full oral exam under anesthesia with dental charting of his or her baseline oral health. We can also make sure that all of your cat’s baby teeth have fallen out and all the adult teeth have erupted appropriately. Just like some humans need orthodontic care because their bite is not correct, some cats have misaligned teeth that can eventually cause sores in the mouth, jaw pain or difficulty eating. Once we have recorded your cat’s baseline oral health, we can then make an individualized recommendation on when next to schedule an oral exam or cleaning. At minimum, your cat’s teeth should be examined once a year.

VOHC Greenies treats
Greenies treats - available in our office in 5 yummy flavors!
There are many reasons to take an active role in promoting good oral health in your cat. Periodontal disease is a very hard-to-detect infection that can not only cause pain when eating, but causes bone loss in the jaw and tooth loss, as well as heart, liver and kidney disease in the long run.  If such an infection were not hidden inside the mouth, but plainly evident on the bodies of our cats, it would be much more obvious the level of concern this matter should cause. Unfortunately, because our cats are often resistant to having their mouths examined, so oral health tends to be more “out of sight, out of mind”.

If it has been a while since your cat has had his or her teeth examined, celebrate National Pet Dental Health Month by calling your veterinary hospital and scheduling a checkup!


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    1. Thanks for the feedback! We strive to provide important and pertinent information for new and experienced cat owners, alike!

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