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Caring for Cats’ Chompers 

A chat with a vet about feline dental health

Dr. Stephanie Kadasi is co-owner and the medical director of Feline Fine Cat Clinic, a cats-only clinic where cats can get their health needs addressed, without the presence of those sometimes-pesky pups. For this edition of Central Oregon Pets, Dr. Kadasi talks about the importance of cat dental care.

Central Oregon Pets: Why is dental care important for the health of my cat, and at what age should I start dental care?

Dr. Stephanie Kadasi: Regular dental care is very important for kitties, both in terms of their overall level of health and their daily quality of life. When not addressed, dental disease results in a higher overall bacterial load in a cat’s body, resulting in more accelerated damage to other organs, especially the heart and kidneys. Additionally, cats are prone to often unnoticed painful dental conditions that they like to “hide,” and without regular dental care, cats with these ailments suffer silently (or sometimes not so silently!), which can negatively affect their relationship with their owners and other pets in the house, as well as resulting in unwanted behaviors such as peeing outside of the litter box.

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Exact recommendations will depend on your veterinarian’s approach, and your individual pet’s needs. For most of our patients, we encourage a proactive approach to dental care, including starting annual dental cleanings under anesthesia by 2 to 4 years of age (sometimes earlier, sometimes later, depending on the patient), in order to keep their teeth in tip top shape, rather than following a reactive approach involving waiting until the dental disease is so severe that the patient needs dental surgery urgently due to oral pain.

If your pet will tolerate routine wellness dental care at home, there are also a few options you can discuss with your veterinarian, such as tooth brushing, water additives and oral gels. Home care will not replace the need for professional dental cleanings under anesthesia; however, it can prolong the health of your pet’s teeth.

COP: What are some of the issues cats encounter with their teeth?

SK: Just like with humans, cats develop gingivitis and tartar over time, which are uncomfortable, and can result in local and systemic infections and inflammation, as well as result in quicker progression of damage to tooth roots and bones within their jaw. Resorptive lesions are the most common dental problem we see, which occurs when a cat’s body “breaks down” portions of their teeth (similar to a cavity, but without a known cause)—these are very common and very painful, requiring dental extractions to relieve the discomfort. There are a variety of other diseases such as a terrible condition called stomatitis (general severe inflammation and ulceration of the gum tissue), oral masses, and more, that require a thorough look under sedation by a trained veterinarian to diagnose and treat.

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COP: My cat has some kickin’ breath. Is this a sign that they need dental care?

SK: Most of the time, yes! Especially if it has been longer than a year since their last dental cleaning (and even more so if they are over the age of 2 years old and have not had one yet). Additionally, if there is ever a sudden change in your cat’s breath, or in their ability to eat their food, or a new sensitivity to being pet around the face, etc, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian ASAP to make sure there is not a painful dental condition affecting your pet’s health.

COP: What are some things that surprise humans about cats’ dental health?

SK: Mainly that cats need regular dental care, just like humans! We often hear “my cat never needed this 20 years ago!” when really, your cat likely would have benefited from regular oral care back then, we just didn’t know better. To the detriment of our feline friends, for many years owners and much of the veterinary community essentially “ignored” preventative dental care for cats, but now that we “know better,” it is time to “do better.”

Feline FineCat Clinic
61249 S. Hwy 97, Suite 120, Bend

About The Author

Nicole Vulcan

Nicole Vulcan has been editor of the Source since 2016. While the pandemic reduced "hobbies" to "aspirations," you can mostly find her raising chickens, walking dogs, riding all the bikes and attempting to turn a high desert scrap of land into a permaculture oasis. (Progress: slow.)
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