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Cats Also Prone to Dental Disease BY LEISA JENNINGS

February is National Pet Dental Health Month, promoting awareness of oral problems in dogs and cats. Many people have the misconception that dental disease is primarily a concern for dogs. In fact, feline dental care is perhaps the most overlooked and under-treated area in small animal medicine. Approximately two-thirds of cats over age 3 have some degree of dental disease. Unfortunately, dental problems can go unnoticed by pet owners until the disease is in advanced stages. Cats have a tendency to be rather noncompliant for at-home (and often in-clinic) oral inspections. The initial signs include halitosis, decreased appetite, chewing with discomfort, dropping food, excessive drooling, bloody saliva, pawing at their mouth or shaking their heads. Often these initial signs are overlooked until they result in weight loss, which typically occurs after a prolonged period of dental disease and discomfort. Cats are affected by many of the same dental problems as dogs, such as periodontal disease, fractured teeth and oral masses. Bacteria from periodontal disease has detrimental

Cats are affected by many of the same dental problems as dogs...

effects on the entire body. However, cats frequently experience diseases such as tooth resorption and stomatitis. Tooth resorption is the gradual destruction of a tooth that occurs at the gum line or just below it. Normal bone cells are eroded or resorbed by the body, resulting in a hole in the tooth. Once the sensitive parts of the tooth are exposed, these lesions are intensely painful. Stomatitis is a more severe form of inflammation than typical gingivitis. It can involve any soft tissue in and around the mouth and throat. This inflammation can transition into oral ulcers and become infected. Stomatitis can also be very painful. The exact causes of tooth resorption and stomatitis are unknown. We do know that cats with stomatitis have an abnormal immune response. It is theorized that bacterial plaque, food or environmental factors may serve as triggers. It has also been speculated that certain viruses may play a role. Nothing has been definitively linked to the development of either disease. The best strategy is early detection through oral exams and dental cleaning.

Dr. Leisa Jennings received her doctor of veterinary medicine in 2006 at the University of Georgia. She currently works as a small companion animal practitioner at BridgeMill Animal Hospital.

SIXES LIVING | February 2016

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