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July 2024

Periodontal Disease in Cats: Signs and Treatment


What is Dental Disease?

‘Dental disease’ is an umbrella term which describes a series of dental-related ailments – the most prevalent being gingivitis, periodontitis, and tooth resorption.

Cats & Gingivitis

Gingivitis is a condition which causes the gums to become red, inflamed, and swollen. It’s caused by a build-up of plaque, which gradually hardens and travels under the gumline – wearing down the gums and worsening over time.

If left untreated gingivitis can develop into periodontal disease – which is far more serious.

Preventing Gingivitis

Preventing gingivitis is as simple as regularly removing plaque by brushing your cat’s teeth. This needs to be done with cat-friendly products, as human brushes are too harsh, and toothpaste designed for people can contain ingredients which are toxic to cats.

If a case of gingivitis is left untreated, it can develop into periodontal disease – which is much less simple to treat. Periodontal disease is caused by an accumulation of tartar (a hard mineral substance which develops from excess plaque) which has travelled below the gumline and caused damage to the supportive structures around the teeth. Chiefly affecting the bone and gums surrounding the teeth, periodontal disease will eventually lead to the teeth decaying. Periodontal disease cannot be reversed, and treatment often involves removing affected teeth.

Periodontal disease is classified into four stages, or ‘the four stages of dental disease’. Beginning with mild gingivitis and plaque, it progresses to tartar build up, and eventually tooth and bone loss.

Signs of Periodontal Disease in Cats

Look out for the following symptoms (allowing for variances in severity)
• Tartar (looks like a hard, yellow-coloured substance on the surface of the teeth).
• Red or inflamed gums – especially near the teeth.
• Drooling.
• Bleeding gums.
• Swollen face or jaw.
• A disinterest in food, or a change in eating habits (a cat who exclusively ate dry food may switch to preferring soft food, for example).

In consultation with expert vet Dr Alison Kemp from Petstock Vet, these are the standard levels used to assess your cat's oral health. While it’s best to prevent periodontal disease, it’s better to treat it in the early stages to prevent loss of teeth.

Stage One: Periodontal Disease

Stage one of cat periodontal disease can be hard to pick up with an untrained eye. It’s still important to pick up as doing so can prevent the disease progressing.
• Gingivitis present (inflammation of gums).
• Presence of tartar and bacteria.
• Swollen gums.
• A thick red line just around and next to the teeth.

Stage Two: Periodontal Disease

The next stage is often called ‘early periodontitis’ because the structures around the teeth begin to become affected. Stage two requires a vet to confirm the status of the disease.
• Mild bone loss (around 25%).
• Periodontal pockets form (where there is a loss of gum attachment to the tooth).
• Mild gum recession.
• Bad breath noticeable at this stage.

Stage Three: Periodontal Disease

Often called ‘mild periodontal disease’ among vets, stage three is categorised by further damage occurring to the structures around the teeth.
• Significant bone loss, around 25-50%.
• Gums will bleed easily when touched.
• Periodontal pockets (spaces or openings surrounding the teeth underneath the gum line) become deeper.
• Possible mouth ulcers.
• Bad breath highly noticeable at this stage.

Signs and Symptoms of Stage Four Periodontal Disease in Cats

Stage four of cat periodontal disease is the worst form of progression: your cat will be in significant pain and may need affected teeth removed.
• High bone loss (50% or higher).
• Extensive plaque and tartar.
• Deep periodontal pockets.
• Bad breath highly noticeable.
• Treating Periodontal Disease in Cats
If your cat has periodontal disease, treatment varies based on what stage they’re at. Earlier stages will most likely be treated with a vet-performed dental clean, followed by a continued cleaning program to prevent further damage.

No matter the stage, your cat will benefit from a professional teeth clean – our nurses perform free dental checks at Petstock, so book in with your local Petstock vet if you’re unsure about the condition of your cat’s teeth.

Free dental check at Petstock Vet

If you didn’t know, or didn’t realise just how serious, but also just how preventable periodontal disease in dogs is, you do now. If caught early, dental disease in dogs is fully reversible. Speak to your vet for a fully informed dental plan. Or take on b

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5 Tips for Feline Dental Health

It’s important to practice regular dental hygiene. Many cat owners only realise there’s an issue with their cat’s teeth when their cat develops bad breath or exhibits visibly decayed teeth, indicating a more advanced stage of the disease. Keeping your cat’s teeth clean is simpler than you might expect – it involves small but consistent changes. Here are some tips for maintaining your cat’s dental health at home.

  1. Give your cat daily dental treats to prevent plaque accumulation.
  2. Add drops in their water to add an extra layer of defence against plaque.
  3. Encourage chewing with dental toys.
  4. Consider switching to dental kibble and avoid entirely wet-food diets as chewing helps simulate a cleaning action.
  5. Brush your cat's teeth regularly.

How to Clean Your Cat’s Teeth

Cleaning your cat’s teeth is easier than you think! You can do it daily at home – just make sure you have pet-friendly brushes and paste as dental kits designed for human use can contain ingredients which are harmful to pets.

Tooth Resorption

Tooth resorption in cats occurs when the tooth structure breaks down, beginning inside the tooth, and then if left untreated this breakdown will progress to other parts of the tooth. What causes it is unknown – though it is fairly common and is one of the major dental diseases a vet will look for in a dental check-up.

Symptoms of Tooth Resorption in Cats

• Affected teeth will have a pinkish defect at the tooth line.
• As tooth resorption progresses, the pink lesion will cover more of the affected tooth or teeth.
• A reluctance to eat.
• Drooling.
• Irritability – particularly if you’re handling their face or touching the area near their jaw.

Treatment of Tooth Resorption in Cats
Tooth resorption must be treated by a vet – and their response will vary anywhere from monitoring the individual case to removing the tooth entirely. If you suspect your cat is suffering from tooth resorption, book in for a dental check up with Petstock vet (your first check with a dental nurse is free!).

Petstock Vet

Always speak to your local vet for more advice and information. Or you can visit one of our Petstock VET clinics in your local area.

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