Feline Periodontal Disease

The most frequent complaint of senior pet owners is dental problems, including bad breath and difficulty eating. More than 85% cats over four years of age have some form of periodontal disease, a painful inflammatory condition in which bacteria attack the gums, ligament, and bone tissues that surround and support the teeth. Senior cats, those seven or more years of age, are especially susceptible to periodontal disease.

That’s why it’s important to have your cat’s teeth examined by your veterinarian on a routine basis. If left unchecked, bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and travel to major organs, starting infection there and seriously compromising the health of your cat.

Most periodontal infections begin simply enough. Plaque, which is composed of bacteria, salivary proteins, and food debris, builds up in the groove between teeth and gums, causing irritation, redness, and swelling. Eventually pockets form and deepen, allowing bacteria to damage the tissues that hold teeth in place.

At this stage, bacteria from the oral infection have a clear path to the animal’s bloodstream and vital organs. The organs with the highest blood flow are most susceptible to infections: lungs, heart, kidneys, liver and even the brain. Damage to these organs caused by infection may shorten a cat’s life.

Look for these warning signs:

· Bad breath – one of the first signs of dental disease

· A yellowish-brown crust of plaque on the teeth near the gum line

· Red and swollen gums

· Pain or bleeding when your cat eats or when the mouth or gums are touched

· Decreased appetite or difficulty eating

· Loose or missing teeth

If your cat displays any of these signs, periodontal disease may be present.

Regular dental checkups are important to maintaining not only your cat’s oral health, but overall health as well. In fact, because cats age more quickly than humans, dental exams should become more frequent, perhaps every six months, as your pet ages. Think of it as a necessary part of your cat’s preventive care plan. Talk to your veterinarian about professional dental care and what you can do to keep your cat’s teeth and body healthy.

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