I CATCUR BY STEVE DALE
Cats are different. That’s not necessarily news that will stop the presses, but it’s
true in so many ways — including
inside their mouths.
While you might run to the dentist in agonizing pain, cats just carry
on. For a cat to signal “my mouth
hurts,” the pain has to be over-the-top excruciating. At this point, many
cats refuse food. But it’s not because
they’re finicky — it’s because it hurts.
“That’s probably where the idea
that cats are finicky comes from,”
said Bloomington, Minnesota, veterinarian Dr. Kate Knutson, a past
president of the American Animal
Hospital Association. She said when
there’s bacteria at and around the
gum line, that bacteria soon travels
through the cat’s system, potentially affecting kidney and even heart
function. Certainly, it’s not healthy
to have an unhealthy mouth.
While there are many types and
variations of dental disease in cats,
veterinary dentist Dr. Jan Bellows
of Weston, Florida, immediate past
president of the American Veterinary
Dental College, said there are three
especially important dental issues:
Tooth Resorption: Cavities
(common in people) are created
from the outside in. Dr. Bellows
explained that tooth resorption
begins at the root and travels up.
Leave it to cats to be different.
Rare in people, tooth resorption
is now increasingly diagnosed in
dogs (mostly because veterinarians have begun to look for it and
have X-ray equipment to find it),
though the issue is far more common in cats.
Dr. Bellows said that unlike so
many illnesses in cats, this is one
that owners might be able to diag-
nose. “While cats aren’t going to
typically tell you, ‘it hurts,’ take a
Q-tip and gently go over the gum
line. If the cat winces, it’s a good
guess tooth resorption is going on.”
Prevention is always best —
except that no one knows how to
prevent it. At one time, diet was
thought to be responsible, but that’s
not the case. It is true that cats who
have had the calici virus are predis-
posed to tooth resorption.
If one tooth is affected, Dr.
Bellows said there’s a 75 percent
chance that at least one other tooth
and often several teeth are affected.
Obviously a wincing cat is a
hurting cat. The only way (to date)
to effectively remove the pain is to
remove the affected teeth.
Stomatitis: Again, leave it to
cats. This condition occurs when
cats seem to become allergic to
their own teeth.
Despite the fact that stomatitis is not uncommon, relatively little is known about this
“It’s crazy how these cats devel-
op a hypersensitivity to their own
plaque,” Dr. Bellows said. “Even when
owners brush, the reality is that no
matter how often and how carefully
you brush your cats’ teeth, there
will still be some plaque. I believe in
dental care, of course — but it won’t
prevent stomatitis (or tooth resorp-
tion) for cats that are predisposed.”
Stomatitis is often diagnosed by
veterinarians eyeballing a crazily
inflamed bright red mouth.
Some veterinarians deal with the
inflammation using steroids and an
antibiotic. “This can temporarily
make a cat more comfortable, but
it’s hardly a very long-term solu-
tion,” Dr. Bellows said. Before long,
the cat requires a higher steroid
dose to control the inflammation
and eventually can develop diabe-
tes (as a side effect of the steroid).
And some cats become resistant to
one antibiotic, so another has to