Welcome back to our discussion of feline dental health! Let’s jump back into it!
Along with the “usual” dental issues of tartar, gingivitis and broken teeth, cats are also prone to a couple “unique” diseases which are actually quite common for them: resorptive lesions and stomatitis.
Feline oral resorptive lesions (RL) are second only to periodontal disease in incidence of oral disease. They have only been recognized for about the last 40 years and have shown increasing frequency since the 1970’s. It unknown why they occur but seem to be related to the immune system. Cats that are infected with FIV or feline leukemia virus (both viruses affect the immune system) tend to be more prone to development of lesions. What we do know is that they result from the activation of cells called odontoclasts. These cells are responsible for the normal remodeling of tooth structure. In this disease process, they will continue to resorb tooth structure until the entire tooth is lost. It has been reported that 60% of cats over 6 years of age have at least one such tooth, and those that have one usually have more. These lesions can be excruciatingly painful, especially when they are advanced. However, most cats will not show evidence of oral pain, even when the tooth is fractured with an exposed root canal. Additionally, lesions may not be readily apparent, and tartar and inflamed gingival tissue usually overlie the lesion. Some resorptive lesions will lie just below the gumline. This is another reason that an annual dental exam and cleaning under anesthesia is warranted. Unfortunately, these lesions are progressive, and there is no medical management; the treatment for affected teeth is surgical extraction. Some examples of resorptive lesions are shown below:
Feline stomatitis (also called lymphocytic, plasmacytic gingivostomatitis) is a common, painful problem in many cats. It occurs in cats of all breeds and of all ages. The hallmark of this disease are bright red and inflamed gingiva which often extends to the roof of the mouth and throat areas. The severe forms of stomatits are caused by an exaggerated immune response to bacteria in the mouth. It is still unknown what triggers this excessive immune response, but a calicivirus has been implicated in several studies. Symptoms can include halitosis (bad breath), drooling, reluctance to eat, decreased or lack of grooming, and “lazy cats” (sleep a lot and not very active). Treatment includes extraction of all teeth except the canines (although these sometimes need to extracted too). Cats that have been affected for a long time (years) may also need medical management (frequently long-term steroid therapy) along with full mouth extraction. Full mouth extraction seems excessive, especially when many of these cats have healthy teeth, but there is a dramatic improvement in quality of life for these cats. I have had owners report that they have a whole new cat after extractions. After all, how fun is it to have a no-stop sore mouth?! Some examples of stomatitis shown below:
As always, if you have ANY concerns about your kitty’s teeth, stop on by or give us a call at (406) 728-0022! Spring is almost here, so it may be a good time for a little spring (teeth) cleaning!