There's no getting around it -- abscesses are nasty things. Not only are they painful, but left untreated a tooth abscess can actually blow a hole in Kitty's face as the pressure builds and the abscess bursts. It's rather amazing how much pus there is in a feline abscess.
If there's an abscess in your cat's mouth, it's probably due to tooth decay. Kitty's tooth may have fractured, or he has a bad case of dental disease. Feline ondoclastic resorptive lesions could also cause a tooth abscess. These lesions usually occur under Kitty's gums, so they're hard to see until they're quite far along. Any of these causes result in bacteria entering the tooth root, with an abscess following.
Cats suffering from an abscess in the mouth might stop eating because of the pain. They won't groom themselves, either, due to discomfort. If your cat starts drooling excessively or you see swelling on the outside of his face, check his mouth to see what's going on. His gums might also be swollen or bleeding. Kitty's breath could smell pretty bad. If your cat displays any of these symptoms, take him to the vet as soon as possible for an evaluation. Just think back to the last time you had a toothache and how bad you felt.
Diagnosing an abscess in Kitty's mouth is fairly straightforward. Your vet performs a mouth examination and the abscess is pretty obvious. She'll take an X-ray to determine the extent of the break or decay, along with prescribing antibiotics to stop the spread of infection. Your vet flushes out the pus and blood and cleans the wound. In most cases, the tooth must be removed. Kitty might need a soft food diet for a couple of weeks while recovering from the oral surgery.
Good oral health care can go a long way in preventing abscesses in Kitty's mouth. Poor dental hygiene is a leading cause of the problem. That said, many cats aren't keen on having their teeth brushed, even if you use tasty fish- or chicken-flavored toothpaste. If Kitty isn't cooperative for regular brushing, take him to the vet semi-annually for a basic dental check-up, much as you do with your own dentist. If Kitty's teeth need serious work, your vet might schedule a cleaning done under anesthesia. Feline dental disease can affect Kitty's kidneys and other organs as the bacteria in the mouth spreads throughout his body.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.