If you've ever had a toothache, you understand the agony of not being able to eat and excruciating pain. Felix can have the same problems if you don't take good care of his pearly whites. Tartar buildup and gum inflammation may be severe enough that some of his chompers have to come out.
When Problems Arise
Periodontal disease affects about 85 percent of all felines over 6 years of age, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Your beloved furball will give off several cues if he has severe plaque buildup warranting a trip to the veterinarian. One of the first signs is foul breath that you can clearly smell as soon as you pick him up. He may also have a loss of appetite or drop food from his mouth while he is chewing. As dental problems progress, his gums become red, irritated and might even bleed -- all warning signs of infection. Felix may also paw at his mouth, but by nature, cats tend to hold in signs of pain because it makes them seem vulnerable to other animals, so you'll need to watch him closely.
Your feline will have to be put under general anesthesia when he goes through a dental cleaning. This gives your veterinarian the opportunity to evaluate Felix's teeth and gums, while giving his mouth a top to bottom thorough cleaning. If teeth are broken, rotted or impacted, she may wind up having to extract them. Pulling teeth in kitties is much different than in humans. It is more like a small surgical procedure, rather than one large yank. During surgery, your vet will open up the gums surrounding the problem tooth and drill away bone tissue that holds it in until the tooth easily slides out. Gum tissue gets sealed back together with dissolvable sutures.
After dental surgery, your cuddly companion will be ready to return home within a few hours. Your veterinarian will send Felix home with some pain medication and after a few days he'll be back to his original self. Most likely, your beloved buddy won't even notice his tooth is gone. All he'll know is that he feels better. Eating will no longer cause him pain, so his appetite will go back to normal.
While genes play some role in your cat's risk of developing periodontal disease, his diet might also take part. In the wild, cats feast on flesh and bones that scrape their teeth, much like a toothbrush. Our domesticated felines at home tend to eat wet mushy food that sticks to teeth, possibly resulting in excessive plaque buildup. As plaque stacks up and hardens, Felix's risk of having to undergo a tooth extraction goes up.
Many varieties of cat food are crunchy and specifically designed to scrape away tartar buildup. Talk to your vet about which type of diet may be especially beneficial for your furry friend. Another beneficial preventative measure is daily brushing. It'll take some practice and you may need an expert to teach you the ropes, but once you get the hang of it, you'll enjoy the bonding time with Felix. You'll need to purchase cat toothpaste as well as a brush specifically designed for cat teeth. Feline toothbrushes have much softer bristles than human toothbrushes, reducing your chances of brushing too hard.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.