If your furry friend has been avoiding his food bowl, he may be trying to tell you his mouth is painful. Pet owners rarely look inside a pet’s mouth, so you may not realize that oral pain is causing your pet’s skipped meals. Pets can suffer a variety of painful dental diseases that can cause abnormal behaviors and symptoms, including:
- Decreased food intake
- Crying out while eating
- Dropping food from the mouth while eating
- Pawing at the mouth
- Excessive salivation
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Blood in the water or food bowl
- Weight loss
- Swelling below the eyes
Many pets with dental disease suffer in silence because they show no signs that they’re feeling pain, so their owners don’t know something is wrong.
AESC’s board-certified veterinary dentist is available to treat difficult oral pain cases referred by your family veterinarian.
Feline stomatitis causes chronic, severe oral and gingival inflammation. Cats react to their own teeth when dental tartar triggers an exaggerated immune response. Affected cats develop painful tongue, gum, and throat ulcers, as well as severe inflammation where the gums meet the teeth.
Treatment involves removing the teeth with plaque. A full-mouth extraction is often necessary, which may seem extreme, but domesticated cats don’t need their teeth to hunt prey and are much more comfortable when the source of inflammation is removed.
Feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions
Tooth resorption affects between 29% and 38% of healthy cats, and the percentage of cats that present to a veterinarian for dental disease is as much as twice as high. FORLs, which cause hard enamel and dentin erosion, usually are found on the outer tooth surface where the tooth meets the gum line. Pain intensifies as resorption progresses toward the sensitive nerves in the tooth’s center.
Dental X-rays are taken to determine the resorption’s type and stage and the involvement of additional teeth. Affected teeth are typically removed to provide immediate pain relief. Annual dental exams and professional veterinary dental cleanings can help prevent future FORL development.
Teeth may be composed of the body’s hardest material, but they still can chip, break, and fracture and expose the sensitive nerves inside. Most teeth fracture when pets chew on hard objects, such as bones, cage bars, and rocks. A chipped tooth may not appear traumatic or painful, but an exposed nerve can quickly lead to an infection traveling through the tooth. Fractured teeth warrant dental X-rays to evaluate the damage and often need to be treated.
Advanced periodontal disease and tooth root abscesses
Oral bacteria secrete a sticky plaque film on the tooth surface that mineralizes into tartar if not removed by regular brushing. The oral bacteria and dental tartar accumulate and affect the tooth root below the gum surface, causing infection and abscess formation typically in the large upper premolars and molars in the back of the mouth. The affected tooth’s crown often appears normal, with swelling the common symptom of abscess formation. Dental X-rays are required for diagnosis. Infected teeth are removed and antibiotics may be prescribed to clear the remaining bacteria.
Regular home dental care and oral exams are key to preventing your pet’s dental pain. Keep his mouth healthy with regular prevention:
- Perform weekly dental checks—open your pet’s mouth and examine his teeth, gum surfaces, tongue, and throat for abnormalities.
- Brush his teeth daily to prevent plaque from mineralizing into tartar.
- Schedule an annual dental exam and dental X-rays with your family veterinarian to evaluate all teeth above and below the gum line.
- Follow your veterinarian’s advice regarding dental cleanings—even if your pet’s teeth appear clean, regular professional cleanings are necessary to prevent painful dental disease.
If your family veterinarian diagnoses a painful dental condition that requires treatment by a specialist, schedule an appointment for your pet with our board-certified veterinary dentist immediately.