What You Should Know
At first glance dental would appear to be a 'nice' subject, but of secondary importance in the overall care of your cat. It is NOT. Two things will help put this into perspective.
- Oral symptoms are sometimes indicative of much more serious underlying problems that MUST be dealt with.
- Many diseases are first noticed in the mouth, though they may not initially occur in the mouth.
If your cat has bad breath, or shies away at your hand when you approach his mouth, check his gums for red angry gums and tartar. Make sure your vet includes an oral exam as part of the annual check up. Bad breath, weight loss, avoiding dry food, can all be telltale signs of much more serious conditions.
The long and short of it is, by dental, we mean oral, and this is not a minor topic. Some cats get tartar, just like humans do, and this should be dealt with, but chronic red gums may have nothing to do with tartar, or may be indications of chronic systemic viral disease.
Some of the underlying diseases that are linked to mouth problems are FELV, FEV, and Herpes. While estimates calculate that 97% of cats carry the herpes virus, not all are affected equally, or all the time. So far it is unclear as to what causes Herpes to bloom but stress, breeding, malnutrition, and other factors have been associated with herpes blooms. Herpes is the virus that causes Rhinotracheitis, which all cats are inoculated against, however this vaccine itself is not 100% effective, and may or may not ward off all herpes attacks. Your cat may have an overactive immune system or an under active system. Blood and other tests may be needed to come to a final or clearer diagnosis. Bartonella is another disease that sometimes hangs out with Herpes, as is callici virus. Sometimes one may show up and the other may not. Chronic intractable red gums with or without tartar, may be the first indicator of stomatitis. This can affect the tissue in the mouth, throat and larynx. A veterinary dentist should be consulted.
Once again, we see L lysine used, as it is in many of the herpes viral 'diseases'. Ophthalmologists use it, as do dentists. Many good breeders now use l lysine and recommend that cats be kept on it for their lifetime. Since it is an amino acid and is not harmful it is advisable to start or continue to use this in your cat's food. If your cat has FELV, or FIV however this will not cure him of those viruses, but it may keep symptoms down to more tolerable levels. L Lysine is not a 'cure'. But the herpes virus it seems cannot replicate in its presence, and therefore its use should ward of repeated infections of many common ailments.
It is important to note however that oral problems are not necessarily 'merely' dental, but your vet and a good veterinary dental specialist is best equipped to help you in this area.
You should routinely check your cat's mouth and smell it's breath. Mouth problems may be early warning signs that something else it going on.
The links below will guide you to more detailed and expert information on this subject. Your vet will also be able to guide you to determining if you are dealing with a 'dental' problem or a symptom of something much larger.