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Ask the Doctor December 2016 Issue

Dear Doctor - An adopted cat with missing teeth

A cat with missing teeth

Q My son and I recently adopted an older cat from our local shelter. We named him “Vincent” and so far, so good. He came with his necessary vaccinations, etc. so we haven’t needed to take him to the veterinarian yet.

One night while watching television, Vincent was rubbing on me and I noticed something strange about his teeth. He is missing one of the big fangs! It doesn’t seem to bother him when he’s eating, but I wanted to be sure that this is not a cause for concern in the future. Thanks for any advice you can offer.
Antonia Sabatino

A Dear Antonia: The most common reason for cats to have missing teeth is called tooth resorption. These resorptive lesions are a progressively destructive disease of cat teeth, and are sometimes inappropriately called “feline cavities.” They are very common — research studies estimate that as many as 65 percent of domestic cats are affected — and they can affect any teeth.

The disease can be very painful (cats have more nerve endings in their teeth than humans), and the secondary periodontal disease may cause more pain. Signs that may include decreased dry food chewing, vomiting (especially of undigested food), chewing on one side of the mouth, halitosis (“bad breath” due to increased periodontal disease) and decreased grooming.

Attempts to repair or treat the problem are generally unsuccessful. Therefore, the current recommended treatment is extraction of the affected teeth or any problematic root remnants. Unfortunately, when cats have one or more of affected teeth, other teeth are likely to be affected in the future.

Pet owners often ask how their cats will chew with fewer, or in some cases, no teeth. Frequently, the answer is: “better!” Once the gum tissue heals, it becomes quite tough and most cats can resume eating dry food after the affected teeth are extracted. I hope this information is helpful for you and Vincent. I recommend that he receive an evaluation by a veterinarian with dental experience (especially in the use of dental radiographs).
William Rosenblad, DVM
Dentistry and Oral Medicine
and Surgery
Angell Animal Medical Center
Boston, MA

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