signs of healthy cat teeth are easy to spot. Does kitty have white teeth? Does
she have any damaged or broken teeth? Do the gums look healthy? And now, the big
question: How is your cat's breath? If she smells like she needs mouthwash, we
have a problem!
Anatomy of the Mouth
Take a close look at your
cat's mouth: You're looking at one of nature's most fearsome killing machines.
Domestic cat teeth aren't that different from that of a big wildcat. Look into a
lion's mouth and you'll see remarkably similar teeth. You might not see them for
long, but you'll notice the resemblance before you're swallowed.
An adult cat has thirty
teeth, and they're all specialized. See those long canines that frame the front
of the mouth? They're for holding prey and killing it. They're also designed for
tearing flesh. The small incisors between the long canines are for ripping flesh
from the food. Further back in the mouth you'll find premolars and molars. Cats
don't chew food as we humans do. Their molars cut food down into chunks small
enough to swallow. The teeth are embedded in jaws attached to powerful muscles.
Health Problems and Teeth
bother worrying about your cat's teeth? Because good dental care can add years
to the life of your cat. Unfortunately, cats with irreparable dental problems
may sometimes have to be put to sleep.
That's an extreme example, of
course. Most cat health problems that arise from improper dental hygiene are
less obvious. Bacteria from the mouth can travel through the blood stream to
almost all parts of the feline body, causing heart, kidney, and liver problems.
Dental health problems in cats could be compared to high blood pressure in
humans: It's a silent disease that may only become apparent after some degree of
damage has been done.
Breath and Health
up to your cat. Bring her face up to yours. Bring her mouth close to your nose
and take a sniff. Do you smell pleasant, sweet breath, or did you just pass out
from the stench? If so, you have just become a victim of Cat Bad Breath. Now,
before you go running to the pet store for the kitty equivalent of mouthwash,
you should know that bad breath can indicate some pretty serious health
Note that the odor might be
the tuna you fed Fluffy immediately before you checked her breath. (In other
words, don't check your cat's breath immediately after she's eaten canned food.)
A bad odor could come from
anything from minor gingivitis to advanced gum disease. Infections in and around
the teeth and gums, often from tartar accumulation, are probably a leading cause
of pet bad breath. Hopefully, all that your cat's bad breath indicates is a need
for some routine dental care and then a regular program of home maintenance.
Bad breath can indicate other
serious health concerns. Burped up gas can point to a number of stomach and
metabolic problems. One of the more serious possibilities is kidney failure.
While most of us think of this in terms of the other end of the cat, urinary
health, including kidney disease, can be indicated by unpleasant breath. Look
for these additional indicators:
- bad breath
- excessive urination or
frequent attempts to urinate
- straining in the litter
- increased drinking
- weight loss
- urinating outside of the
- a sudden lack of
interest in grooming
The toxins normally
eliminated by the kidneys build up in the blood stream and are detectable in the
breath. Many veterinary experts believe that bacteria from the mouth gain access
to the blood stream through diseased gums, resulting in bacteria being deposited
in vital organs such as the heart and kidneys. For a cat, bad breath is reason
enough for a trip to the vet's to rule out any serious conditions.
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