If you have a cat, you absolutely must read this because the chances are high that it will affect your cat(s) at some point in their lifetime. If I had to choose one post for everyone to spread far and wide of all the posts and articles I’ve done about cats, this is the one.
Being the cat lover that I am, I try to make sure that all the kitties have good dental hygiene. If they happen to eat something off my plate while I’m not looking that contains sugar, I’m making sure those teeth are clean afterward. No sugars, no injuries, no cavities, right? Yes and no.
If you are a stickler about dental hygiene, your cat will not get cavities like we humans do. But what happens in 30 – 70% of all adult cats (and that risk increases to 75% in all cats over 5 years of age) is something called Feline Tooth Resorption. It is also known as FORL or feline odontoclastic resorption lesions.
It is an excruciatingly painful condition, and can have severe consequences if it is left untreated. And since cats hide even severe pain very well, we can’t rely on outward signs of issues. A visual inspection is not always adequate to diagnose this issue either, since it can begin above the gumline. This is why yearly checkups are crucial to your cat’s health.
For many years, these little holes that would appear at or near the gumline were just thought to be cavities, and veterinary orthodontists even filled them like your dentist would do for you. But these aren’t cavities. They are the result of a process that we don’t yet fully understand. There is some evidence that sometimes it’s tied to too much Vitamin D in their diet (there is also evidence that this is not the answer, or that it is only one part of the answer), it may have something to do with autoimmune issues, maybe it’s tied to a viral infection, or something else that we just don’t know.
What we do know is that something triggers cells called odontoclasts, which begin to destroy the tooth root surfaces, which causes the enamel to be resorbed. As the disease progresses, the different layers of the tooth are resorbed and the pulp cavity becomes exposed, causing horrible pain and sensitivity. This can happen in one tooth (most common), several, or all of a cat’s teeth.
There are two types, and without going into a lot of veterinary jargon, Type 1 requires the removal of the entire tooth structure. Type 2 does not. It generally requires just removal of the tooth, some stitches, and that’s all.
I was sadly underinformed about this topic until recently. I didn’t realize that it can be a serious issue that affects most or even all teeth in some cats, and it can cause complications including bone loss (in severe cases, the entire jaw) and even death.
We recently took Kagetora to the vet because he had a runny nose, a goopy eye, and he was scratching his ears like crazy. I thought it was just allergies, but he stopped eating and started hiding. There are 3 things Kagetora lives for: food, cuddles, and sleep. When he started rejecting 2 of those, I knew it was something more serious than allergies.
So we took him to the vet, and we found out that he does have allergies, but he also has extensive tooth resorption (Type 1). He lost several teeth that night when he fought off a coyote to save those kittens, and now it looks like he will lose most of his remaining teeth, which is not the norm. His case is severe.
Please share this post. There are other cats out there that are suffering, and even the most attentive pet caretaker can miss the signs of this insidious disease. Let’s do everything we can to raise awareness so that more cats get the help they need.
Keep those fur babies close. We are their voice.
UPDATE: Kagetora had his surgery, and is doing really well now. He’s used to wet food already, so it’s easy for him to eat. Thanks so much to everyone who wished him well. He sends kitty cuddles to you all!