Cat Health Tip: Checking for Gum Disease
There are two important aspects to feline gum disease which come to my mind…(a) gum disease is fairly common, almost universal – one of the top 10 most common cat health problems (probably) and (b) it it easy to overlook it because cats don’t complain and it is quite tricky to get a good look into the mouth of a cat and particularly where gum disease is most likely to be: at the back of the upper jaw on the outside.
From personal experience this is exactly the same place where humans have bleeding gums (and I address that issue briefly below as well).
The signs of bad mouth disease (which effectively is gum disease + teeth problems) is drooling and a reluctance to eat but, an easy way to check is to:
Run a cotton bud around the gum line. I’d focus on the back of the mouth, upper jaw. When the cotton bud is removed it should be clear of blood. If not, it is time for vet visit.
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I think this is a good tip because it is not that difficult to surreptitiously run a cotton bud along the outside gum line of a cat (but it must be at the back). I don’t expect a person to have more than about five seconds to do this before their cat tells them to stop (politely I hope). But it is workable.
The alternative is to pull back the lips and skin of the mouth which cover the gums at the back and a cat will dislike this more and in any case, as a test, it is less conclusive.
Now..about humans. If you have bleeding gums when you brush your teeth it will be because of the gums at the back of the mouth on the outside and on the upper jaw which are inflamed because you are not getting to that area.
I’d recommend a battery driven tooth brush because they can get into smaller areas more effectively and focus on the back upper outside and inside of the gums. The same goes for lower jaw but to a lesser extent.
This should be followed up with a good commercial mouth wash. There are lots of them.
You won’t have bleeding gums anymore. Dentists don’t usually tell you this because they want you to have bad gums and teeth.
My dentist once told me that the health of your teeth is also a indicator of the health of your heart. Seems gum diseases and heart diseases are related in humans and the same could be in cats.
Gum disease is very important in the pet world. Bad gums are an indicator too of kidney and liver disease.
Rudolph, my vet told me exactly the same as your dentist. Decayed or infected teeth create harmful bacteria which enters the bloodstream every time the cat swallows. That bacteria can then cause damage to their organs and central nervous system.
So essential for domesticated cats to have dental checkups.
Not so much for ferals. I have a fondness for my face, throat, arms, and hands. LOL!
I do get my cats’ teeth and gums checked when they have their annual vaccinations, but ideally I’d like them checked every 6 months. The cotton bud tip is a good one and I’ll give it a go when my cats are in the “right” mood.
Regular oral check-ups are very important as they can also help spot the early signs of tumours and Eosinophilic Granuloma Complex.
For humans, flossing between the teeth is vital to maintain gum and dental health. It’s also known to reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s and heart disease. Many years ago my dentist told me that Corsodyl is the only effective mouthwash. I don’t use them myself as they’re too strong and tend to burn my mouth and gums. I remember an episode of QI where it was explained that the product was originally invented as a floor cleaner before “halitosis” was invented so it could be sold as a mouth wash. Note that the product formula has not changed even though it’s suggested use has!
Sorry, should have mentioned that the brand of mouth wash featured on QI was Listerine, which was named after Joseph Lister.
I never knew that about Listerine.
But, oddly, I have no doubt that the gold colored version is capable of cleaning any surface. LOL!
I’ll guarantee that the method I describe works. Listerine in the UK is alcohol based and it is horrible. There are better alternatives.
Michele, please tell me how you get on with the cotton bud technique 😉 Thanks for your input.
Any mouth wash is going to help in my experience. However, there was some talk of possible health problems with over use.