Old cat

Risk of dental disease rises as cats get older

New research from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) sheds light on how common and serious dental problems are for cats.

Periodontal disease or periodontitis is associated with an accumulation of plaque and tartar on the teeth which causes a range of oral health issues, including gum inflammation, loss of the structures supporting the teeth, tooth mobility and pain.

In the early stages, symptoms include gingivitis (gum inflammation) which can be reversed with good oral health treatment. However, if left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis (end stage gum disease) which is much harder to resolve and can lead to teeth loss.

Unfortunately, owners are not always aware when their cats are suffering from dental disease because most cats try their best to hide pain. So it’s important to check your cat’s teeth and gums regularly.

Looking at vet records for a sample of 18,249 cats, the researchers found that periodontal disease was formally recorded in 15.2% of them — making it the most common disorder in the cats in the study.

Siamese (18.7%), Maine Coon (16.7%) and British Short Hair (15.5%) as well as crossbreeds (15.4%) had the highest levels of diagnosis, and the risk of periodontal disease rose steeply as cats got older, with cats aged 9 to 12 years being 6.7 times more likely to have periodontal disease compared with cats aged under 3 years. This highlights the need for greater dental care in cats as they age, the RVC said.

“There are many ways owners can help support their good oral health in cats,” explained Dan O’Neill, Associate Professor in Companion Animal Epidemiology at the RVC and lead author of the paper. “This includes establishing a routine, brushing at roughly the same time each day and using a veterinary/cat toothpaste which is safe for your pet. It is important to start gradually to allow your cat to get used to the taste and accustomed to having their mouth opened before attempting brushing. If you are in doubt about the health of your cat’s teeth, please do ask your vet for advice.”

At Petwise we specialise in providing cover for older cats aged seven and over, with no upper joining age limit. All cover levels of our senior cat insurance include dental treatment insurance, which means we will pay fees for dental treatment as a result of an accident or illness. You will also have unlimited access to video consultations with a fully qualified vet, available 24/7 365 days a year at no additional cost.