7 subtle signs of dental disease

Can you spot these 7 subtle signs of dental disease? Recognize them and help your cat live a longer life.

Hospital Team 4 min readCommon Issues

Most people avoid going to the dentist, and cats typically do the same. But since most cats haven’t figured out how to brush their own teeth, 70% of them start to suffer from the onset of dental disease by the age of 3.

Unfortunately, since cats are experts at disguising their pain, many owners have no idea their cat is suffering. And, left untreated, these dental issues lead to costly and painful problems later in life.

At T.H.E. Cat Hospital, we specialize in understanding cats, so we’ve put together a list of some of the subtle signs your cat may be starting to suffer from the effects of dental disease. If you notice any of these, set up an appointment with your local cat veterinarian ASAP.

Subtle Signs Of Dental Disease


7. Their breath is stinky.

It may be cute to joke about stinky “kitty breath”, but it’s actually one of the leading indicators that there may be something wrong in your cat’s mouth. This is especially true if their breath smells rotten, or you find yourself turning your head when they’re close to you.

6. They drool. A lot.

Unless Pavlov is around ringing some bells, excessive drooling may actually be a sign of serious issues like periodontal disease, swelling in the mouth (stomatitis), or oral trauma.

5. They have a hard time chewing.

If you’re finding partially chewed food all around your cat’s bowl, or you see them chewing using only one side of their mouth, it can indicate painful problems.

4. They act strangely around food.

We all know cats can be fussy eaters, but if they begin to act more strangely than normal, there may be a problem. For instance, if your cat comes to their food dish when you feed them, but refuses to actually eat their food, it may be a sign that their mouth is hurting.

3. They won’t let you touch them.

If your cat normally loves having the sides of their face rubbed, but starts pulling away when you touch them there, it’s a likely sign that they are experiencing quite a bit of pain in that area.

2. They paw at their face.

Have you ever had some pain in your mouth, and found yourself rubbing your jaw near the ache? Well, if your cat is doing something similar using their paws, the floor, or your walls, it’s a pretty good sign there’s discomfort in their mouth.

1. You can see tartar or blood.

There’s no clearer sign of dental issues than tartar buildup or any kind of bleeding from the mouth. Normal teeth are a pearly white, so if there are excessive yellow deposits or redness around their gums, you should take them in to see their veterinarian as soon as possible.

Bonus: They’re acting weird.

Big changes in behavior often mean a cat is experiencing a major health issue, and just don’t know how to tell you. This can take the form of hiding from you, acting aggressively, suddenly losing weight, chewing on objects, or even meowing excessively. While these may indicate a dental issue, sudden behavioral changes may actually be a sign of more serious health problems – so it’s best to consult your veterinarian right away.


What’s next?

Given how common dental disease is, there’s a strong likelihood your cat is starting to show at least some of these signs, and you should set up an appointment with your vet right away. But even if you haven’t noticed any of them, it’s best to have a cat veterinarian give your cat a once-over every year.

Your vet will start by getting to know your cat and examining their mouth. Depending on what they find, they may recommend further treatments, like cleanings, scalings, or even extractions. Or they may show you how to regularly clean your cat’s teeth at home (it can be easier than you may think).

If you’re in Southern California, we have locations in Tustin and Marina del Rey, and have a team of experts who specialize in cats – and only cats. That’s because we believe they deserve a higher level of care than they often receive in mixed-animal practices, and have tailored our facilities to cats’ unique physiologies and needs. Even if you don’t come to us, we recommend finding a cat specialist regardless – they’re worth it!

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