We typically get fewer questions from our cat clients about their kitty’s teeth and mouth than inquiries from dog guardians. We do have a few theories on this phenomenon:
1. We think in general cat guardians have less direct interaction with their cat’s mouths (i.e. not as much kissing or licking. Cats are far too dignified for that.).
2. Cat guardians have less direct contact with their pet’s mouth through chew toys and bouts of tug-of-war (as if a cat could be bothered).
3. The fact that poking around a cat’s mouth often results in deep puncture wounds (well…duh).
But when they do ask questions, they’re some of the best, most challenging and interesting inquiries you’ll encounter. Read on; you just may learn something or get a chuckle or two.
1. How many teeth do cats have? I only see two – the fangs.
Cats have 30 adult teeth and 26 baby teeth. That’s far fewer than dogs (42 and 28) and less than humans (32 and 20). Those “fangs” or upper canine teeth often protrude saber-tooth tiger style and lend some cats an intimidating smile.
2. When do cats get their baby and adult teeth?
Observing the eruption or emergence of teeth is a great method for estimating a kitten’s age. This is particularly helpful when faced with a stray kitten. The first teeth to erupt are the tiny front teeth or incisors and the long, pointy canines (some people still refer to them as “fangs.” Blame it on Twilight.). The primary (or “baby”) incisors and canines become visible around three to four weeks of age. The teeth immediately behind the canines, the premolars, quickly follow the front teeth. This typically occurs when the kittens are around five to six weeks old. The permanent teeth erupt around 11 to 16 weeks of age, beginning with the incisors followed by the canines at 12 to 20 weeks. The premolars are in place by 16 to 20 weeks of age. The difficult-to-see, way-in-the-back molars emerge around 20 to 24 weeks.
3. Do cats get cavities?
Dental caries, or “cavities” for the rest of us not calling ourselves “Dentist,” are rare in cats and dogs. This is due in part to a cat’s relatively low-sugar diet, differences in oral bacteria, and the shape of the teeth. When cavities occur, they can be painful and require similar repair procedures as humans with cavities, or, dental caries.
4. Why are cat bites so bad and likely to get infected?
Anyone who’s worked with and handled enough cats knows that when you’re bitten (note we said “when”) by a cat, not only does it hurt like you-know-what but those deep puncture wounds are likely to become infected or abscessed. The first answer lies within the unique anatomy of one of a cat’s main weapons – those long, sharp, pointy canines. Designed similar to hypodermic needles, these teeth excel at penetrating flesh intensely, damaging underlying structures such as arteries and veins. In addition, like that needle, they carry pathogenic bacteria deep inside the body. As the tooth is withdrawn, the narrow puncture wound closes onto itself, trapping behind infection that later becomes an abscess. Making matters worse, a cat’s mouth contains several species of highly pathogenic microorganisms. Don’t take a chance if you’re bitten. Flush the wound thoroughly and seek medical attention.
5. Can cats re-grow their teeth? Do their teeth keep growing their entire lives?
No and no. Sharks are probably the animal you’re thinking of. After a cat gets all 30 permanent teeth in place, that’s it. No more. Lose one and your cat is forever down to 29. Unlike rodents, a cat’s teeth don’t keep on growing.
6. Do cats need braces?
You jest but some cats do, in fact, need braces to correct some very severe oral malformations. The most common reasons for feline brace-face include lance or saber-like canine projections of the upper canines in Persian cats. “Wry bite” is another problem that results when an uneven bite occurs, causing one or both canines to protrude at odd angles, preventing normal eating and drinking. Braces for cats aren’t for cosmetic but literally life-saving conditions.
7. My vet said my cat had some painful tooth problem that may require extraction of several teeth. Is this legit?
I’m guessing your cat may be one of the millions of cats affected by an unusual, exceptionally common and extremely painful condition known most often as feline ondoclastic resorptive lesions, or FORLs. Most cats with FORLs are over five years old. The most common clinical signs associated with FORLs include excessive salivation, bleeding from the gum line or teeth, and difficulty eating. Many of our patients will suddenly become “picky” and refuse to eat dry kibble. There are many treatments available, but extraction is still the most commonly performed procedure to relieve this excruciating condition. The exact cause of FORLs has yet to be determined, although researchers are actively pursuing several theories.
8. Can cats get mouth cancer?
Sadly, yes. Oral tumors in cats are very serious and require immediate and aggressive treatment. Squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) are the most common malignant oral tumor in cats, although many other forms of cancer occur. If you observe any lumps, swelling, or discolored areas in your cats’ mouth, have it seen as soon as possible.
9. My cat has swollen gums and his entire mouth seems inflamed. What’s going on?
Our biggest concern is your cat has a condition called stomatitis (more correctly referred to as lymphocytic plasmacytic gingivitis pharangitis syndrome). This condition is also very painful and most cats have problems eating and swallowing, weight loss, and excessive salivation. Treatments vary widely and cats respond differently to an assortment of options. The exact cause is unknown although an underlying immune-mediated disorder is strongly suspected.
10. I can’t brush my cat’s teeth! Am I a bad pet parent?
If not brushing your cat’s teeth is your worst offense, we are not going to say you’re a bad kitty momma. Besides, I’ll let you in on a secret; many owners don’t brush their cats’ teeth, either. Instead, they will have their teeth regularly cleaned (typically at least once a year) under anesthesia by one of our skilled veterinary technicians. We also give them chew treats approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) to help reduce tartar in cats. Some cats will tolerate oral antimicrobial rinses so they get their “mouth wash” a few times each week. Finally, we ask owners to make it a habit to (carefully) lift the lips of their cats and examine their teeth and gums each week to make sure everything looks healthy. So don’t fret; take your cats to your veterinarian at least once a year, have the teeth cleaned by a professional when needed, conduct routine home mouth checks, and use products proven to help keep your kitty’s mouth healthy!
(Information provided by pethealthnetwork.com)
Dogs are remarkable creatures. From the tip of their cold noses to the ends of their wagging tails, canine anatomy is as beautiful and graceful as it is unique and fascinating. The mouth, teeth and skull of dogs are incredibly well adapted to meet the needs of one of nature’s most perfectly designed scavengers. The oral cavity of the dog is also the source of many myths and misunderstandings that lead to some potentially serious problems. Here are some of the most common, interesting and important dental questions we hear all the time!
1. How many teeth do dogs have?
The average adult dog has about a third more teeth than his human counterpart. Adult dogs have 42 permanent teeth compared to a measly 32 average human teeth (not counting any wisdom teeth. Those are “bonus.”). Puppies possess 28 baby teeth while human babies will have 20 deciduous or “baby” teeth.
2. When do dogs begin to lose their baby teeth?
Puppies begin losing baby teeth around 12 to 16 weeks of age. By four months of age, almost all of a pup’s deciduous teeth have been shed and many of the permanent teeth have already erupted and are in place.
3. Can you tell how old a dog is by looking at his teeth?
The answer is, it depends. When dogs are young, you can estimate their age by observing which teeth have erupted. For example, a puppy’s deciduous incisors typically erupt between 4 to 6 weeks of age and the permanent incisors are in place by 12 to 16 weeks. The canines or “fang teeth” emerge at 3 to 5 weeks and the permanent canines by 12 to 16 weeks. By the time the permanent molars are present, the dog is 4 to 6 months old. In general, once a dog reaches six months of age, all or least most of his permanent teeth are visible.
4. Can dogs regrow adult teeth if they lose them?
This is a common myth we are asked about by many dog owners. Unlike species such as sharks, dogs can’t regrow lost or damaged teeth. If they lose an adult tooth, they lose it forever, just as in humans. This is why it’s so important to take good care of your pets' teeth. They’ve got to last a lifetime. Conversely, we see absolutely no reason for a shark to have its teeth brushed. At least not by us!
5. Do dogs get cavities?
Dental caries or “cavities” as they’re more commonly known, are rare in dogs. This is due to many factors including a relatively low-sugar diet, differences in mouth bacteria, and the shape of the teeth. In severe cases involving tooth root exposure, endodontic procedures will be performed such as root canal and capping. Extraction of the affected tooth is required in certain cases. Another good reason to provide dental care for your dog.
6. Do small or large dogs have more problems with their teeth?
Dogs both large and small can develop serious oral and periodontal problems. In small dogs with short snouts and cramped jaws, we tend to see more issues with plaque, tartar, and dental calculus buildup. This leads to gum and periodontal disease and eventually painful loose teeth. Small dogs may chip and break tiny teeth if permitted to gnaw on hard toys. Larger breeds tend to experience more traumatic injuries to teeth and gums such as fractured tooth tips, broken jaws, and worn tooth surfaces. If the tooth root becomes exposed, this results in severe pain and death of the tooth. Larger dogs can also develop the same plaque and tartar buildup as well as the gum and periodontal disease of their smaller siblings.
7. How can I tell if my dog has gum disease?
Start by lifting your dog’s lips. If you see dirty or discolored teeth, typically an ugly brownish-greenish color, schedule an appointment as soon as possible. This is likely tartar or plaque and is an early sign of imminent gum or periodontal disease. Next examine the gums for any swelling or redness. If you brush your fingertip along the gum line and observe the tissues become angry and inflamed or even bleed, this indicates more serious gum infection and disease. Finally, take a whiff. If your dog’s breath is fetid and foul, this is usually associated with bacterial infection. “Doggie breath” shouldn’t be a reason to avoid your dog. Remember that sweet smelling “puppy breath?” A dog with a healthy mouth should have pleasant or at least neutral odor. If your dog exhibits any of these signs, see us so we can help!
8. What’s that really big tooth in the middle of my dog’s upper jaw?
The largest tooth in a dog’s mouth is the upper fourth premolar also known as the carnassial tooth. Its special shape and tooth surface is designed to help shear, crush and hold. This is why you see dogs grasp chew toys with the side of their mouth, chomping feverishly. This is also why you have to replace so many chew toys. Next time blame the carnassial teeth instead of your dog.
9. I heard that dogs could get mouth cancer. Is that true?
Unfortunately oral tumors are diagnosed in many dogs. Malignant oral tumors in dogs can be very aggressive and quickly spread throughout the body if untreated. If you observe any swelling, lumps, or dark and unusual colored tissue in your dog’s mouth, have it examined immediately. If diagnosed early, many oral cancers have a relatively good prognosis.
10. I’ve tried many times to brush my dog’s teeth with no success. She seems to hate it. Is there anything else I can do to take better care of my dog’s teeth?
You’re not alone. In fact, we personally struggle with this very basic procedure in our own pets! Firstly, It's important to know that having your pet's teeth professionally cleaned under anesthesia may seem worrisome or scary but our doctor's and skilled technicians are here to ease your fears and hesitations. We use the safest anesthetic protocols as well as pre-dental exams and bloodwork prior to the procedure so there are no surprises. This is perhaps the single most important thing a pet parent can do for their pet when they can’t brush their pet's teeth daily, which is why annual visits are also important! Next, we make sure to provide our client's pets with recommended chew treats approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) to help remove plaque and tartar. Many have special ingredients embedded in them that help reduce harmful mouth bacteria. There are antimicrobial rinses available which are designed to kill pathogenic bacteria that can cause gum infection as well as more natural supplements which break down plaque before it adheres to the teeth. This also helps to leave their breath highly kissable! Finally, at least once a week we recommend owners to take a peek inside their dogs’ mouths to make sure everything looks, and smells, healthy. See, taking care of your dog's mouth isn’t so hard after all!
(Information provided by pethealthnetwork.com)
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