Many cat owners look at the grace, athleticism and beauty of their pets and think they have the perfect animal. Unfortunately, many of these same cats will have a very imperfect mouth, due to a serious and very painful condition that causes teeth to resorb, dissolve and even break! Here’s what we know about tooth resorption in cats.
Ask any cat owner about how they care for their feline’s teeth and most will reply that “he eats dry food” or more commonly, “I really don’t clean her teeth.” Ask those owners how their cat’s breath smells and most will respond with a grimace that expresses a distaste for the odor emanating from their beloved feline’s mouth. Most veterinarians will acknowledge that brushing a cat’s teeth is a challenge for many owners, and they will stress the importance of routine oral assessment of your cat’s mouth, as well as regular brushing. Oral exams help find preventable problems and even severe disease. One problem we see more frequently is called feline tooth resorption.
Tooth resorption, or TR as it is commonly called, is a condition seen in a growing percentage of cats over the age of 6 years. The same strange condition is also seen in dogs and in people, but it is not nearly as common.
In the past, this disease has been called neck lesions, cervical line lesions and even the cumbersome Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORLs). Whatever the name, we know this condition is seen in cats that often appear normal. The process will continue to develop, causing extreme pain because of the exposure of the root canal. This can even lead to behavior changes and lack of normal appetite.
Dr. Brett Beckman, a noted board-certified veterinary dentist, says that an exact cause for TR has not been determined yet. Theories about exposure to certain viruses, breed prevalence and chronic inflammation of the mouth and gums have all been proposed as root causes. According to Beckman, a single study suggests that high levels of Vitamin D in cat foods could be linked to resorptive disease, but that research is still ongoing. Interestingly, there has even been evidence of TR in cat skeletons that are 800 years old!