Poor kitty isn’t eating, doesn’t seem to care about grooming, and keeps sneezing. Before you assume it’s just a cat cold, check inside your pet’s mouth. If you see swelling, redness, or or even pus along an area of the gums, your cat may have a tooth abscess, which should be treated immediately to avoid further discomfort and additional health problems.
Causes of a Cat Tooth Abscess
An abscessed tooth may begin with a fractured tooth. Older felines with weak teeth are more at risk for a tooth fracture. If your pet chews on something too hard, a tooth may split, or a piece of it might actually break off, leaving an opening to the root. Bacteria can then get into the sensitive area under the gum and cause an infection. Your cat’s immune system will attempt to fight the infection by sending an army of white blood cells to the area, but these white blood cells build up to create a pus-filled pocket known as an abscess. As pressure builds inside this pocket, your cat will feel pain if anything touches it – food, your hand, even the rub of kitty’s own mouth against the inflamed gum.
Another common cat problem that can cause a tooth abscess is a feline odontoclastic resorptive lesion (FORL), which is sometimes also referred to as just TR for tooth resorptions. With this disease, the cats’ own cells eat away their teeth from the outer layer (enamel) to the inner, soft part of the tooth. The process leaves sores, or lesions, at the gum line. If the FORL isn’t caught early, it can become infected and lead to a tooth abscess. It’s estimated that a third of domesticated cats will suffer this disease during their lifetime.
Periodontal disease caused by a buildup of plaque on your cat’s teeth can also lead to oral infections and abscesses.
One of the signs of periodontal disease and other dental problems in cats may be bad breath. Drooling, loss of appetite, scratching or pawing at the side of the mouth with the abscess, and bleeding from the mouth are also significant warning signs. Your cat may stop grooming because it’s painful. As the abscess worsens, your cat’s face may swell, and the area may feel hot. If the abscess irritates the nasal canal, your cat may also start sneezing a lot.
Cats tend to mask pain very well, so don’t expect your cat to “tell” there’s a problem. Be aware of any of these changes in behavior or use of the mouth since they could point to a dental problem that needs to be treated as soon as possible.
Treatment for an Abscess Tooth
If you or your vet spot the signs of an abscess, a diagnosis can be made from a thorough physical. Sometimes, though, your vet will want to get dental x-rays to confirm the cause of the problem. Antibiotics are used to treat the infection and get rid of the pus, but your vet or a dental specialist will need to remove the affected tooth. Your cat will need to be given anesthesia for the tooth extraction.
Cats over three years of age are at increased risk of dental problems, so paying close attention to an older cat’s mouth is very important. You can check your cat’s teeth regularly and be sure your vet looks them over at regular examinations. The best defense against infections, though, is a good cleaning regimen that includes brushing your cat’s teeth at home. Start by using a cat toothbrush and cat toothpaste for cleanings once a week and build up frequency as your cat gets used to the routine.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a tooth abscess an emergency in a cat?
Yes, a tooth abscess can be considered an emergency in cats. A tooth abscess is a painful condition that occurs when a tooth becomes infected and the infection spreads to the surrounding tissues. Left untreated, the infection can spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening. A tooth abscess in cats usually occurs when an infection develops around the tooth's root, typically resulting from periodontal disease, trauma to the tooth, or a broken tooth. Periodontal disease is one of the most common causes of tooth abscesses in cats. It is a progressive condition that affects the tissues surrounding the teeth, including the gums and the periodontal ligament. Over time, this can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and, ultimately, an abscess. Trauma to the tooth, such as from a fall or a blow to the face, can also cause a tooth abscess. Similarly, a broken tooth can expose the root of the tooth, making it more susceptible to infection.
What is the best antibiotic for cat tooth abscess?
The choice of antibiotic for a cat with a tooth abscess should be made by a veterinarian, who will take into account several factors, such as the severity of the infection, the cat's overall health, and the results of any diagnostic tests that have been performed. Clindamycin is often used to treat dental infections in cats, including tooth abscesses. Amoxicillin/clavulanic acid is a combination of antibiotics that is often effective against a wide range of bacterial infections, including dental infections. Enrofloxacin is a fluoroquinolone that can be used to treat dental infections in cats, including tooth abscesses. Metronidazole is often used to treat infections caused by anaerobic bacteria, which can be present in dental abscesses.
What does a cat tooth abscess look like?
A tooth abscess in cats can have different appearances depending on the severity and location of the infection. Common signs of a cat tooth abscess include swelling around the affected tooth or area of the mouth, redness and inflammation of the gums around the affected tooth, a foul smell coming from the mouth, pain or sensitivity when the affected area is touched, and difficulty eating or drinking, particularly if the abscess is located near the front of the mouth where the cat's incisors are located. If you suspect that your cat may have a tooth abscess, it is important to take them to a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.
What happens if a cat tooth abscess goes untreated?
If a cat tooth abscess goes untreated, it can lead to several serious health problems. The infection can spread to other parts of the body, such as the jaw, sinuses, or brain, and may cause life-threatening complications. In addition, an untreated tooth abscess can cause significant pain and discomfort for the cat, making it difficult for them to eat, drink, and groom themselves. This can result in weight loss, dehydration, and a decline in overall health. Over time, the infection can cause permanent damage to the affected tooth, including tooth loss or the need for extraction. In severe cases, the infection may even spread to other teeth, leading to multiple abscesses and further complications.
How much does a tooth extraction cost for a cat?
The cost of tooth extraction for a cat can vary depending on several factors, such as the geographic location, the type of tooth that needs to be extracted, and the veterinarian performing the procedure. On average, a simple tooth extraction for a cat can cost between $300 and $700, while the usual cost is approximately $500. A more complex extraction that requires anesthesia, X-rays, and other diagnostic tests can cost between $800 and $1,500 or more. It is important to keep in mind that the cost of tooth extraction may also include pre-operative care, such as bloodwork and dental cleaning, as well as post-operative medications and follow-up appointments. Some veterinary clinics may offer payment plans or financing options to help cover the cost of the procedure. If you are concerned about the cost of tooth extraction for your cat, it is a good idea to discuss your options with your veterinarian and ask for an estimate of the total cost before proceeding with the procedure. This can help you make an informed decision about the best course of treatment for your cat.
More on Dental Health
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Cat and Dog Dental Disease
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.