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Adult cats and dental disease

Q: Frankie, my 8-year-old cat, is eating less dry food, though he still has a good appetite for canned food. Sometimes when he crunches his kibble, he tilts his head or drops some food. What’s going on?

A: It sounds like Frankie suffers oral pain when he chomps down on his dry food. Most likely, he has a problem with his teeth and gums called periodontal disease. Less likely, he could have an oral mass.

Periodontal disease occurs in 70 percent of cats over age two, but because it’s usually not obvious until it causes pain, it’s often overlooked.

Start by making an appointment with your veterinarian for an oral exam and treatment of whatever problems are found. Periodontal disease will require anesthesia and removal of plaque and tartar on the teeth and below the gums. Extractions may be necessary to preserve Frankie’s oral health.

After his professional dentistry care, gradually transition Frankie to a dental diet approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. Their website,, lists diets, treats, water additives and other products that control plaque and tartar.         

Poultry-flavored pet toothpaste from your finger or a small toothbrush. Then gradually accustom him to having his teeth brushed. Daily home care and periodic professional dental care will help keep Frankie healthy and free from oral pain.

Editor’s Note: Excessive drooling and avoidance for eating may be signs of dental disease in cats. Dr. Lee discusses various oral issues with a concerned cat parent.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at

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