Bandit had to have a tooth out recently - one of the two upper canines, which was cracked and broken off at the tip. He'd had the other one removed some time ago so now he has no upper 'fangs', and we've jokingly (but affectionately) started referring to him as 'Toothless Wonder'.
While at the surgery I was chatting to the receptionist who mentioned that one of the previous vets at the practice always said that Siamese and other Orientals had longer canines than other cats, which was why they often broke.
I don't know whether that's true or not but thought I'd do some general research into cats' teeth, so this month's Meezer Musings is about all things dental.
Call the Tooth Fairy!
Photo with thanks to and copyright © Kelly Pino-Garcia
In last year's July newsletter I mentioned a question we'd received on our Facebook page from Kelly (see her photo above) about whether or not kittens lose their baby teeth.
Like humans, cats do actually grow two sets of teeth. The baby teeth start to appear at two weeks old and should all be through by eight weeks.
These teeth fall out between four and six months old, once the adult teeth start to grow in. The teeth aren't always noticeable when they drop though, as in many cases kittens may swallow them. This is quite normal and nothing to worry about.
Occasionally, an adult tooth will grow in alongside the corresponding baby tooth, resulting in two teeth in the same spot. This does need a vet visit, so that the vet can remove the baby tooth if necessary.
Adult cats have 30 teeth - two less than we do. Kittens have 26 baby teeth, which, as we've seen above, are shed as the adult teeth grow in.
These are made up of the incisors - the small front teeth between the canines; the canines - the four large 'fangs'; the premolars - the teeth behind the canines, and finally the molars - at the back of the mouth, one on each side top and bottom, shown in the table below - kittens don't get molars.
As you'll see, there are more teeth on the top than the bottom:
Being strict carnivores, cats' teeth don't have the grinding surfaces found in human molars that are used for chewing plant material; a cat's teeth are all pointed, and designed for gripping prey and tearing meat.
Perhaps because of the shape of their heads, Siamese cats seem to be particularly prone to oral health problems. Keeping your cats' teeth and gums healthy is vitally important to avoid problems like plaque (an accumulation of food and bacteria), tartar (hardened plaque) and gingivitis (inflammation of the gums).
If left untreated, these can lead to more serious health problems including heart, lung, and especially kidney disease, which Siamese cats are particularly prone to anyway, whether or not they have dental problems. So it really pays to look after your cat's teeth.
Dental problems can go undetected if you're not careful, so look out for any of the following and get your cat checked out by a vet immediately if you spot them:
If your cat will allow it, brushing its teeth daily is helpful and if you have a kitten you should get it used to having its teeth brushed while it's still small.
You can buy special toothbrushes designed for cats, as well as fish and chicken-flavored toothpastes. (Never use human toothpaste on any pet.)
Cat toothbrush and fishy paste!
I was recently given the toothbrush and paste above by my vet and we're trying it out. If you're interested in doing the same, check out the C.E.T. Oral Hygiene Kit for Cats on Amazon, where a lot of people have reported good results.
Unfortunately, many cats
just don't like having their teeth brushed! If you're up against a cat
like this you can buy dental chews, or alternatively special solutions
that you add to water which helps to dissolve and remove plaque - ask your vet for their recommendations.
can also try offering raw chicken wing tips to your cat to chew on, as
the chewing action will also help keep teeth and gums clean and healthy.
Other more serious health issues include cancer of the mouth, which is sometimes quite difficult to spot, and an extremely painful disease known as FORL (feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions).
This is rather like the cat equivalent of cavities, and what actually happens is that the normal process in which tooth enamel is laid down in the teeth reverses, and the enamel dissolves. What causes this reversal is not entirely clear, but unfortunately it often results in the removal of all the affected teeth.
As well as looking after your cat's teeth yourself, it's important to get your cat's health checked regularly (at least once annually) and this should include a dental check-up. Your cat will need an anaesthetic if descaling is felt to be necessary, but keeping your cat's teeth clean will also keep it healthy and help to prolong its life.
Perhaps surprisingly, cats do seem to do remarkably well without any teeth at all and in many cases are healthier once they've had diseased teeth removed, but it's obviously better if this can be avoided.
Regular dental checks are important
photo: © iStockphoto | Nancy Louie
Our May Meezers of the Month are a whole family of Siamese cats! They are all named, in some way, after the little girl in Astrid Lindgren's series of books about Pippi Longstocking, whose middle names included Delicatessa (Deli), Windowshade (Winnie) and Mackrelmint (Mackie).
Their pregnant mother Pippi, a blue point Siamese, was rescued by Caroline Tubbs' daughter and the kittens turned out to be a blue point and two Snowshoes. You can read their full story, written by Caroline, here.
The adorable little creature below is Stormy. She's part-Siamese, a flame point, and between four and six weeks old.
She's "extremely talkative, feisty, and into everything she can get her nose into", according to her new owner Nancy who rescued her, covered in fleas, from under a shed. Nancy also says:
"She has now been de-flea'd, wormed, bathed and is settling quite happily into the life of a spoiled rotten indoor kitten. Her name comes from all the storms crossing through Arkansas where she was born and spent her first few weeks of life. To Oklahoma, her new home, the entire trip was surrounded by thunderstorms, high winds, and flooding roads. She has passed through the storms of her early life and earned her name. She is dearly loved already."
At her age, Stormy's probably still in the process of growing her baby teeth, but it seems she'll be quite happy to show them off when she gets them!
Image with thanks to and copyright © Nancy Null
That's it from us for May. The blood tests which were done before Bandit's dental turned up one worrying result pointing either to hyperthyroid disease or possibly to some sort of liver damage.
While he seems absolutely fine in himself (although a little older) this needs to be checked out, so he's going back next week for repeat blood tests and an ultrasound scan.
Please spare a thought for us on Monday, we'd appreciate it - and I'll give you an update on the outcome next month.
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Information provided on this website is not intended to replace professional advice. If you have any concerns at all about your cat's health, please consult a vet.
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