What are Dental Abscess?
Three types of dental abscesses can form under the tooth of a cat. The first type is a gingival abscess, which primarily affects gum tissue. The second is a periodontal abscess, which affects the gums directly. The third type of abscess is called a periapical abscess and it affects the pulp of the tooth. The canine teeth are the most common to abscess as they are the easiest to be broken. Veterinary attention should be sought out immediately as abscesses can burst from too much pressure and cause large wounds in the cat's face. Infection can also spread throughout the body and compromise vital organs.
When tooth decay occurs in a cat, bacteria can spread down into the root of the tooth. The bacteria disintegrates the tissue in and around the tooth, forming a cavity. The cavity then fills with dead white blood cells and more bacteria. This foul-smelling fluid is called “pus”. A pus-filled cavity under a tooth is commonly referred to as a dental abscess. The gum tissue surrounding the abscess often becomes red and inflamed.
Symptoms of Dental Abscess in Cats
If you suspect any symptoms of a pus cavity or abscess forming under your cat’s tooth, go to your vet as soon as possible. Infections within the abscess have the potential to develop into a systemic bacterial infection, which is life-threatening. Symptoms you should watch for include:
- Round, visible bump in the mouth
- Pawing at mouth
- Nose bleeds
- Swollen face
- Draining wound
- Inability to eat
- Weight loss
- Loose tooth
- Discoloration of tooth
- Bad breath
- Decrease in grooming
Causes of Dental Abscess in Cats
Any condition or occurrence that erodes or breaks a cat’s tooth can cause a dental abscess to form. Some underlying issues may dispose a cat to dental issues and tooth decay. These issues should be looked for to help prevent further abscess formation. Some main causes for pus cavities under the teeth are:
- Trauma (often from being hit by a car)
- Biting on a hard substance
- FORL (feline odontoclastic resorptive) lesions that slowly absorb adult teeth back into the body
- Untreated periodontal disease
- Poor oral hygiene
- Mouth burn (often from chewing electric cables)
Diagnosis of Dental Abscess in Cats
Diagnosis of a dental abscess is often quite simple. The veterinarian will perform a physical examination of the cat, focusing much time on the mouth and face. Visual confirmation of a pus cavity is often all that is needed to diagnose the issue. The vet may need to differentiate a dental abscess from an eye infection or a puncture wound if swelling of the face is the main symptom present.
An X-ray may be required to identify the source of the bacterial infection and monitor the surrounding teeth for any spreading. Blood tests may be performed including a complete blood count and a biochemical profile to determine overall health and identify possible underlying issues. If the cat has undergone major trauma, other more severe injuries may need to be treated first.
Treatment of Dental Abscess in Cats
Treatment should be administered quickly to relieve the abscess before it bursts. The larger the abscess has become, the more dangerous the infection can be to the cat.
Drain & Clean
The first step in treating a cat with a dental abscess is to sedate it (possibly with general anesthesia), and lance the abscess to drain out all of the pus. The cavity will then be thoroughly cleaned. Antibiotics may be injected at this time to curb infection.
If the tissue surrounding the abscess is still intact, and the abscess itself is small in size, your veterinarian may choose to perform a root canal. This procedure can save the tooth while still removing all dead or infected tissue. Many veterinarians will refer the cat to a dental specialist for this procedure.
Often, the tooth and surrounding areas are too decayed to save. In this case, a full removal of the tooth will be performed. The infection has to be decreased prior to extraction surgery or serious complications may arise. Cold packs can be used post surgery to bring down swelling and reduce pain.
After a dental abscess has been removed, antibiotics will be prescribed for seven to ten days to rid the body of harmful bacteria.
Recovery of Dental Abscess in Cats
A follow-up exam will be scheduled one to two weeks after your cat has been treated. At this time, your veterinarian will perform a sensitivity test on the affected tooth and check for any signs of infection. You may have to administer pain medication at home while the cat recovers. Sometimes, a diet of soft food is recommended while the mouth is healing. No chew toys should be allowed until after the gum has healed over completely.
It is important to have your cat’s teeth and mouth checked at least twice a year to prevent the formation of tooth decay. Raw meats, small uncooked bones, or hard kibble may help scrape off plaque and keep teeth clean. Maintain your cat’s dental hygiene by brushing its teeth twice weekly with cat-specific toothpaste. If your cat is of a breed susceptible to dental issues (such as Siamese, Burmese, Persian and Somali breeds), take extra care to ensure teeth are kept clean. Check your cat’s mouth for broken teeth, bad breath, or lesions on a regular basis.
Dental Abscess Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My cat has two small gum bois, one is a dark color and one is white. He doesnt appear to be in any pain, is actually still acting like himself. I wondered if there is anything I can do for him at home until I have the money to take him to the vet?
I would recommend you visit your Veterinarian as soon as possible; however, until you are able to visit your Veterinarian, rinsing the boils with salt water after each meal should help. This may be a quite simple case requiring some antibiotics or may require tests and more extensive treatment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
looking for recommendations on getting my cat to eat or a mush recipe that will help him gain weight as fast as possible. I am fostering a cat from my local shelter that came in as a stray. We are trying to get weight on him so he can have his oral surgery but he is not eating and is skin and bones. He is on antibiotics and pain meds to manage the infection while we get weight on him so he can have his oral surgery. He has an abscess and gingivitis. he is very inquisitive and curious. he doesn't seem disconnected from the world and seems like he's fighter so we want to try everything we can. I'm confident that once he has his surgery he'll have many more years in him. He's not eating much at all. Using pate canned cat food currently. He's a 10yr old neutered male with abscess on his upper rt side.
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