Dental Abscess in Cats

Written By hannah hollinger
Published: 10/26/2016Updated: 07/28/2021
Veterinary reviewed by Michele K.
Dental Abscess in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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.  Veterinary attention should be sought out immediately as abscesses can burst from too much pressure, can be quite painful, 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. 

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Dental Abscess Average Cost

From 390 quotes ranging from $500 - $1,500

Average Cost

$900

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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 veterinarian 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
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at mouth
  • Nose bleeds
  • Swollen face
  • Draining wound
  • Inability to eat
  • Weight loss
  • Loose tooth
  • Discoloration of tooth
  • Bad breath
  • Decrease in grooming
  • Fever
  • Sneezing
  • Lethargy

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 
  • 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 veterinarian 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. 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.

Extraction 

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. 

Antibiotics 

After a dental abscess has been removed, antibiotics will be prescribed for seven to ten days to rid the body of harmful bacteria. 

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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.  Hard kibble may help scrape off plaque and keep teeth clean. Maintain your cat’s dental hygiene by brushing its teeth daily 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 Average Cost

From 390 quotes ranging from $500 - $1,500

Average Cost

$900

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Dental Abscess Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Domestic house cat

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Misty

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19 Years

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22 found this helpful

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22 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Fever
My 19 y/o female, indoor only cat developed an abscessed tooth. Noticed a sore on her cheek and took her to her vet the next morning. DX abscess. Also discovered she has hyperthyroidism, TSH was 11.4. Holding off treatment for that until after extraction due to going on vacay and won't be able to apply the topical pen BID until return. Her extraction is scheduled for tomorrow morning, one week after getting the DX, and have been on Clavamox BID for 7 days. However, now 6 days later, the wound has gotten much larger and is oozing. She is just shy of being 20 y/o. She weighs 5.3 lbs. Is it going to be safe to put her under for the extraction?

Sept. 17, 2018

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domestic short hair

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Meka

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16 Years

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13 found this helpful

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13 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Swollen Face
My cat has a abses and i am just wondering if i should get her tooth taken out? Meka is 16 and still eatting but loosing alot of weight. Still active but the mouth does smell and the tooth bleeds every now and again

Sept. 6, 2018

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Dental Abscess Average Cost

From 390 quotes ranging from $500 - $1,500

Average Cost

$900

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