Tuesday, 8 September 2015

‘Is drooling a sign of dental problems?’ and other oral health FAQs

In our most recent Facebook Q&A, Cats Protection vet Vanessa Howie took questions about teeth and oral health – here are some of her responses.

Question: Is drooling a sign of being content or dental problems? My cat often drools but doesn't seem to be in any pain or discomfort.

Answer: Drooling can indeed be a sign of contentedness. Some cats will drool in excess when stroked or when they are kneading and purring. If this is a new behaviour for your cat though, I would recommend a vet examination. Drooling can also be a sign of nausea and discomfort in the mouth or throat.

Cat with his tongue poking out
Photo courtesy of Robert W. Howington via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: What age do cats’ baby teeth stop coming through? My five-year-old has perfectly healthy gums but lost a fang due to biting my dog’s hard bone a few years ago when pregnant which hasn't grown back. A few months ago she was chomping so I looked in her mouth and noticed a loose tooth at the back. As I touched it, it fell out but there was another tooth there in its place. Is this normal?

Answer: Kittens usually have 26 baby teeth which are replaced by 30 adult teeth by six months of age. It may be that your cat had a retained milk tooth but please do get your vet to check her mouth if you're worried.

Question: How do you begin to clean your cat’s teeth if they are nearly two years old?

Answer: It can be tricky starting when cats are older. There are some enzyme toothpastes you can try which you can get your cat to lick from your finger to start with. Then try rubbing on their teeth with your finger and progress from there to a finger brush or toothpaste. Patience is the key! However trying one of the dental prescription diets may be an alternative.

Cat yawning
Photo courtesy of UnknownNet Photography via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: My rescue cat who is approximately 11 has her yearly booster jabs and health check due shortly. They always mention having her teeth cleaned but I'm not sure if it is really necessary? She doesn't show any signs of a problem and although the money isn't an issue, I worry that a general anaesthetic always carries a certain amount of risk and would never put her through something that wasn't really necessary. Should I wait until she is older or showing signs of a problem?

Answer: Dental health care in cats is similar to people, it's always better to prevent a problem arising. The mouth is home to many bacteria and as tartar on the teeth builds up, the number of bacteria increases. If the gums become more inflamed there is a risk that these bacteria can enter the bloodstream and cause damage to the major organs such as the heart and kidneys. Minimising tartar and preventing gum disease is the key. I would be guided by your vet and carry out dental when they advise rather than leaving it too long and your cat requires a longer anaesthetic and tooth extractions.

Question: My cat has reddish gums; the vet has checked and said it’s nothing to be concerned about as he is eating fine, but I would like to know if there is anything I could do to improve his gums?

Answer: Mild gingivitis is common in cats. Improving the health of your cat’s mouth can be difficult, due to many cats’ dislike of teeth cleaning. Try cleaning your cat's teeth with cat-specific toothpaste, feeding dental prescription diets or dental supplements for food or drinking water. You may find our leaflet helpful: Teeth and oral health.

Please note that we are unable to give specific advice on your cat's health or any change in behaviour observed. For medical problems consult your vet who will have access to your cat’s medical history and will be able to examine them.

Would you like to ask one of Cats Protection’s feline experts a question about your cat? Don’t miss the next live Facebook Q&A sessions: CP Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow will answer behavioural queries on 24 September; vet Vanessa Howie will be back to take veterinary questions on 8 October; and neutering expert Jane Clements will host the Q&A on 19 October. All our Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2-3pm. See you there!


  1. Can I get financial help with the cost of having the plaque on my cat's teeth removed? It will require an anesthetic and will cost around £250.

    1. Hi Freda, we offer financial assistance with neutering vouchers but not general veterinary care. The best places to try would be the PDSA (http://www.pdsa.org.uk) or your local RSPCA branch (http://www.rspca.org.uk/whatwedo/yourlocal). Some vets also offer payment plans to manage the cost of treatment so it's also worth enquiring about this. Hope this helps!

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  3. Thank you, this post was very helpful about drooling a sign of dental problems. Our cat has had an ulcer on it's tongue for probably 3 months now, maybe more. We've been giving him prednisolone throughout which has kept it at bay but recently, it's been coming back.

  4. Thank you, this post was very helpful for cat oral health. Our cat has had an ulcer on it's tongue for probably 3 months now, maybe more.

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