Feline Resorptive Lesions

by Dr. Tiffany Hart

What is feline tooth resorption? 

Feline tooth resorption is an extremely painful disease causing slow erosion, destruction, and finally resorption of teeth. It affects over 60% of household cats over the age of five. As the disease progresses, sensitive structures such as the nerves, blood vessels, and dentin layer become exposed to the environment. The resulting gingivitis, nerve exposure, and severe inflammation ensue. Affected cats will suffer from symptoms similar to a “toothache.”  

What causes feline tooth resorption? 

Unfortunately, at this time, no one knows. The theory is that commercial cat foods have an overabundance of Vitamin D3. This theory has not been proven, therefore there is no need to rush and make dietary changes without further research. 

What are the symptoms of feline resorptive lesions? 

It is important to remember that cats are masters at hiding pain and discomfort. Refusing to eat is a common symptom, but not necessarily for every cat. Some symptoms can be more subtle and need closer examination: 

  • Turning head to one side when chewing 
  • Vomiting what appears to be undigested dry food 
  • Lack of grooming - greasy or matted hair coat 
  • Yellow stains on the front legs from licking or drooling 
  • Grinding of the jaw 
  • Pawing at the mouth 
  • Bad breath 

How are feline resorptive lesions treated?

The recommended next step is a dental evaluation with radiographs under anesthesia. It is possible for the resorption to only be visible radiographically along the roots while the crown (visible tooth) remains unaffected. The only curative treatment is the extraction of the affected tooth or teeth. This completely eliminates discomfort and pain. Affected cats must be monitored closely as 70% of felines with this disease will relapse with lesions on other teeth. 

How can tooth resorption be prevented?

Due to the lack of true understanding of the underlying cause of the disease, the best preventive measures are regular visits to the veterinarian and good dental care at home. Follow these recommendations: 

  • Routine visits with your veterinarian for a comprehensive oral evaluation 
  • Feeding your pet a balanced, AAFCO-approved diet for their life stage 
  • Routine home care such as brushing 
  • VOHC-approved dental treats 

With routine visits with your veterinarian, early detection can detect these painful lesions and improve the overall health and comfort of your cat. If your cat is overdue for a dental evaluation, call us at (209) 551-4527 for more information or request an appointment today.