Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Feline oral resorptive lesions: Maggie loses two teeth to them

Maggie the tuxedo cat

Poor 10-year-old Maggie can't catch a break with dental difficulties. She's dealt with feline rodent ulcers for years, and in the midst of the latest outbreak, I took her to the vet for help, and during our visit, the team spotted not one but two feline oral resorptive lesions (FORLs).

I didn't know anything about these things at all, so I decided to do a little digging. Unfortunately, what I found out isn't great for Maggie.

From what I understand,  FORLs are really common in cats older than 10. They're a kind of a mystery, as experts don't yet know what causes them. But when they appear, they seem to rot the dentin in the tooth, meaning that the tooth just seems to melt away into nothingness. In time, the whole tooth can break off, and the gums provide poor protection for exposed tooth roots.

Maggie's lesions had progressed to Stage 2, which means her teeth were already very eroded. Polishing wouldn't help, and the tooth brushing I was doing at home wouldn't make things better. But here's the weird thing: She had no symptoms.

Maggie has always been a slow eater, and it isn't uncommon for her to leave a bite or two in the bowl. She did that when she had lesions, but she'd always done it before. I didn't see any blood, she didn't flinch when I brushed her teeth and she didn't seem sensitive to being petted on the jaw. If I hadn't taken her in for another issue, I'm not sure I would have noticed these spots. That has me nervous.

Maggie the cat is smiling
Showing off her new smile.
Maggie lost two teeth during her dental appointment: both on the bottom, right in front. She ate wet food softened with water for a few days, and we had pain medication to keep her comfortable. I also used a foaming rinse in her mouth (which she hated) in order to help the spots to heal.

But she remains at risk for future lesions, and since she shows no signs of them at home, that means she absolutely must go in for checkups regularly. This isn't the sort of thing I can catch, nor treat, at home.

It's another good reminder that senior pets need regular veterinary care. Even if they seem healthy at home, there may be hidden issues that require our attention.

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