Feline Dental Health: Understanding Cat Dental Abscess

cat dental abscess

As pet owners, we strive to keep our feline friends healthy and happy.

However, dental health often gets overlooked. A common but serious issue cats face is dental abscesses.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into what cat dental abscesses are, their causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and prevention methods.

Our goal is to provide you with comprehensive information to help you better care for your cat’s dental health.

What is a Cat Dental Abscess?

A cat dental abscess is a painful condition where an infection forms around a tooth root or in the gums, creating a pocket of pus.

This happens because bacteria have invaded the area, leading to swelling and discomfort.

If not treated quickly, it can cause severe pain and lead to more serious health problems for your cat.

Causes of Cat Dental Abscesses

Several factors can lead to dental abscesses in cats, causing them significant pain and discomfort.

Here are the main causes:

Periodontal disease

Periodontal disease is one of the most common reasons cats develop dental abscesses.

This condition starts with the accumulation of bacteria and tartar on your cat’s teeth.

Over time, this buildup leads to inflammation and infection of the gums and the tissues surrounding the teeth.

If not treated, the infection can spread deeper, causing an abscess.

Tooth resorption

Tooth resorption is a condition where the structure of a tooth begins to break down.

This can happen for various reasons, many of which are still not completely understood.

When a tooth starts to resorb, it can create openings where bacteria can enter, leading to infection and, eventually, an abscess.


Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums, usually caused by poor dental hygiene and the buildup of bacteria.

If gingivitis is not treated, it can worsen, leading to infections that can cause abscesses.

Regular brushing of your cat’s teeth and professional dental cleanings can help prevent gingivitis from developing into a more serious problem.


Symptoms of Cat Dental Abscesses

Recognizing the symptoms of a dental abscess early can help prevent further complications and ensure your cat receives the necessary treatment promptly.

Here are the key indicators to watch for:

Bad breath

Persistent bad breath is a common sign of dental problems in cats.

If your cat’s breath smells unusually foul, it might be due to a dental abscess or another oral health issue.

The infection and decay in the mouth create a strong odor that can be quite noticeable.

Excessive drooling

Cats with dental abscesses may drool more than usual because of the pain and discomfort.

Sometimes, you might even notice blood or a bad smell in the drool.

If your cat’s fur around their mouth is often wet or they leave wet spots where they rest, it could be a sign of an abscess.

Weight loss

If your cat has trouble eating because of a dental abscess, they might lose weight and become malnourished.

Watch for signs like eating less or avoiding food altogether.

If your cat is losing weight despite having plenty of food available, a dental issue could be to blame.

Difficulty eating

Cats with a dental abscess might eat slowly, refuse food, or show signs of pain while eating.

They might chew on one side of their mouth or drop food frequently.

You may notice them being more cautious when eating or avoiding hard foods they used to enjoy.

Visible tartar

Yellow or brown buildup on your cat’s teeth is a sign of tartar, which can lead to periodontal disease and abscesses.

Regularly checking your cat’s teeth for tartar can help you catch dental issues early.

Tartar is a hard substance that forms when plaque isn’t removed, leading to inflammation and infection.

Bleeding, swollen, or red gums

Healthy gums should be pink and firm.

If your cat’s gums are red, swollen, or bleed easily, it could indicate a dental abscess.

Inflamed gums are more sensitive and prone to bleeding, which you might notice when your cat eats or when you brush their teeth.

Pawing at teeth or mouth

Cats often paw at their mouth or teeth when something is bothering them.

If your cat is frequently touching their mouth with their paws, it’s a sign they are experiencing discomfort and might have a dental abscess or another dental issue.


Diagnosing a Cat Dental Abscess

Proper diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment.

Veterinarians typically perform the following steps to diagnose a dental abscess in cats:

Physical examination

The vet will start with a thorough examination of your cat’s mouth.

They’ll look for visible signs of a dental abscess, such as swelling, redness, and tartar buildup.

This hands-on inspection helps pinpoint the source of your cat’s discomfort and confirms the presence of an abscess.


Next, the vet will likely take dental X-rays.

While a physical exam shows surface issues, X-rays reveal what’s happening below the gum line.

This imaging helps the vet see the extent of the infection and check if the tooth root or surrounding bone is affected.

X-rays can uncover hidden problems like tooth resorption or deep-rooted infections that aren’t visible during a regular exam.

Blood Tests (Optional)

Sometimes, the vet might recommend blood tests.

These tests check for underlying health issues that could complicate the treatment of the dental abscess.

If your cat has a condition affecting their immune system or overall health, it could impact how they respond to treatment.

Blood tests give a full picture of your cat’s health, ensuring any underlying issues are addressed along with the abscess.


Treatment Options for a Cat Dental Abscess

Once a dental abscess is diagnosed in your cat, several steps are taken to relieve their discomfort and address the infection:


The first step is usually to prescribe antibiotics.

These medications fight the bacterial infection causing the abscess, helping to reduce inflammation and promote healing.

Your vet will choose an antibiotic that’s effective against the specific bacteria involved, and it’s important to follow the prescribed dosage and duration to ensure the infection is fully treated.

Pain medication

Managing your cat’s pain is crucial for their comfort.

Pain medications help relieve the discomfort associated with a dental abscess, making it easier for your cat to eat and drink.

Your vet will prescribe appropriate pain relievers to ensure your cat is as comfortable as possible during the healing process.

Dental surgery

In severe cases, dental surgery might be necessary.

This could involve extracting the affected tooth or performing a thorough cleaning to remove infected tissue.

Surgery helps prevent the infection from spreading and addresses the root cause of the abscess.

Your vet will discuss the best surgical options for your cat’s specific condition and ensure the procedure is done safely.

Post-operative care

After surgery, it’s important to follow your veterinarian’s post-operative care instructions to ensure your cat heals properly.

This may include:

  • Administering medications: Continue giving any prescribed antibiotics and pain medications as directed.
  • Providing a soft diet: Soft food is easier for your cat to eat while their mouth heals. Your vet may recommend specific foods or suggest how to modify your cat’s current diet.
  • Maintaining oral hygiene: Keeping your cat’s mouth clean is crucial for preventing future infections.

Preventing Cat Dental Abscesses

Prevention is always better than cure. Here are some steps to prevent dental abscesses in your cat:

Regular dental checkups

Make sure to schedule regular dental checkups with your vet.

These visits allow the vet to thoroughly check your cat’s teeth and gums.

By catching any dental issues early, like plaque buildup or gum inflammation, you can prevent them from turning into more serious problems such as abscesses.

Professional cleanings during these visits remove tartar that brushing alone may not reach.

Brushing your cat’s teeth

If your cat allows it, try brushing their teeth regularly.

Use toothbrushes and toothpaste made specifically for cats, as human toothpaste can be harmful to them.

Start slowly and gently, gradually increasing the time as your cat gets used to it.

Brushing helps remove plaque before it hardens into tartar, which can lead to gum disease and abscesses.

Providing dental chews and treats

Give your cat dental chews and treats designed to help clean their teeth as they chew.

These products can reduce plaque and tartar buildup, which are major causes of dental abscesses.

Look for items with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal, which shows they meet standards for reducing plaque and tartar.

Adding dental chews and treats to your cat’s routine can complement brushing and support their overall dental health.



Cat dental abscesses are a serious health concern that can cause significant discomfort and lead to other health problems if left untreated.

By understanding the causes, recognizing the symptoms, and taking preventive measures, you can help ensure your cat maintains good oral health.

Regular veterinary checkups and proper dental care at home are essential in preventing and managing dental abscesses.


How often should I brush my cat’s teeth?

Ideally, you should brush your cat’s teeth daily. If that’s not possible, aim for at least 2-3 times a week.

What are the best dental treats for cats?

Look for dental treats approved by veterinarians or carrying the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal. They are specifically designed to help clean teeth and reduce plaque and tartar.

Can dental abscesses affect a cat’s overall health?

Yes, dental abscesses can lead to severe infections that may spread to other parts of the body, affecting your cat’s overall health.

Are certain cat breeds more prone to dental abscesses?

While all cats can develop dental abscesses, some breeds with flat faces, like Persians and Himalayans, may be more prone to dental issues due to their facial structure.

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