Feline Resorptive Lesions

This is another topic I am very passionate about! It is estimated that by middle age, 50% of cats will have one or more resorptive lesions. You can see why I find this disease so important as it can be a very common source of pain for many cats!

It saddens me to know that so many cats are suffering from dental pain and disease, yet they barely show us that they are in pain or discomfort. In my opinion, dental and oral pain is one of the worst types of pain!

So what are feline resorptive lesions?

Feline resorptive lesions are a common source of dental pain for cats, and are caused by their own cells (odontoclasts) eating away at the tooth from underneath the enamel. Initially they will start as smaller holes, usually hidden under the gumline, but if left to progress they will become very large and lead to nerve (dental pulp) exposure. If you ask any human that has had dental pulp exposure, they will be able to tell you just how painful it is, especially when eating – ranging from sensitivities to sudden, sharp and intense pains in the mouth. There are different ‘types’ of resorptive lesions (type 1 and type 2) however for the sake of this blog, I won’t be elaborating on the different types of tooth resorption.

Signs of feline resorptive lesions

As cats are well known to be the masters of hiding disease, many owners do not know that their cat has resorptive lesions. In my experiences, upon finding resorptive lesions in a cat in annual health checks (the ones that can be visualized above the gum line that is!), I have had many owners say to me “Well, the cat still eats so it can’t be that painful”. If the cat doesn’t eat, it will starve and die. I don’t know about you, but if I had a sore tooth but no access to dental care, I probably wouldn’t just starve myself and die. An animals natural instincts generally stop them from doing this, so they often just put up with the pain and continue to eat as best as they can.

Some signs that may indicate your cat has a resorptive lesion include:

  • Reluctance to eat (looking like they WANT to eat by going to the food bowl, but then only eating a small amount or not at all)
  • A preference to wet/soft food or not eating hard food such as cat biscuits or treats
  • Drooling
  • Reluctance to chew or chewing on one side of the mouth
  • Dropping food
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Bad breath
  • General lethargy

If your cat will also let you look in it’s mouth at home, you may not see the lesion itself (see photos below), but instead you may see inflammation or redness of the gums, swelling of the gums, or a build up of tartar over the teeth.

Your veterinarian will likely also recommend dental x-rays at the same time as the dental procedure to detect any resorptive lesions underneath the gum line.

A resorptive lesion that is visible above the gumline

X-rays of a resorptive lesion that is below the gumline. These painful lesions would not be seen without the use of dental x-rays!

How can resorptive lesions be fixed?

The most common treatment for resorptive lesion is extraction of the affected tooth. Although this may seem like a drastic treatment option to some, removing the source of pain will improve the patients’ quality of life significantly! Fillings are not an adequate treatment option for resorptive lesions, as the lesion will only continue to progress underneath the filling.

If you feel like your cat may have a resorptive lesion, please contact your veterinary clinic to schedule a check up! Picking up resorptive lesions early will save your cat from a lot of pain and discomfort!

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