cat stopped eating due to tooth pain
Cat Health and Wellness

Cat Not Eating Due to Teeth Problems – What Can I Do to Help?

Dental problems, including but not limited to toothache, are common in cats. Almost all felines will experience tooth decay or gum disease at some stage. This will leave the cat reluctant to eat as it hurts to do so.

If your cat is not eating due to dental pain, encourage some degree of nourishment. Manage your cat’s pain and tempt it into eating with stimulating scents. Provide an appetite stimulant, as well as soft food. Liquid food is also acceptable, as long as it provides nutrition.

All cats are likely to struggle with dental issues. Oftentimes, this will manifest in the first 3 years of a cat’s life. Some felines can avoid the teeth problems for longer, provided that a good oral health regime is maintained.

Does My Cat Have Toothache?

Sometimes, eating is simply too painful for the cat to contemplate. There are other warning signs:

  • Visible plaque, tartar, and staining on the teeth
  • Drooling, especially from one side of the face
  • Pawing at the face
  • Foul breath
  • Refusing to play with toys
  • Discoloring of the gums
  • Bleeding from the gums
  • Swelling around the tongue
  • An aggressive response to being touched on the face

Obvious physical symptoms include cracked and broken teeth, or tooth loss. Understanding the different types of dental pain that can impact cats is critical. Feline oral pain has many possible causes, including:

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the inflammation of a cat’s gums. As with all forms of inflammation, this will lead to painful swelling. This, in turn, will mean that your cat’s teeth will hurt.

Gingivitis is caused by the build-up of plaque on a cat’s teeth. Plaque is a filmy coating that sticks to a cat’s teeth after eating. This film attracts bacteria, which are then able to multiply.

These bacteria make their way to the gums, eventually migrating below the surface. Inflammation is then triggered by the cat’s immune system responding to this problem. If the swelling is more generalized, spreading to the tongue, this is known as stomatitis.

As explained by The Journal of Nutrition, Gingivitis can be avoided by regularly brushing the teeth. Even after it arises, gingivitis can be reversed if dealt with at an early stage. Once the condition takes hold, it rapidly worsens, eventually leading to periodontitis.

difficulty eating cat food

Periodontal Disease

Unchecked gingivitis will advance to periodontal disease, a more serious form of inflammation. Just brushing the teeth won’t be effective once periodontitis takes hold. This means that your cat will, at a minimum, require a professional tooth cleaning.

Even after this, teeth may need to be removed due to irreparable damage. Also, antibiotics will be required to manage a bacterial infection.

Tooth Resorption

Feline tooth resorption is another common dental issue. This problem arises when the integrity of the tooth deteriorates, leading to cavities.

The lower teeth are most commonly impacted by tooth resorption. A study of 109 cases in the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry found that purebreds are likeliest to be affected.

You may notice a cavity in your cat’s teeth, or gums growing over the tooth. In the latter case, an x-ray will be required for diagnosis. In the event of tooth resorption, extraction is the only viable solution.

Cracks And Fractures

Cats’ teeth can become cracked or broken. This may occur due to eating hard food, especially in older cats. As cats age, their teeth and bones become brittle. Alternatively, an impact injury can lead to broken teeth.

Broken teeth are painful for cats. The root of the tooth will be unprotected, which exposes the nerve endings. Also, the fractured tooth may have jagged edges that lead to sore gums. 

Abscesses

If your cat has a broken tooth, an abscess may follow. Bacteria enter the root canal of the tooth that was exposed by the fracture.

These bacteria cause inflammation in the tooth, which is called pulpitis. Over time, the tooth will rot and die, known as pulp necrosis. Bacteria can also leak from the exposed tooth, rotting other teeth and bones.

This will potentially result in a build-up of pus. This can be controlled with antibiotics, but the tooth will need to be removed. Other teeth that are impacted may also need to be extracted.

Malocclusions

As explained by BMJ InPractice, malocclusions occur when a cat’s teeth are in unnatural positions. This is usually the result of a birth defect, or trauma to the lower jaw. Broken bones may heal organically, but without appropriate treatment, they can grow misaligned.

The result will be an overbite or an underbite. The cat will be unable to close its mouth without inadvertently biting its gums.

Malocclusions are easy to spot at home. A professional will conduct an oral exam to confirm any suspicions. If a malocclusion is diagnosed, teeth will be extracted, or orthodontics used to reposition teeth.

Cat is Not Eating Due To Bad Teeth

If your cat is struggling to eat due to dental issues, then its life is in danger. Cats can only last 3-4 days without eating. Anything longer than 24 hours is risky, especially in older felines.

If tooth issues prevent a cat from eating, you must encourage the cat to eat something, even if it’s significantly less than usual. Also, you must seek assistance from a vet to resolve the cat’s dental pain.

Encouraging a Cat To Eat

Felines can be very stubborn animals at the best of times. You must do all you can to get your cat to eat some food. Leaving your cat alone and hoping it changes about eating its mind is not an option at this stage.

Pain Management

The first step to encourage a cat to eat is managing its pain. Your cat’s inappetence is related to the discomfort caused by eating.

Never offer human painkillers, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, to a cat. The British Veterinary Journal has said that these drugs are toxic to felines.

You’ll need a prescription from a vet for pain relief. These meds will be Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, or NSAIDs. No NSAID is approved for prolonged use in cats, so it is a short-term measure only.

Brushing Teeth

Brushing a cat’s teeth is standard practice as it reduces the risk of gingivitis and the conditions that follow. Even if plaque has started to form, brushing can reverse the issue, if caught sufficiently early.

To brush a cat’s teeth, you’ll need a finger-mounted brush and cat-safe toothpaste. Fluoride, the active ingredient in human toothpaste, is toxic to felines when ingested.

Gently brush your cat’s teeth, paying particular attention to the gumline. This is where bacteria gather. If your cat grows uncomfortable, take a break and return later. A cat in pain will not hesitate to bite you.

Appetite Stimulants

You can manage inappetence with natural appetite stimulants. Your local pet store will have plenty of over-the-counter appetite stimulants, such as Nutri-Cal, Lexelium, and Nutri-Vit.

Tempting Food

You can increase your cat’s appetite by appealing to its sense of smell. Drizzle tuna juice or gravy over food. The cat will find it hard to resist.

Keep the food soft. The less resistance your cat’s teeth meet, the more willing it will be to bite off and chew its food.

Cats with dental pain should be fed senior-specific wet food. These meals are intended for cats with weaker teeth. Alternatively, feed your cat soup or broth. In an emergency, a cat can eat human baby food.

Treating Tooth Problems

Encouraging your cat to eat during dental pain is important, but the underlying issue still needs to be resolved. You’ll need assistance from a vet to resolve the problem. This will take one of three approaches:

Cleaning

Professional tooth cleaning under anesthesia is the first step to treating dental issues. There are risks associated with teeth cleaning for senior cats.

Embedded plaque and tartar will be from the teeth using specialist tools. The cat will leave the surgery with clean, healthy teeth.

If your cat’s dental issues are minor, tooth cleaning will be effective. In more advanced cases of tooth decay, teeth may need to be extracted.

Tooth Extraction

Removing a cat’s teeth is a painful, intrusive procedure. Your cat will be placed under general anesthesia and the teeth removed.

A vet will discuss options with you before resorting to tooth extraction. It may be possible for a vet to perform fillings or root canal surgery. In cases of advanced periodontal disease, extraction is the only choice.

It may take about 14 days before your cat is back to its usual self. Encourage your cat to keep eating food in the meantime.

Orthodontics

If tooth removal is impossible or unnecessary, a vet may apply orthodontics. These are braces that realign a cat’s teeth. This approach is likely if multiple teeth need to be adjusted. It’s less intrusive than multiple extractions.

Orthodontics can be expensive and require careful maintenance. You must regularly brush your cat’s teeth, or food will become trapped in the braces. Your cat will also require regular check-ups to tighten the braces.

My Cat Had Teeth Removed and Won’t Eat

Tooth removal is a painful experience. In addition, the procedure will have required the use of anesthesia. So, your cat is unlikely to be hungry as soon as it returns home.

Offer your cat affection, and give your cat painkilling medications prescribed by a vet. After 12 hours, tempt your cat into eating again. Tempting scents and soft food are essential. Keep offering your cat encouragement, as it may take a while for your cat to trust food again.

If your cat is still refusing to eat after 24 hours, consult your vet. The cat may be experiencing side effects from the tooth extraction. Follow professional advice and prepare to return to the surgery as your cat may require intravenous nourishment while it recovers.

cat dropping food when eating

My Cat Won’t Eat After Teeth Cleaning

If your cat underwent a professional tooth cleaning, it was likely anesthetized. This can have a significant impact on a cat’s appetite. The cat may also be grumpy and irritable for a few hours afterward.

The side effects of anesthesia should wear off the day you bring your cat home. Be patient and keep offering food. Do not try to force your cat to eat. Eventually, hunger will take over.

Ensure the meal is soft and appetizing. The cat will be wary of food, recalling the pain that eating its meal previously caused. Once the cat regains its appetite, it will commence eating as normal. Seek guidance from a vet if this does not occur within 24 hours.

My Cat with No Teeth Won’t Eat

If dental problems become chronic, your cat may need all its teeth removed. Offer your cat the softest wet food that you can find. Most senior cat foods are designed to be swallowed with minimal chewing. Keep tempting your cat with meaty scents and encouragement.

If your cat refuses to eat wet food, it can still enjoy kibble. Break the kibble chunks in half, or better yet, grind them down. Apply a feline-friendly gravy to the kibble and serve it as a stew.

This approach can also be applied to whole foods, such as chicken or fish. Place the food in a blender and puree it. A cat, especially if advanced in years, should always eat traditional cat food, though.

A cat experiencing dental problems will always be reluctant to eat. You must recognize the symptoms of tooth problems and consult a vet.