Fights, dental problems can plague cats

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Our 1-year-old kitten, Charlie, has a swollen cheek. It’s been
like this for a few days now. This is the same problem he had a few
weeks ago, but we thought it went away. Our neighbor seems to think
it’s probably a bad tooth, but can a kitten have dental
problems?
Q: Our 1-year-old kitten, Charlie, has a swollen cheek. It’s been like this for a few days now. This is the same problem he had a few weeks ago, but we thought it went away. Our neighbor seems to think it’s probably a bad tooth, but can a kitten have dental problems?

A:

He can, and your neighbor might be right. But Charlie also may be getting injured in fights with other cats.

You didn’t mention whether he’s an indoor or outdoor cat. But if he ever goes outside, he might have occasional scuffles with other kitties in the neighborhood. Cat’s claws are sharp, and a puncture wound can introduce bacteria that will cause infection, swelling and sometimes an abscess.

If Charlie is an inside cat and never encounters other kitties or wildlife, then the swelling may be related to a bad tooth. Yes, dental disease is more common in older cats. But young cats are also susceptible to dental problems.

Check to see if his breath has a foul odor and watch to see if he shows any pain when chewing his food. These would be symptoms of an infected tooth.

But even if he seems otherwise normal, he should be evaluated by his vet, especially if this swelling persists.

Q:

Why would our old kitty, Clyde, start making strange noises at night? He’s an indoor cat and we know that he is at least 15, maybe older. He sleeps in another room at the end of the house. He always has. Now we hear him yowling sometimes, almost as if he is in a fight. This happens only once in a while, and he only does it once or twice, then seems to fall back asleep. Any ideas?

A:

Any change in behavior, especially one this dramatic, might indicate a serious medical problem. It’s possible (but not likely) that Clyde is having some crazy dreams. But I’m concerned that he may have other problems. Some of these are treatable, so it makes sense to have him evaluated by his veterinarian.

If he’s been acting a little stiff when he gets up from sleeping, he may have a pinched nerve or other problem in his neck. Pain can cause animals to cry out and if he moves in his sleep, he could have acute discomfort causing him to complain.

On the other hand, his vocalization could also be a symptom of seizure activity or some other central nervous system problem, even age-related senility. There are many different medical conditions to consider here. A thorough physical exam, and a few tests should allow his vet to determine what’s wrong. And as I mentioned, many of these are treatable, even in a kitty as old as Clyde. Once treated, Clyde can get back to a more restful sleep again.

Q:

Johnnie, our old kitty, has a tooth that is sticking out of the side of his mouth. I tried to move it, but he won’t let me. It doesn’t seem loose at all and he’s eating fine. Should I worry?

A:

Johnnie’s tooth has avulsed; it’s popped out of its position in his jaw. You’ll need to take him to his vet to have this tooth treated. It will be pushed back into place if its blood supply is still present. Otherwise, he’ll need an extraction.

All of this is too uncomfortable for any kitty without anesthesia, so he’ll need to stay for at least a few hours at the clinic. It would be smart to have this done right away.

Realigned teeth have a better chance of recovery if they are treated quickly. And injured or diseased teeth can end up infected leading to more serious jaw problems.

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