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Tooth resorption affects 75% of cats

Photo of a hand examining a cat's tooth to represent tooth resorption in cats and dogs.

Tooth resorption in pets is a medical condition in which the dentin of one or more teeth – tissue that lies under the enamel – erodes over time and ends up being irreparably destroyed. In the most severe cases, all dental structures are compromised.

This condition is extremely common in domestic pets. Up to 75% of cats can have it, especially as they get older. Cats are more prone to tooth resorption, but dogs can also be affected.

Causes of tooth resorption in pets

The cause of the development of this disease is still unknown and its pathogenesis is controversial. Some authors argue that there are certain predisposing factors, although this has not been fully proven. Among some of the discussed factors, the following show promise:

  • Gingivitis and Periodontitisthis inflammation of the gums has varying severity due to the accumulation of bacteria in the pet’s mouth. When not treated, it can cause irreparable damage to the oral tissue and teeth of the animal.
  • Metabolic and endocrine diseases.
  • Systemic acidosis: this happens when acids build up in the animal’s body or stored bicarbonate is lost. 
  • Very high levels of vitamin D in the blood.
  • Local hypoxia: lack of oxygen in certain tissues of the animal, usually due to breathing difficulties and other events.
  • Viral diseases.
  • Anatomical changes and trauma.

It is believed that these events can trigger tooth resorption in pets, but direct causality has not been established. What has been seen is that the chances of developing the pathology increase with age, since many of the pets that present it are 5 years old or older.

Infographic of cat's tooth to explain about tooth absorption in cats


Tooth resorption causes progressive dental damage so the symptoms will appear in the mouth and will manifest at mealtime. Tooth resorption can be extremely painful, but depending on the pet, they are good at hiding their discomfort. Some will not show any symptoms or obvious discomfort until the condition is severe.

One of the most common clinical signs is difficulty eating. The pet may try to chew with only one side of the mouth, drop food accidentally when chewing or bite carefully and slowly. 

On the most obvious occasions, a line of blood can be seen sprouting from the pet’s gums. This can be accompanied by excessive salivation and bad breath that was not present before. Any gradual physiological and behavioral change can be an indication of progressive tooth resorption.

Diagnosing tooth resorption in cats & dogs

The diagnosis of tooth resorption starts by paying attention to the typical symptoms at home. Most of the time it is not possible to confirm the diagnosis without dental x-rays. Thorough anamnesis of the mouth is also performed by the veterinarian for a full diagnosis and to assess the severity of the issue.

Vet-prescribed treatment for tooth resorption

Surgical removal of the affected tooth or teeth is usually the only option. After the procedure, the animal will be sent home to rest, along with the prescription of specific painkillers, in order to relieve oral pain.

Photo of a veterinarian with blue gloves examining a dog's mouth to diagnose tooth resorption

Taking care of a pet with tooth resorption

Post-operation care at home is an important part of the treatment of cats and dogs with tooth resorption. Most of the time the pet will recover in a week or two, but during this time it is important to pay attention to their eating habits. Changing their food to a softer or pastier option might be needed.

Medication like painkillers, anti-inflammatories and, for the most severe cases, antibiotics, may be prescribed. It is important to give the pharmaceuticals as instructed by the veterinarian.