Your cat can be in big pain if not treated in time: FORL is a common problem in cats

László Enikő

2022. February 15 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary, Suttogó Veterinary Clinic

FORL is a common and painful disease in cats, in which the root canal is gradually absorbed. The problem can affect more than half of cats.


Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesion (FORL) is a disease of the teeth in cats, according to experts occurs in 20-60% of cats. Over the past 30 years, the number of cats affected has risen rapidly, so it is more common today than it used to be. Most often it develops in individuals older than the age of the girdle. The disease can make eating, drinking and grooming themselves extremely painful for cats.

What is FORL?

FORL or feline tooth resorption is a condition in cats where the tooth root is gradually resorbed due to increased odontoclast activity. The cause of its development is still unknown. As the problem worsens, everyday activities such as eating, drinking and grooming can become extremely painful for the kittens.

How can you recognise it?

Kittens are very good at masking their pain, so it is very difficult to spot the problem at an early stage. In the wild, a cat showing signs of pain would be the most targeted prey for predators. As a result, cats often do not show their pain until they become seriously ill. That’s why it’s important to know your pet well and check his teeth from time to time. This is something to get used to from an early age.

It is important to point out that cats’ teeth do not tend to become cavities due to decay. If you do notice this, it’s likely that feline tooth resorption is the problem. FORL is not caused by bacteria, but by the body’s own biological processes.

It can be a warning sign if your cat’s behaviour changes, for example if it stops being interested in its favourite toy or snuggling up to you. It is worth observing how he eats. If he chews too slowly and gently, turn his head to the side or expel food from his mouth, this may be a cause for concern. If he is eating less, he will lose weight, so you need to pay attention to that too.

Most cats don’t like having their mouths picked on, and a sick cat will resist. If you manage to look inside your pet’s mouth and see blood along the gums, make sure you see your vet. You may also notice that your pet drools excessively, even if he hasn’t eaten.

At the vet

If you notice any of the above symptoms, make sure you see your vet. The professional will thoroughly examine the cat’s mouth and perform a teeth cleaning. An X-ray is taken so that you can determine the extent of damage. In the early stages, it can plug up the cavities, reducing the cat’s pain. However, this does not necessarily eliminate the problem completely, as the affected teeth may need to be removed after a few years.

In many cases, tooth extraction is the best solution to eliminate the pain. The cats will recover from this in a week or two and will feel much better. It’s a good idea to switch to wet food at this time to make things easier for your pet. According to some research some commercial cat foods are too high in vitamin D, which can contribute to tooth decay. For this reason, it is worth paying attention to the vitamin D content when changing your cat’s diet.

Dr. Regina Matuska, the cat’s dental hygienist at the Suttogó Veterinary Clinic said:

“FORL is a very common disease in cats. During the course of the disease, the tooth root is progressively absorbed due to increased odontoclast activity. Depending on where the process of tooth resorption starts, we distinguish between internal and external types; within the external type, we distinguish between inflammatory, non-inflammatory and surface resorption.

Because the progression of the disease is slow, this lesion is more common in older cats. Some breeds are more likely to occur, such as the Persian cat. A general physical examination often shows no changes around the affected teeth, while other times gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), increased plaque or tartar build-up can be seen. Often, it is the change in behaviour due to pain that draws the owner’s attention to the oral problem. This may include refusal of food or difficulty in chewing.

Photo by Suttogó Veterinary Clinic

An oral cavity examination and dental X-ray can be used to detect the disease and assess its severity. In addition to FORL, treatment of periodontal diseases, pain relief and the removal of tartar are also important. For FORL, removal of the affected tooth is often the only permanent solution, and regular clinical follow-up will help to control the disease in the long term.”

cat diseases FORL Health symptoms of the disease tooth extraction

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