Dr. Mark is a veterinarian with over 40 years of experience in the field. He works with dogs, cats, exotics, and livestock.
In each part of our body, we have individual colonies of bacteria, fungus, protozoa, and other primitive single-cell organisms. Each of us, and each of our cats, has a specific colony of organisms in the mouth that we can now readily identify; that is what makes up the oral microbiome.
Identification is important because some organisms are more responsible for tooth and gum problems than others, and cats that have a mouth full of these organisms are more likely to develop problems than others.
Is it worth it to spend the money to find out what organisms are in your cat's mouth? If you take the information and file it somewhere and do nothing about it, no, it is not. If you take the information from the report and change feeding and other oral care habits, it is worth knowing and can potentially save your cat a lot of pain and suffering in the future.
How Can I Find Out My Cat's Oral Microbiome?
Testing your cats oral biome is now as easy as a human DNA test. The kit that can be purchased from the company that will give you the results will include a swab and all you have to do is take a sample from the inside of your cats mouth. You send it in to the company and results will come back telling you the threat levels.
Is It Worth It?
This test is worth doing if the results are used. Basepaws, the company that will test your cats, is now able to determine which bacterial colonies and other organisms are more likely to cause tooth resorption, gum disease, and even bad breath.
The test is still relatively expensive, especially if you have a multi-cat household, but a DNA test is included, and if you find out that one cat is more prone to problems more effort should be spent on that pet.
How Much Bacteria Is in a Cat's Mouth?
There are about 200 different kinds of bacteria that live in your cat's mouth, which is a lot less than humans or dogs.
Some of them, like Porphyromonas gingivalis, are seen in higher numbers in those cats with gingival disease. Another common bacteria found in a cat's mouth when they have dental problems is Pasturella multocida, a bacteria that is also found in about 80% of the wounds in people that have been bitten by their cat.
The microbiome test will figure out which percentage of each bacteria is in your cat's mouth and identify those cats predisposed to problems.
How Can I Change My Cats Oral Microbiome if I Need To?
If the Basepaws DNA report shows that your cat's oral biome is full of bacteria that tend to cause tooth resorption, gum disease, or bad breath, you can make some changes. Daily brushing is most important, but if your cat is prone to developing bad breath you can use an oral gel with chlorhexidine to change the bacteria and delay the onset of disease.
Dietary changes are also important. Most of the research being done so far is on altering a cat's intestinal biome so that the cat will no longer have diarrhea, loose stools, or other bowel problems. If you want to alter the oral biome based on this DNA test, it can be helpful to feed a natural meat-based diet and one that is low in carbohydrates and sugars.
As more information becomes available it should be possible to purchase bacterial colonies (like those in yogurt and some probiotics) that will change the colonies in your cat's mouth so that problems are less likely to develop. In the meantime, you can also use all these other tips to treat periodontal disease early.
Adler, C. J., Malik, R., Browne, G. V., & Norris, J. M. (2016). Diet may influence the oral microbiome composition in cats. Microbiome, 4(1), 23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4899902/
Dewhirst, F. E., Klein, E. A., Bennett, M. L., Croft, J. M., Harris, S. J., & Marshall-Jones, Z. V. (2015). The feline oral microbiome: a provisional 16S rRNA gene based taxonomy with full-length reference sequences. Veterinary microbiology, 175(2-4), 294–303. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4297541/
Krumbeck, J. A., Reiter, A. M., Pohl, J. C., Tang, S., Kim, Y. J., Linde, A., Prem, A., & Melgarejo, T. (2021). Characterization of Oral Microbiota in Cats: Novel Insights on the Potential Role of Fungi in Feline Chronic Gingivostomatitis. Pathogens (Basel, Switzerland), 10(7), 904. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8308807/
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.