How Old Is Leo? A Clue: Feline Juvenile Onset Periodontitis

Fun case alert! How old is Leo?


Leo was a young, intact (i.e. not neutered), very sweet, orange, male domestic shorthaired cat who had a rough start to life. When he was found he weighed only 4 pounds, and had a significant upper respiratory infection, tapeworms, and ear mites, all diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian. By the time I saw him 3 weeks later, he was finally 5 pounds, but was still a small-boned kitty.


How old was he? No one knew exactly.


Pallito mouthOn his physical exam, I found significant, diffuse inflammation of his gums with obvious recession on multiple teeth, a resorptive lesion, and even a few teeth that were already missing. His canine (fang) teeth were very mature (i.e. not kitten teeth). These teeth had been there a while.

Fortunately, he did not have “stomatitis,” which is severe inflammation of the back of the mouth (and requires all teeth to be extracted).

I diagnosed him with Feline Juvenile Onset Periodontitis. This is also different from Feline Juvenile Gingivitis, which can occur as the adult teeth erupt.

Ultimately we performed a dental examination, cleaning and x-rays, followed by extraction of 20 of his 30 teeth (2 were missing, 8 got to stay!).



Let’s look at the clues…


Even though he was tiny, it was obvious that he wasn’t a young kitten based on the maturity of his teeth. The clue was in his dental x-rays.

Take a look at the example x-rays from the article Applied Feline Oral Anatomy and Tooth Extraction Techniques: An illustrated guide by Reiter, et al.

young old dental rads


Look at the canine teeth (the big fang teeth). The top teeth are from a cat less than 1 year old. The bottom teeth are from a cat older than 3 years old.

NOW, let’s compare these to Leo’s x-rays.

canine toothLook at the root canal (the dark line down the center) of his canine tooth. It’s thinner than the top picture but wider than the bottom picture. So Leo is older than 1 but less than 3 years old, which is exactly what I thought… about 1.5-2 years old.

Leo did great during his dental procedure (and neuter) and will be a happier cat. Now to get him on some dental home care and hopefully save those remaining teeth!


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I’m Dr. Amber Carter. Board-certified feline-veterinarian. Business owner. Homeschooling mom. Cancer survivor. Hot chocolate connoisseur. 

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