Jaw problems in cats can generally be attributed to two things: an asymmetrical jaw, or oral cancer, which is also known as Feline Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
Exotic Shorthairs, especially Persians, are sometimes prone to having an asymmetrical jaw, which is simply a genetic alignment issue but can cause the cat difficulty biting, chewing and eating and can potentially lead to dental problems. The upper or lower jaw may also protrude, resulting in an overbite or an underbite.
Oral Cancer Symptoms
Oral Cancer, commonly called Oral SCC, occurs in older cats and is life-threatening and sometimes hard to detect. Symptoms include a growth (either a tumor or lesion on the jaw) drooling, weight loss, trouble eating (or dysphagia) and bad breath (or halitosis). Sometimes there are no visible symptoms.
Older cats should be checked regularly because they are most at risk, and testing should also be done if anything looks suspicious during a teeth cleaning. A biopsy is the best way to confirm whether or not SCC is present, especially if no tumor is visible.
If the tumor or lesion is too advanced, surgical removal is impossible without part of the jaw itself, because bone fusion is typically extensive. Radiation and chemotherapy have been used to shrink tumors, but regrowth happens rapidly once the treatment is finished. If eating has become too difficult, a feeding tube might be necessary. Pain medications such as Piroxicam or Butorphanol may be used to minimize discomfort.
Sadly, oral cancer in cats is almost always terminal. The survival rate beyond one year is less than 10 percent, even if treatment is used. Most infected cats are euthanized once the cancer has significantly progressed, due to poor nutrition and quality of life.