MARKEMERSON asks: "We have an 18 year old cat that has recently developed an unusual behavior after eating which is becoming a problem. After he finishes eating, he will sit up, tilt his head to the side, and work his jaws and tongue as if he is trying to dislodge a piece of food caught in his teeth. Hell continue this for about a minute or so, leaving big drops of saliva and food on the floor around his bowl. Any suggestions?"
As cats age, they often lose teeth to gum disease, resorption, and tooth injury. Sometimes the tooth is never found, and sometimes teeth are removed during a dental cleaning when your veterinarian elects to remove diseased teeth.
Signs of tooth trouble vary with the patient, but may include: excessive drooling, bad breath, "chattering" teeth, blood-tinged saliva, and reluctance to eat.
Sometimes the teeth and gums aren't the primary problem. Oral tumors (i.e. squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma) can cause obstruction to swallowing, leading to drooling or reluctance/inability to swallow and eat. They can also become infected; leading to bad breath, drooling and pain.
Anytime an animal has trouble eating, weight loss and poor nutrition are very real possibilities, and very young and very old animals can debilitate very quickly.
Bottom line: any time your pet exhibits a new behavior or medical problem, it is best to have it checked out with your veterinarian as soon as possible.