Dental problems can be extremely painful for our feline companions. Like humans, cats with poor oral health can develop oral health issues such as gingivitis. Our Santa Barbara vets share signs and causes, as well as how the disease is diagnosed and treated.
What is gingivitis in cats?
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gum or gingiva, which surrounds the teeth. The disease can range from moderate to severe, and in extreme cases, cats with gingivitis may have problems eating and grow very uncomfortable. To remedy the condition, a tooth cleaning under anesthesia would be required. Just like humans, plaque - a buildup of germs, debris, dead skin cells, mucus, and food - can accumulate on the teeth and contribute to this dental issue.
Signs of Gingivitis in Cats
Common signs of gingivitis in cats are:
- Difficulty eating or not eating at all
- Difficulty picking up toys or food
- Bad breath
- Red or swollen gums, especially around the area of the inner cheek
- Plaque build-up on the surface of the teeth
Causes of Gingivitis in Cats
Common causes of gingivitis in cats include:
- Autoimmune Diseases
- Old age
- Soft Food
- Bad Dental Care
- FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus)
- Crowded teeth
Diagnosis of Gingivitis in Cats
Since cats are so adept at hiding their pain, they may not show any signs of discomfort even if they are in severe oral pain. Even cats who are eating normally and are active can have significant dental disease. Bringing your cat in for their annual routine exam is essential to the detection of dental disease, as a vet is often able to identify signs of conditions while observing an animal and checking for symptoms listed above.
Treatment for Cats with Gingivitis
Gingivitis treatment focuses on eliminating accumulated plaque and dental calculus, as well as treating or extracting destabilized and/or diseased teeth. To address any inflammatory dental disease, routine tooth cleanings and dental X-rays should be conducted under anesthetic.
For cats suffering from stomatitis to have a comfortable mouth, their teeth are frequently extracted by a veterinarian if it is called for.
The frequency of dental checkups will be determined by the degree of periodontal disease in your cat. If your adult cat's teeth are overcrowded, or if it has baby (deciduous) teeth, your veterinarian may recommend a tooth extraction. Your veterinarian will show you how to clean your cat's teeth, and you should schedule follow-up exams.
Maintaining Your Cat's Teeth
Cat-specific toothbrushes and toothpaste are available for purchase at pet supply stores and can help avoid gingivitis. Brushing should be introduced gradually and consistently so that cats become accustomed to it.
Get your cat familiar with toothbrushes and toothpaste
Leave snacks on the counter near the toothpaste and toothbrush so cats can associate something positive with them. You can also place a dab of toothpaste for them to lick off your finger so they get accustomed to it.
Get your cat used to you touching their mouth
Choose a dental treat your cat enjoys and place it on their canine teeth. As they become accustomed to it, start placing it deeper and deeper into their mouth, on their teeth. This gets them used to you touching their mouth and makes it easier for you to introduce the toothpaste.
With your cat used to the toothbrush, toothpaste, and you touching their mouth, it should be easier to brush their teeth. Brush along the gum line for about 15 to 30 seconds, only on the outside of the teeth, and reward them with a treat afterward.