Diagnosing Feline Gingivitis

Feline gingivitis occurs when the tissues of the mouth and gums become chronically inflamed. Vets aren't sure what causes feline gingivitis, but they think it may be the result of an allergic reaction to plaque, a condition known as "plaque intolerance." Some diseases may also play a role in feline gingivitis.

Susceptibility to Feline Gingivitis

Feline gingivitis can develop in cats of all ages and breeds, even in cats as young as three months of age. Some vets believe that pure breeds, like the Siamese, are more prone to developing feline gingivitis. Others feel the disease is most common in ordinary domestic shorthair cats.

Many vets believe that certain diseases can lead to feline gingivitis, including:

  • Feline leukemia virus
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus
  • Feline infectious peritonitis
  • Calicivirus

Cats who have suppressed immune systems seem to be at higher risk for feline gingivitis.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Feline Gingivitis

Feline gingivitis is a chronic disease that causes your cat severe pain. Usually the pain is bad enough to make the cat stop eating. Your cat may also begin to act differently, becoming more aggressive and irritable, or he may seem depressed and attempt to avoid contact with humans and other animals. He may drool excessively, eat less or stop eating altogether, though he'll still appear to be hungry. Cats suffering from gingivitis may have bad breath and may bleed from the gums. They may stop grooming themselves or groom themselves less frequently.

Cats with gingivitis may need to be anesthetized during their physical exams, due to the potential pain of such an exam and also so that the vet may be more thorough in his examination. During the exam, your vet will identify numerous lesions and ulcers of the gums and mouth. They may appear on the lips, tongue, palette, back of the mouth and gums. Usually the back teeth are damaged most severely. Sometimes, tooth resorption, a condition in which the enamel of the tooth deteriorates at or below the gumline, occurs.

Treating Feline Gingivitis

Some vets treat chronic feline gingivitis with an aggressive dental hygiene regimen designed to keep plaque off teeth at all times. This includes veterinary dental cleaning every six months, extraction of damaged or diseased teeth, daily home dental care (brushing), medications and changes in diet.

However, the fastest, easiest and most effective treatment for feline gingivitis is the removal of all teeth. Many vets recommend extracting all teeth to the rear of the front canines right away, because even aggressive dental hygiene generally cannot stop the progression of this painful disease. Tooth extraction is a fast and easy way to resolve the symptoms of feline gingivitis. This method is entirely successful in 80% of cats affected by gingivitis.

Once your cat's teeth are extracted, plaque can no longer irritate his gums, and he should heal quickly from gingivitis. Tooth extraction won't affect your cat's ability to eat. His gums will toughen quickly and most cats begin eating normally again within days after extraction surgery.