Feline Gingivitis: Understanding Periodontal Disease in Cats

Feline gingivitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the gums and tooth problems in cats. The most commonly known causes of feline gingivitis are feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia. If the infection is chronic, it may cause bacterial infections in the blood, which eventually leads to the damage of organs. Apart from cats suffering from feline leukemia, older cats are highly susceptible to periodontal diseases. If you notice the following symptoms in your pet, seek prompt medical attention.

Symptoms Include:

  • Swollen or inflamed gums that appear red in color
  • Bleeding gums
  • Pain while eating
  • Lack of appetite and subsequent weight loss
  • Excessive salivation
  • Development of halitosis
  • Foul breath

The main cause of early periodontitis in cats is plaque formation due to food particles. Cats fed diets high in carbohydrates are known to develop sensitivity to plaque bacteria. It happens when bacteria mixes with the carbohydrates or proteins from food and forms plaque. This plaque hardens into tartar and sticks to the enamel, close to the gums. The doctor may recommend plaque removal to prevent it from travelling to the blood.

Diagnosis of Feline Gingivitis

The vet will conduct a physical exam under anesthesia to check for gingivitis and its severity. This involves a check for ulcers or lesions in the mouth, gum line, tongue and roof of the mouth. Very often the entire throat and oral cavity is infected. Laboratory tests and biopsy may also be necessary to diagnose symptoms of advanced gingivitis.

Treatment of Feline Gingivitis

The control of gingivitis is crucial as the disease eventually progresses to chronic gingivitis. The treatment will include complete oral care with ointments and antiseptics. The pet may also require a cleaning procedure conducted under anesthesia, which extracts the tartar below the gum line. Since the infection is most severe around the molars and premolars, periodontal surgery that involves the extraction of the teeth may be necessary. Antibiotics and drugs such as methylprednisolone acetate are effective against bacterial infections and chronic gingivitis. Formerly gingevectomy was the preferred treatment in periodontal surgery. However, this procedure should only be used when excessive gum tissue is present.

During the treatment of feline gingivitis, nutritional support is important. There are many commercial diets available that are softer in consistency and hence cause less pain to your cat. However, if the cat suffers from hypersensitivity to plaque bacteria, a low carbohydrate diet works best.

Prevention is the best approach to optimal cat health. Regular dental or oral care will reduce the formation of plaque and tartar that leads to early gingivitis. Routinely brush your cat's teeth after you get her accustomed to a toothbrush. You may also give your cat pet chew products that work as abrasive oral cleansers. As calcivirus is known to increase the risk of gingivitis in cats, both cats and kittens should be appropriately vaccinated to prevent and combat infections. Make sure you keep your pet away from other cats suffering from feline leukemia virus or feline immunodeficiency.

Feline gingivitis is a very painful condition and although antibiotics may help reduce the infection, tooth extraction may be the only long term solution.