Feline Gingivitis Symptoms

Feline gingivitis is an inflammatory disease of the teeth and gums. Gingivitis may be associated with feline leukemia or feline immunodeficiency virus. Gingivitis can make eating very painful for your cat, and can cause halitosis, among other symptoms.

Causes of Feline Gingivitis

Vets believe that a number of factors contribute to the development of feline gingivitis and stomatitis, a related disease that causes inflammation of the oral membranes at the back of the mouth and which usually occurs concurrently with gingivitis. Vets think that some cats may have an allergic sensitivity to bacterial plaque, a condition known as 'plaque intolerance.' Plaque intolerance leads to a disease called lymphocytic-plasmacytic gingivitis stomatitis (LPGS), which affects the cat's whole mouth.

LPGS causes immune cells known as lymphocytes and plasma cells to move into the tissues of the mouth and cause inflammation at the gumline. Some vets believe that immune disease like FeLV, FIP or FIV may play a role in feline gingivitis, but there is no conclusive evidence to support this.

Some vets believe that certain breeds are more prone to gingivitis than others, though the veterinary community doesn't seem to have reached an agreement as to which breeds those might be. The disease sometimes develops in very young cats between three to five months of age, and is more common in immunosuppressed cats.

Feline Gingivitis Symptoms

Symptoms of feline gingivitis include severe pain. Your cat's behavior may change, and he may become irritable, aggressive, depressed or even reclusive. He may drool and have trouble eating; often, cats with gingivitis stop eating altogether as it becomes too painful. Cats with gingivitis will appear to be quite hungry in spite of not eating, because they are.

Gingivitis causes bad breath and may make your cat's gums bleed. Cats with feline gingivitis may stop grooming themselves.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Feline gingivitis is diagnosed through a physical exam. Your cat may need to be placed under general anesthesia during this exam. Your vet may find ulcers and lesions on the gums, palette, back of the mouth, lips and tongue. Lesions on the gumline typically surround the entire tooth. The back teeth are usually the most affected.

Treatment involves regular veterinary dental cleaning, at least every six months. Your vet may need to extract decayed teeth. If your cat can tolerate home dental care, you'll need to brush his teeth daily and he'll need to use an oral rinse.

Your vet may prescribe medications, including antibiotics. Good nutrition is also of the utmost importance to cats suffering from gingivitis since they won't eat as much as they should due to pain. Your cat may need vitamin supplements to make up for nutritional deficiencies caused by gingivitis pain.

The only cure for feline gingivitis is the extraction of all the cat's back teeth. 60 to 90% of cats who have their teeth extracted recover completely from feline gingivitis symptoms. Many vets recommend extraction as a principle treatment for gingivitis, as it is easier than maintenance treatments and has no harmful long term side effects on the cat.