Cats may experience significant discomfort due to poor dental health. It's quite common for felines to develop dental diseases, particularly gingivitis, which is the initial stage of periodontal disease, by the age of 3. In this article, our vets from Orlando detail the symptoms, causes, and treatments of gingivitis in cats.
What is Gingivitis in Cats?
Cats can suffer from gingivitis, which is the inflammation of the gums surrounding their teeth. This dental issue can range from mild to severe and cause discomfort, leading to difficulty in eating and, in severe cases, even tooth extraction. The buildup of plaque on teeth is the root cause of gingivitis. When left unbrushed, the plaque hardens into tartar, which can damage the enamel, and cause gum recession, ulcers, and bleeding.
Signs of Gingivitis in Cats
If you observe any of these signs in your feline, it is recommended to schedule a dental check-up with your veterinarian promptly:
- Red or swollen gums, especially around the area of the inner cheek
- Bad breath
- Plaque build-up on the surface of the teeth
- Difficulty eating or not eating at all
Causes of Gingivitis in Cats
Several factors commonly contribute to gingivitis in cats:
- Old age
- Crowded teeth
- Soft Food
- Bad Dental Care
- Autoimmune Diseases
- FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus)
Treatment for Cats with Gingivitis
To address gingivitis, the main goal is to eliminate plaque and dental calculus, while also treating or removing any unstable or diseased teeth. Routine tooth cleanings and dental X-rays should be performed while under anesthesia to manage any inflammatory dental disease. If a cat has stomatitis, their veterinarian may recommend tooth extraction to help them feel more comfortable.
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
Regular cleaning with cat-specific toothbrushes and toothpaste can help prevent gingivitis in cats. It's important to introduce tooth brushing gradually to avoid negative associations with the process. Here are some tips to help your cat get used to tooth brushing and make it easier for both of you.
- 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 clickable 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.
- Brushing. With your cat used to the toothbrush, toothpaste, and you touching their mouth, it should e 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.