Dental problems such as gingivitis can be very painful for cats. In this blog, our Los Angeles County vets talk about gingivitis in cats, including how you can recognize it and the ways it can be prevented and treated.
Gingivitis in Cats
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gum or gingiva, which surrounds the teeth. This disease could range from moderate to severe, and in serious situations, cats that have gingivitis can become very uncomfortable and have problems eating. 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 & Symptoms of Gingivitis in Cats
Common signs of gingivitis in cats are:
- Plaque build-up on the surface of the teeth
- Bad breath
- Difficulty picking up toys or food
- Difficulty eating or not eating at all
- Red or swollen gums, especially around the area of the inner cheek
The Causes of Cat Gingivitis
Common causes of gingivitis in cats include:
- Bad Dental Care
- Old age
- Soft Food
- Crowded teeth
- FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus)
- Autoimmune Diseases
How Cats are Diagnosed with Gingivitis
Because cats are talented at masking their pain, they might not display any clues of discomfort, even if their oral pain is severe. Your cat may continue being active and eating as normal but still have dental disease. It's essential to take your cat to the vet regularly for routine exams, to provide your vet with the chance to detect any signs of dental problems. Vets are often able to identify signs of conditions while observing an animal and checking for the symptoms listed above.
Treating Gingivitis in Cats
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 diseases, routine tooth cleanings and dental X-rays should be conducted under anesthesia.
In order for cats with stomatitis to have a comfortable mouth, their teeth often have to be extracted by a veterinarian, if needed.
How often you need to bring your cat to the vet for dental checkups will be determined by how serious your cat's periodontal disease is. If your adult cat has overcrowded teeth or if they have baby (deciduous) teeth, your vet might suggest a tooth extraction. Your veterinarian will teach you how to brush your cat's teeth, and you should schedule follow-up exams.
How to Maintain Your Cat's Teeth
You can purchase toothpaste and brushes specifically designed for cats at most pet supply stores, these can help prevent gingivitis. You should gradually and consistently introduce your kitty to the toothbrushing process so they can get used to it.
Making your cat familiar with toothpaste and toothbrushes
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.
Getting 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.
Brushing Your Cat's Teeth
Once your cat is familiar with you touching their mouth and the feeling of a toothbrush and toothpaste, you should have an easier time brushing their teeth. Brush along their gum line (only on the outside of their teeth) for approximately 15 to 30 seconds, and when you are done reward them with a treat.