In certain instances, felines experiencing suboptimal oral hygiene may develop a distressing ailment referred to as gingivitis. Within this article, our veterinarians in Apple Valley discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatment of gingivitis in cats.
What is gingivitis in cats?
Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums or gingiva, the tissue surrounding the teeth. It occurs due to the accumulation of plaque on the teeth, which transforms into a hardened substance called tartar. As tartar accumulates, it gradually wears away at the gums, forming pockets between the gum line and teeth where infections can develop.
This condition manifests in various stages, ranging from mild to severe. In cases of severe gingivitis, your cat is likely to endure considerable pain and face the risk of tooth loss. Effective treatment for such advanced cases requires professional veterinary dental intervention.
Signs of Gingivitis in Cats
Common signs of gingivitis in cats are:
- Difficulty eating or not eating at all
- Difficulty picking up toys or food
- Bad breath
- Red or swollen gums, especially around the area of the inner cheek
- Plaque or tartar build-up on the surface of the teeth
Causes of Gingivitis in Cats
Common causes of gingivitis in cats include:
- Autoimmune Diseases
- Old age
- Soft Food
- Bad Dental Care
- FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus)
- Crowded teeth
Diagnosis of Gingivitis in Cats
Cats, highly skilled at concealing their pain, might not exhibit any discomfort, even when experiencing severe oral pain. Even if a cat usually eats and maintains an active lifestyle, it can still harbor significant dental disease. It is crucial to bring your cat in for an annual dental exam to detect dental issues. Vets can often identify signs of conditions by observing the animal and checking for the symptoms mentioned above.
Treatment for Cats with Gingivitis
Gingivitis treatment aims to eliminate accumulated plaque and dental calculus. If the teeth cannot be saved, your veterinarian may recommend extraction. Typically, cat dental exams involve anesthesia, allowing your vet to thoroughly clean and examine each tooth and take any required X-rays.
The frequency of dental checkups for your cat will be determined by the degree of periodontal disease. Cats with severe gingivitis may need to visit more often.
If your adult cat has overcrowded teeth or baby (deciduous) teeth, your veterinarian may suggest a tooth extraction to prevent further dental issues.
Additionally, your veterinarian will guide you on providing at-home dental care for your cat.
Maintaining Your Cat's Teeth
Cat-specific toothbrushes and toothpaste, designed to prevent gingivitis when used regularly, can be found at pet supply stores. Introduce brushing gradually and consistently to help cats become accustomed to it.
Get your cat familiar with toothbrushes and toothpaste
Place snacks on the counter near the toothpaste and toothbrush, allowing cats to associate something positive with them. Additionally, offer a small dab of toothpaste on your finger for them to lick, helping them become accustomed to it.
Get your cat used to you touching their mouth
Take it slow at first. Gently massage your cat's front teeth and gums for as long as they allow. Make this a daily routine, gradually reaching into their mouth each session. The key here is to build trust. Once you and your cat are at ease, transition to using a cat toothbrush (or a piece of gauze if they resist the toothbrush).
Continue to progress gradually, working towards brushing a few more teeth during each session.
Once your cat is accustomed to the toothbrush, toothpaste, and your touch on their mouth, brushing their teeth becomes easier. Brush along the gum line for about 15 to 30 seconds, focusing solely on the outside of the teeth, and then reward them with a treat.