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Gingivitis & Cat Health

Is your feline friend reluctant to eat, or losing weight? It could be a sign that your cat may be suffering from a dental health problem. One common oral health issue in cats is an inflammation of the gums called gingivitis. Our Seattle vets explain.

Cat Gingivitis

Gingivitis is inflammation of the gum or gingiva, which surround your cat's teeth. The disease can range from moderate to severe, and in extreme cases, cats with gingivitis may have problems eating and grow very uncomfortable. 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.

What are the signs of cat gingivitis?

Are you concerned that your cat may have gingivitis or other dental conditions? Some of the most common signs of dental health problems in cats are:

  • Reluctance or refusal to eat
  • Difficulty picking up toys or food
  • Bad breath
  • Red or swollen gums, especially around the area of the inner cheek
  • Drooling or dropping food when they eat
  • Calculi/tartar
  • Plaque build-up on the surface of the teeth

How did my cat get gingivitis?

The development of gingivitis in cats can result from a number of different conditions including: 

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Old age
  • Diet of canned food
  • Poor dental care
  • FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus)
  • Crowded teeth

How do vets diagnose gingivitis in cats?

Cats are extremely adept at hiding their pain. This means that your cat may not show any signs of discomfort even if they are in severe oral pain. Even cats who are eating normally and are active can have significant dental disease without displaying any outward signs. Bringing your cat in for their annual routine exam is essential to the detection of dental disease, as a vet is often able to identify signs of conditions while observing an animal and checking for symptoms listed above. 

What is cat gingivitis treatment?

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 disease, routine tooth cleanings and dental X-rays should be conducted under anesthetic.

For cats suffering from stomatitis to have a comfortable mouth, their teeth are frequently extracted by a veterinarian if it is called for.

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.

How can I prevent my cat from developing gingivitis?

It may sound silly, but brushing your cat's teeth regularly is the best way to prevent your feline friend from developing oral health problems, including gingivitis. Cat-specific toothbrushes and toothpaste are available for purchase at pet supply stores and your veterinarian can show you how to brush your cat's teeth. Brushing should be introduced gradually and consistently so that cats become accustomed to it. If you are able to begin brushing your cat's teeth when they are just a young kitten, it will make the brushing process a normal (low stress) part of their day-to-day life.

How do you brush a cat's teeth?

About to try brushing your cat's teeth for the first time? Below are a few tips to help you get started. For more details please visit our How To Clean Your Cat's Teeth blog posting.

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 dental treat your cat enjoys and place it on their pointy 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 used to the toothbrush, toothpaste, and you touching their mouth, it should be easier to brush their teeth. Brush along their gum line for about 15 to 30 seconds, only on the outside of the teeth, and reward them with a treat afterward.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you concerned about your cat's oral health? Contact our Seattle vets today to book a dental examination for your feline family member. 

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