What is gingivitis in cats, and what are the appropriate treatment and prevention methods?

It is commonly known that cats, particularly senior cats, have an increased risk of developing oral problems. Most cat owners prefer to take preventive measures to avoid their cats from suffering, and nobody wants to see their cat in pain. However, many cats are resistant to having their mouths touched, making it difficult for owners who try to perform oral care, such as brushing their teeth. After learning that your cat has gingivitis, you may be curious about the causes and how to treat it. Let’s examine the definition of gingivitis in cats.

✨What is gingivitis in cats?

Vets refer to inflamed gums as “gingivitis” in cats.

If you regularly brush your cat’s teeth, you will have ample opportunities to examine their oral cavity. If your cat doesn’t often yawn or is unwilling to have its teeth brushed, it may be challenging to get a good look inside its mouth.

It is crucial to keep a lookout for any unusual behavior in your cat, as they are unable to communicate if there is a problem with their teeth or gums. Although gingivitis can be painful, it can be difficult for the owner to identify the symptoms. The following are typical signs of gingivitis in cats:

❂ Symptoms of gingivitis in cats

Since a cat with gingivitis is unable to express the presence of mouth pain, it is the owner’s responsibility to observe any unusual behavior.

Gingivitis in cats typically presents as a lack of appetite, drooling (with blood) from the mouth, bad breath, and red, swollen gums.

Later symptoms may include wobbly teeth, a stuffy or runny nose, and facial swelling. It is crucial to identify any irregularities as soon as possible.

❂ Causes of Gum Disease in Cats

It is believed that bacteria in plaque and tartar, as well as bacteria that adhere to teeth, are the culprits of gum disease. The toxins produced by these bacteria are the primary cause of gum disease, but they can also harm a cat’s teeth if its immunity is compromised.

Chronic illnesses such as diabetes, feline calicivirus (FCV), feline leukemia virus (FeLV), and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are linked to immunosuppression, even though immunity is meant to protect against invading pathogens (FIV).

Since gum disease can cause oral inflammation, it is important to take extra precautions during the changing of the seasons when the body’s defenses are more likely to be weakened.

It is crucial not to underestimate gum disease because, if left untreated, bacteria can invade from the inflamed area and harm vital organs such as the heart, kidney, and liver through the bloodstream.

✨ Difference between Gum Disease and Periodontal Disease

When discussing feline dental problems, you might come across the term “periodontal disease”. What distinguishes this condition from its more common counterpart, “gum disease”?

Gum disease is the inflammation of the gums, while periodontal disease is the inflammation of the gums and the underlying alveolar bone.

Periodontal disease encompasses a wide range of conditions affecting the gums and supporting structures of the teeth. Early detection and treatment of even mild cases can reduce stress on the cat.

✨ What Types of Cats are More Susceptible?

Cats are less likely to develop cavities in an alkaline mouth, but they are more prone to periodontal disease. Approximately half of all cats reportedly have some form of oral problem.

Poor oral hygiene increases the risk of gingivitis, so cats that have not had their teeth brushed and have built up plaque and tartar, cats that consume wet food that sticks to their teeth, and cats that enjoy eating human food are in a particularly vulnerable state.

In addition to kittens and adult cats, elderly cats and those with compromised immune systems due to age are not immune to gingivitis and require daily oral care from their owners.

✨ Treatment Method and Cost for Cat Gingivitis

While it’s ideal for your cat to avoid gingivitis, you may be concerned about what to do if your pet ever develops the condition.

What is your plan for treating your cat’s gingivitis?

❂ Treatment for Gingivitis

Plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth are common causes of gingivitis, and removing them is the standard treatment.

When plaque hardens into tartar, brushing alone is not effective in removing it. Instead, dentists use ultrasonic scraping tools and general anesthesia to remove it.

If plaque accumulates in the periodontal pocket, even in the absence of tartar, or if there is inflammation, immunosuppressive drugs may be used. If the condition has progressed to the point where the teeth are loose, treatment options such as extraction may be necessary.

After the tooth has been extracted, the gums and bone around it will be stitched closed, and the oral cavity will be thoroughly cleaned.

Oral pain relievers may be prescribed if there is discomfort.

However, oral treatment requires general anesthesia, which can be dangerous for cats who are already sedated or elderly, raising the question of whether they can undergo anesthesia before gingivitis treatment.

Gingivitis is a relatively mild condition, but the cat’s body may be stressed by the treatment, making early detection and prevention essential.

❂ Cost of Treatment for Gingivitis

The cost of treating gingivitis can range from $1,500 to $2,000, with the higher figure potentially resulting from the use of general anesthesia.

It’s helpful to know beforehand how much your regular animal hospital will charge, as prices can vary between facilities.

✨ Prevention of Cat’s Gingivitis

It is understandable that you would want to take measures to prevent your beloved cat from experiencing gingivitis and related discomfort.

What preventative measures have you found to be effective in maintaining your cat’s gum health?

❂ Teeth Brushing

The most effective way to prevent gum disease is to maintain a clean mouth and prevent plaque from turning into tartar.

Owner involvement is critical in this process, so it’s best to overcome any resistance to tooth brushing in kittens as early as possible.

Start by familiarizing your cat with touching their face and mouth, and gradually make it a natural part of their routine to touch their front teeth and allow you to put your fingers inside their mouth, as cats may not like being forced into or restricted in any way.

Prepare a toothbrush and toothpaste specifically designed for cats, and offer your pet a flavor that they appear to enjoy.

Once they are comfortable with the toothbrush, start by gently brushing their front teeth, and then move on to the back teeth.

Instead of trying to force tooth brushing on cats that are not receptive or those that haven’t started until adulthood, it’s better to find ways to make the process enjoyable for them.

In addition to using tooth brushing snacks or supplements, tooth brushing sheets can also be an effective solution. Choose a product that is least resistant.

❂ Health Check

Most owners do not think to check their cat’s mouth for abnormalities, but those who regularly brush their teeth will be able to detect any issues right away.

If you are not confident in performing the check yourself, it may be best to seek the assistance of a professional.

At a minimum, take your cat to the vet once a year for a checkup and have the inside of their mouth examined, so you can be aware of their overall health status.

Senior cats should have checkups about twice a year as they age more rapidly than humans.

❂ Vaccination

Feline gingivitis is believed to be caused by feline calicivirus, which can be prevented with a combination vaccine. Therefore, it is recommended to consider vaccination to prevent other infectious diseases.

It is important to consider the potential benefits and risks of vaccination and make an informed decision after consulting with your veterinarian, as it is not possible to guarantee that vaccines will not cause adverse reactions.

✨ Conclusion

Cat owners may become concerned if their pet experiences behavioral changes, such as bad breath or decreased appetite, as they may assume that their cat is ill.

Taking preventive measures before such symptoms appear is advisable, as treatment for mouth-related issues, such as gingivitis, may require general anesthesia and can be difficult to heal without treatment.

However, it is uncommon for cats to resist having their oral soft tissue examined by their owners.

Regular health check-ups provide insight into your cat’s health status, and overcoming resistance to brushing is important as it can be difficult for a cat owner to constantly monitor their pet’s oral health.

Make regular health check-ups a priority for your cat to ensure their continued happiness and well-being, and persist in brushing despite any initial resistance from your pet.

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