What is Gingivitis?
Gingivitis occurs when there is inflammation of the gums and is considered a moderate condition resulting from periodontal disease. It can be restricted to only one tooth, but can also be widespread throughout the gums, in turn affecting numerous teeth and causing Cat Bad Breath. If gingivitis is left untreated in cats, the infection can spread throughout the gums into bones and ligaments, eventually causing teeth to fall out. More drastically however, is the dissemination of bacteria to vital organs from the gums that can culminate into organ failure and even death. In certain instances, stomatitis, which is the inflammation of the mucosal membranes, may be present in conjunction with gingivitis. This specific disease is called, “feline gingivostomatitis” and is severe in nature due to the extreme inflammation where the teeth and gums meet.
Causes of Gingivitis
It is posited that gingivitis may be a congenital disease appearing mostly in certain breeds. Cats with low immune systems resulting from FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus), FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus), and feline calicirvirus often show signs of Plasmacytic-Lymphocytic Stomatitis (LGPS), an arduous form of gingivitis that causes excruciating pain. In other instances, the early onset of gingivitis is evident in kittens three to five months of age when they lose deciduous teeth in place of permanent teeth. Should this appear, it is likely that the condition will worsen in severity before they reach one year of age.
Symptoms of Gingivitis
Halitosis (bad breath), swollen and bleeding gums, gum recession, and changes in eating habits are key symptoms to watch out for. Cats can sometimes display Cat Aggression, irritability, and reclusiveness due to the presence of gingivitis. Their extreme hunger and inability to chew may cause weight loss and awkward behavior in front of their food. It is important to be aware of your cat’s behavior as this is an easy way to notice if something is awry.
Only your veterinarian can diagnose gingivitis. While it is important to be attentive to your cat, it is even more important to receive a correct diagnosis before deciding upon treatment. Your vet will look for signs of infection by giving your cat an oral examination, looking mostly for plaque buildup, bleeding of the gums, and swelling. In extreme cases, anesthesia may be necessary to view propagated lesions and ulcers on the gums, palate, back of the mouth, tongue, or lips. In some cases, the loss of tooth structure will be present. Your vet can require a full dental x-ray to assess the progression of the disease and recommend testing to see if any other diseases may be causing the chronic gingivitis.
Treatment of gingivitis is dependent on the severity of the case. In mild cases, removal of the tartar buildup by the veterinarian and at-home regular dental cleanings are usually prescribed. In more severe cases like LGPS, regular teeth cleaning by your vet as well as a rigorous home care system is used. Anti-inflammatory drugs, immune modulators, and antibiotics can be prescribed to ensure the oral health of your feline. Unfortunately, if these remedies fail, the only option is tooth extraction.
Regularly brush your cat’s teeth with feline-friendly toothpaste (never use toothpaste for humans!). Purchase food conducive to dental hygiene, which aims at breaking down excess plaque to keep the gum line free of debris and preventing possible infection. Nothing in the world works better than prevention. Your cat will thank you!