Sometimes, cats can suffer from a painful problem called gingivitis if their oral health isn't good. In this post, our Somerset vets share symptoms, causes, and treatment for gingivitis in cats.
What is gingivitis in cats?
Gingivitis is when your cat's gums get inflamed. This happens because plaque builds up on their teeth and turns into a hard substance known as tartar. As tartar builds up, it begins to erode away at the gums, creating pockets between the gum line and the teeth where infection can fester.
Gingivitis has different stages, from not so bad to really bad. If it gets really bad, your cat might be in a lot of pain and could lose their teeth. You'll need to take your cat to the vet for proper dental treatment in severe cases.
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 are really good at hiding their pain, so they might not display any signs of discomfort, even if they have serious mouth pain. Even if your cat eats well and plays a lot, they could still have major dental problems. It's important to take your cat for a yearly dental check-up. Vets can often spot dental issues just by looking at your cat and checking for the symptoms mentioned above.
Treatment for Cats with Gingivitis
Gingivitis treatment aims to remove built-up plaque and dental calculus. The vet may suggest extraction if your cat's teeth cannot be saved. Dental exams for cats usually require anesthesia, which helps the vet clean and inspect each tooth and take X-rays if needed.
The frequency of dental check-ups will be determined by the degree of periodontal disease in your cat. Cats with severe gingivitis will likely have to visit more often.
If your adult cat's teeth are overcrowded, or if it has baby (deciduous) teeth, your veterinarian may recommend a tooth extraction to help prevent further dental issues.
The vet will also teach you how to care for your cat's teeth at home.
Maintaining Your Cat's Teeth
You can buy special toothbrushes and toothpaste made just for cats at pet stores. Using these regularly can stop gingivitis in cats. Start brushing their teeth slowly and keep it up so your cat gets used to it.
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
Take it easy to start. Begin by gently massaging their front teeth and gums for as long as they will let you. Do this daily, trying to reach farther into their mouths each time. This is all about building trust. When both of you are at ease, introduce a cat toothbrush. If your cat can't get used to the toothbrush, you can use a piece of gauze instead.
Again, you will have to start slow, aiming to brush a few more teeth each time.
With your cat used to the toothbrush, toothpaste, and you touching their mouth, it should be easier to brush their teeth. Brush along the gum line for about 15 to 30 seconds, only on the outside of the teeth, and reward them with a treat afterward.