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Gingivitis in Cats: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Oral care both at home and with the veterinarian is important to maintain the dental health of your feline friend. Here, our Deer Park vets talk about gingivitis in cats, how it develops, what signs to watch for and how it can be treated and prevented.

What is gingivitis in cats?

Gingivitis simply put is the swelling of the gums. Most commonly seen in senior cats, gingivitis is when plaque builds up and the gums react with swelling, redness, bleeding, and sensitivity.

Plaque is a buildup of germs, debris, dead skin cells, mucus, and food. Plaque can accumulate on the teeth and contribute to this dental issue if it is not removed frequently.

There are variations in the degree to which a cat's gums will react to plaque. Some cats seem to accumulate large amounts of plaque and have minimal levels of gingivitis, while other cats' gums will react more severely.

What are the signs that a cat has gingivitis?

Some of the most commonly seen signs and symptoms of gingivitis in cats include:

  • Plaque build-up
  • Bad breath
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty picking up toys
  • Calculi/tartar
  • Difficulty eating
  • Not eating at all
  • Red or swollen gums

What are the causes of gingivitis in cats?

Some of the things that can contribute to the development of gingivitis in cats are:

  • Crowded teeth
  • FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus)
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Old age
  • Soft food
  • Poor oral hygiene

Diagnosing Gingivitis in Cats

Thanks to the survival instincts that cats still have from before they became domesticated, your feline friend will likely hide any pain they experience. Your cat may continue being active and eating as normal but still have dental disease.

Routine exams are important as they allow your vet to detect any signs of dental concerns. Vets are often able to identify signs of conditions while observing an animal and checking for the symptoms listed above.

How to Treat Cats with Gingivitis

If your cat is diagnosed with gingivitis, the treatment will on eliminating accumulated plaque and dental calculus (tartar), as well as treating or extracting destabilized and/or diseased teeth. To address any inflammatory dental diseases, regular tooth cleanings and dental X-rays should be conducted under anesthesia.

Addressing plaque is the main goal of gingivitis treatment. Routine dental cleanings under anesthesia can usually take care of plaque buildup. Annual dental cleanings are strongly recommended, with some cats requiring more frequent cleanings.

Preventing Dental Issues in Cats

At-home oral hygiene, including brushing with a vet-approved toothbrush and pet-specific toothpaste, can help prevent dental issues. You may want to start slowly when you first introduce your cat to the teeth-brushing process. Not all cats will be receptive to their new oral care routine.

Leave snacks on the counter near the toothpaste and toothbrush so your cat will gain a positive association with them. You can also place a dab of toothpaste for them to lick off your finger so they get accustomed to it. You can then slowly start brushing more and more of their teeth each session.

Once your cat is familiar with you touching their mouth and the feeling of a toothbrush and toothpaste, you should have an easier time brushing their teeth. Brush along their gum line (only on the outside of their teeth) for approximately 15 to 30 seconds, and when you are done reward them with a treat.

Any questions that you may have can be directed to your vet. They may also be able to provide advice to help make this process more successful at home.

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.

Do you need to bring your cat in for their annual dental exam and cleaning? Contact our Deer Park vets to book an appointment.

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We are accepting new patients! Our vets are passionate about the health of companion animals in the Deer Park area. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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