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Gingivitis in Cats: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Cats can develop gingivitis if they don't receive proper oral care, the same way humans can. Today, our Farmington Hills vets discuss the causes and signs of gingivitis in cats, and how you can care for their teeth.

Feline Gingivitis

Simply put, gingivitis is the swelling of the gums. Most commonly seen in senior cats, gingivitis is the buildup of plaque on the teeth and gums, causing the gums to 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.

Signs of Feline Gingivitis

Common signs 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

Causes of Cat Gingivitis

If your cat has gingivitis, common causes may include:

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

Diagnosing Gingivitis in Cats

Since cats are known for hiding their pain, they might not show any signs of discomfort, even if their oral pain is severe. 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 Cat Gingivitis

Cat 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 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. Veterinary dentists, those with additional specialized education in animal dentistry who may perform more complex oral examinations or surgeries from your general veterinarian, don't recommend anesthesia-free dentistry.

Maintaining Your Cat's Oral Health

You can purchase toothpaste and brushes specifically designed for cats at most pet supply stores, these can help prevent gingivitis. You should gradually and consistently introduce your kitty to the toothbrushing process so they can get used to it.

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.

If you ever have questions about your cat's oral hygiene, don't hesitate to contact your vet for tips and advice.

Are you looking to book a dental appointment for your cat? Contact our Farmington Hills vets to schedule a cleaning and exam for your feline friend.

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