Cats are susceptible to a variety of chronic diseases of the mouth. Two of the most common are gingivitis and stomatitis. Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums and stomatitis is the inflammation of the oral mucus membranes, including the back of the mouth, which is a major cause of feline bad breath. The primary symptom of these conditions is severe inflammation of the gums in the area that touches the teeth and other oral tissue inflammation.
These oral conditions are extremely painful and may be responsible for major changes in a cat that is afffected. Their pain can be so severe that it can cause cats to become aggressive, irritable, socially withdrawn and depressed. This pain can result in a cat having difficulty eating, or to completely refuse all their food.
Although affected cats are still hungry, the pain that eating causes can be excruitating. As a result cats may even avoid any contact with their food dishes since it is associated with their suffering. Affected cats may stop grooming themselves, drool excessively, and often have an extremely foul breath. The gums of cats with these conditions bleed easily, and some cats will grind their teeth and paw at their mouths.
While the precise cause for these chronic oral conditions to develop still remains unknown, it is believed that the occurrence of feline gingivitis and stomatitis is most likely due to several factors which are responsible for chronic inflammation of the mouth and gums. Allergic reaction or hypersensitivity to bacterial plague (plague-intolerance) may be one of the factors that can lead to this chronic inflammation. What is already known is that all cats who develop these conditions have an abnormal immune response.
While Diseases such as Bartonella henselae, calicivirus and feline herpes virus, Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) have been considered as contributing to these oral inflammations, there are no studies thus far to proving this theory. Other factors also thought to have an impact leading to this condition are environmental stress, genetic predisposition and inadequate diets. In general, cats who are immunosuppressed are more likely to develop oral infections which may become chronic.
Researchers differ in their opinions concerning which cats may be at greater risk. Some feel that purebred cats such as Siamese are more prone to this condition, while others are of the opinion that domestic shorthair cats are at greater risk.
The median age of cats developing feline gingivitis and/or stomatitis is approximately seven years of age. However very young cats may also develop this disease as early as 3-5 months-of-age when adult teeth are erupting. The condition may worsen by the time the cat is nine months-of-age.
Chronic gingivitis and stomatitis are generally diagnosed when a cat is undergoing a thorough dental examination which is performed under general anesthesia. The veterinarian will observe multiple lesions and ulcers in the mouths of cats with stomatitis. These lesions can be on the roof of the mouth, the gums, in the back of the mouth, on the lips or tongue. Tooth resorption may also be present.
In order to get this condition under control, it is necessary to quickly institute a program of intense oral hygiene, which includes regular veterinary dental care, home care – including brushing, and the use of a plaque reducing oral solution. High quality nutrition is also an essential part of the treatment of these oral diseases.
However, if the cat doesn’t respond well to more conservative treatment, some veterinarians recommend the extraction of all the cat’s teeth in order to eliminate painful lesions and to help restore good oral health. It’s really amazing, but cats seem to manage very well without their teeth. As the mouth begins to heal and the cat no longer is in pain, they will soon begin eating again with gusto.
Our two Oriental Shorthair kitties, Dr. Hush Puppy and Sir Hubble Pinkerton both suffered these conditions. After their teeth were extracted, their gums quickly healed. And since cats rarely chew their food, the boys “gum” their food with no difficulty.
Have you had a cat with oral disease? How did you handle it? Share your experiences in a comment.