Is Gum Disease in Cats Partly Responsible for Feline Dementia?

I just have to raise this question and it is just a question. The reason why I am asking the question is because (a) gum disease is common in domestic cats and (b) research indicates that, in humans, Alzheimer’s patients declined six times more quickly if their gums were in poor condition and diseased.

Periodontal disease in cats
Periodontal disease in cats. Left: Gingivitis. Middle: Teeth cleaning kit. Right: Commercial feline dental food.
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

It is believed that the bacteria causing gum disease (gingivitis) travels to the brain causing inflammation. The Daily Mail states:

“In those [humans!] with gum disease, the blood contained more chemicals that cause inflammation that is thought to damage the brain…It is thought that the bacteria that damage the gums activate the immune system, triggering the release of the chemicals.” (not sure about the quality of the writing by the way!)

Also people prone to gum disease may be more prone to loss of memory. We know that there are a lot similarities between the anatomy of cats and people. We also know that not enough is known about dementia in cats.

We just don’t know how common it is in cats. We see signs of dementia but the picture is unclear. More work is needed and I feel that more concern or research is needed in respect of both dementia and gum disease in cats (does wet or dry cat food cause gum disease faster than would otherwise be the case?).

If I am correct, it means that cat owners should try harder to brush their cat’s teeth; a very tricky if not an impossible task. In fact, in my view, this can only happen if the cat is adopted as a kitten and the kitten habituated to teeth brushing from a very early age. However, regular brushing may keep your cat mentally healthier longer.

I sense that a lot of cat owners ignore gum disease in their cat. They don’t see it and don’t bother about it until it is so bad that teeth have to be extracted by a vet. Dental treatments at vets carry risks for the cat, sometimes serious. In general oral health is dealt with reactively rather than preventatively. See signs of cat mouth disease.

In this brief note, all that I am doing is flagging up, at an early stage, the possibility that feline gum disease may have consequences beyond the cat’s teeth and that people should be more concerned about their cat’s oral hygiene.

7 thoughts on “Is Gum Disease in Cats Partly Responsible for Feline Dementia?”

  1. In humans, bacteria from infected gums or the oral mucosa can spread via blood. This is why people with heart conditions are usually told to pre treat with antibiotics prior to any dental work including routine cleanings.

    It’s very important to check felines for dental issues and treat them accordingly. Issues can start at any age depending on genetics, health, diet etc. My seven year cat will be having his first cleaning next week. He is just beginning to show slight tartar build up whereas Siamese cats I’ve owned did not present major tartar or gingival issues until a much later age.
    Unfortunately, when it appears later in life the chances of risk increase as older cats do not tolerate the anesthesia as well as younger cats.

    Why some may not realize severity of or treat dental disease could be attributed to
    a) they may not know as in they don’t look for them or don’t take cat to vet regularly
    b) they may consider smell ie; bad breath diet related. IMO most commercial foods reak!
    C) they simply cannot afford dental care as cleanings are expensive averaging 250.00 on up and this usually does not include the pre-anesthesia lab work

    • Thanks Debra. My feeling is that a lot of cat owners are not sufficiently clued up on feline gum disease and how prevalent it is and how it needs to be dealt with rather than ignored. It is a tricky subject because veterinary dental cleaning carries risks as the cat is put under.

  2. Well_ I am not a Dr.
    however I do know thru research that any bacterium in the mouth/ gum area does affect the brain and the heart in humans. Sepsis can set in and deprive the heart and brain of much needed oxygen. The infection overpowers the immune system. There could be pain in the gums and nerves of the teeth and when an infection travels to the major heart organ, blood isn’t pumped sufficiently enough to supply oxygen and an infection prevents it from functioning at a healthy metabolic pace. This is another very good reason to take care of the teeth and gums.
    { ours & our pets.}

    Of course it should go without saying, that any disease which deprives the body of ample oxygen can do the same to the brain; and cause the atrophy of brain cells. Dementia could be one detrimental outcome in the long run.

    Eva say’s_

  3. A good and important article Michael!

    I started Edgar Allen Poe when he was a kitten to brush his teeth using a Q-tip. He actually was very cooperative and I think he actually enjoyed getting a gum massage because he was teething when we adopted him. I will be starting Aki very soon too! All our cats get regular dental check-ups. A great time to do this is during National Pet Dental Health Month in February because most vets celebrate this important month with lots of discounts and special prices. Our vet also gave toothbrushes and pet dental paste to everyone whose pets received dental care during that month.


Leave a Comment

follow it link and logo