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Gingivitis in Cats: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Regular teeth cleaning is vital for removing plaque and bacteria. Without proper hygiene and professional care, serious conditions can develop. Today, our Westport vets share the signs and symptoms of gingivitis in cats and how to care for your furry friend's teeth at home.

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. If not removed frequently, plaque can accumulate on teeth and contribute to dental issues.

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 and symptoms of gingivitis in cats?

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

What are the common causes of gingivitis in cats?

If your cat has gingivitis, common causes may include:

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

How is gingivitis diagnosed 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 normally 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 and treating or extracting destabilized and/or diseased teeth. Regular tooth cleanings and dental X-rays should be conducted under anesthesia to address any inflammatory dental diseases.

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

How to Care for Your Cat's Teeth at Home

Pet supply stores carry toothbrushes and toothpaste that are designed specifically for pets. These can help prevent gingivitis. You should gradually and consistently introduce your kitty to the toothbrushing process so it 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 its mouth and the feeling of a toothbrush and toothpaste, brushing its teeth should be easier. Brush along its gum line (only on the outside of its teeth) for approximately 15 to 30 seconds, and when you are done, reward it 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.

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.

Are you concerned that your cat is experiencing symptoms that point toward gingivitis? Contact our Westport vets to book an appointment.

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