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Stomatitis: Feline Gingivitis

on July 3, 2015
Posted in Cats

What is Stomatitis?

Feline stomatitis, or gingivitis, is a very common problem in adult cats. It is a serious inflammation of the tissues of the mouth, resulting in the formation of extremely painful ulcers on the gums, tongue, and lips. Often, the cat’s gums and gingival tissues are red, swollen, and bleeding. Bad breath is always present, and sometimes there is infection.

What Causes Stomatitis?

The exact cause of feline stomatitis is unknown. Sometimes it develops simply in the presence of untreated plaque and tartar. However, many experts feel that stomatitis is often the result of the cat’s immune system over-reacting to the mouth’s bacteria and attacking its own tissues along with it. Some conditions to which the development of this immune system disorder have been attributed are:

  • Food allergy or sensitivity
  • Chronic viral infection, especially with herpes virus, FIV, or bartonellosis
  • Chemical toxicity: exposure to plastics, environmental chemicals, and preservatives
  • Immunosuppressive agents used for other conditions, such as the following:
    • Steroids
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories
    • Antibiotics
    • L-lysine
  • Certain nutritional imbalances or excesses
  • Stress: chronic anxiety can lead to inflammation in the body and the development of immune system disorders

What Are the Signs of Feline Stomatitis?

The main signs of stomatitis in cats are bad breath and a painful mouth. Some indications that a cat is experiencing a painful mouth are:

  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Excessive drooling, possibly with blood
  • Decreased appetite or refusal to eat
  • Decreased grooming
  • Behavioral changes such as hiding or being extra clingy

How is Stomatitis Diagnosed?

If your cat is displaying any of the signs of stomatitis, he should be checked out by a veterinarian. The veterinarian will often need to anesthetize the cat in order to examine the mouth well and determine whether stomatitis or some other condition is present. Anesthesia is necessary because the mouth is usually so painful that the veterinarian can’t get a good look while the cat is awake.

While the cat is under anesthesia, the doctor may elect to clean the teeth and perhaps take a sample of the gum tissue to send to the lab. Dental x-rays may be done to determine the extent of disease in each of the teeth. Your veterinarian may also recommend some specific blood tests to check for certain viral conditions, such as FIV, FELV, or bartonellosis.

What Are the Common Treatments for Stomatitis?

The treatment for this problem will depend on the cause. Some of these cats can only experience full control of the painful stomatitis if all of their teeth are extracted, thus removing the surfaces in the mouth that are easiest for bacteria to attach to.

Some cats can be maintained with chronic medical treatments such as antibiotics, prednisone, cyclosporine, and pain medications. Sometimes these drugs help, but stomatitis can be a difficult condition to keep at bay. Any contributing underlying condition that is diagnosed should be treated as soon as possible.

It is very important to maintain a good oral hygiene regimen if your cat has stomatitis. This routine may include the following:

  • Tooth-brushing
  • Using oral rinses that can be applied with toothbrushes or Q-tips or added to your cat’s water dish
  • Specific tooth-care treats

Alternative Treatments for Feline Stomatitis

In treating feline stomatitis naturally, you should focus on food therapy, immunotherapy, and herbal therapy. I recommend:

  1. A high protein, low carbohydrate diet with a novel protein source. This means that the protein source in the diet is one that the cat’s system has not previously encountered. A homemade diet is preferable, but a grain-free canned food may also work.
  2. Herbal formulae that contain coenzyme Q10 and zinc have also been shown to be effective remedies for stomatitis.
Read also: Pet Dental Care – A Guide to Pet Oral Health

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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