Feline chronic gingivostomatitis (often referred to as feline stomatitis or cat stomatitis) is a debilitating condition of the mouth that causes severe inflammation of the gums and painful oral lesions around the teeth, and on the tongue, lips, roof of the mouth and even the back of the throat.
Although the exact cause of stomatitis in cats is still unknown, veterinarians generally agree that feline stomatitis is an autoimmune disorder. This means that the cat’s immune system is inappropriately mounting a response against plaque on the teeth. To support this theory, many cats with stomatitis are also infected with certain bacteria or viruses like bartonellosis, calicivirus, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and herpesvirus. Some veterinarians believe that dental disease may also cause stomatitis in cats.
Knowing the symptoms of feline stomatitis will allow you to seek treatment as soon as possible. “Signs include excessive drooling, decreased appetite, bloody discharge from the mouth, severely inflamed gums or inflammation on the roof of the mouth, and pain when the mouth is touched,” says Missy Tasky, DVM, owner of Gentle Touch Animal Hospital in Denver, Colorado. Cats might also paw at their mouths, have horrifically bad breath and stop grooming themselves. Many cats stop eating altogether because the pain is so severe and, as a result, lose weight.
Because feline stomatitis is so poorly understood, veterinarians have not landed on a universally effective treatment. “In minor cases, it can be managed with proper home and in-hospital dental care,” Dr. Tasky says. “Some cats, however, require extensive oral surgery to resolve the problem. It can be a genetic problem and can be difficult to manage medically, despite best efforts.”
For mild cases of cat stomatitis, special dental care might help, including professional dental cleaning, frequent teeth brushing (to remove plaque) and veterinary anti-plaque products. Veterinarians may also try anti-inflammatory medications, immuno-suppressant drugs, long-term antibiotics, pain medication, laser therapy and topical anesthetics.
If medical management is not helping, or if the veterinarian deems that it is unlikely to be of benefit, more radical measures must be taken: removal of the cat’s teeth. If inflammation is present around just some of the teeth, the vet might recommend removing just those teeth, but if inflammation is widespread, removal of all of the teeth is often recommended.
This might sound drastic, but it makes sense when you think about it. With stomatitis, the body is mounting an immune response against the plaque that develops on the teeth. So, no teeth means no plaque. Many cats experience complete resolution of their pain and inflammation after total extraction of all teeth. Cats continue to eat and live very full lives without teeth, and taking away all that pain is worth it.
Thumbnail: Photography ©PavlinaGab | iStock / Getty Images Plus.
Read more about cat teeth and cat dental care on Catster.com: