How to Treat Gum Disease in Cats
Gum disease is a common ailment among adult cats, but its widespread occurrence doesn't make it any more bearable for your pet. Left untreated, cat gum disease can cause significant discomfort and health complications that erode your pet's quality of life.
Given the prevalence of periodontal disease in cats, several at-home and vet-supplied treatment options are available to combat and manage the condition. Read on to learn about gingivitis in cats, how to spot the signs of this disease, and what your treatment options might be.
Symptoms of Periodontal Disease in Cats
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums around the teeth, which can lead to receding gums and other dental problems. Cat gingivitis can be caused by a number of different factors, including misalignment of the teeth, viral infections, improper or lacking dental care, or a genetic predisposition for periodontal disease.
Pet owners can identify gingivitis through one or more of the following symptoms:
- Red and/or swollen gums
- Excessive drooling
- Bad breath—particularly breath that has worsened over time
- A loss of appetite
- Difficulty eating
- Weight loss
- Behavioral changes, such as increased irritability
In most cases, a cat's swollen gums are the clearest sign of gingivitis, and one of the first symptoms. Red gums in cats reflect inflammation and an increased risk of bleeding due to irritation of the gum tissue. More significant symptoms like eating struggles and behavioral changes may indicate an advanced case of gingivitis. Regardless of severity, the signs of possible periodontal disease should not be ignored.
Cat Gingivitis Treatment
Your local vet will prescribe treatment based on the severity of the gingivitis. Milder cases may be managed with simple treatment and care strategies, while more intensive treatment plans may be required to address receding gums, destabilized teeth, and tooth infections that may require extraction.
The first line of care is often removing plaque that has built up on or around the gums. Plaque irritates and inflames the gums and can lead to permanent recession. In young cats, regular dental cleanings can be an effective tool for managing or preventing gingivitis from developing. If gingivitis has progressed, a thorough cleaning is an important step in getting dental health under control and mitigating the risk of gingivitis going forward.
Oral rinses are another treatment option to keep gingivitis under control. Your vet may also encourage the use of coconut oil for cat gingivitis, which contains compounds that offer antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory benefits to periodontal disease.
If gingivitis is advanced, your vet may recommend antibiotics or other prescription medications to manage the disease and/or the complications from it, such as infections in the gums or teeth. In some cases, destabilization of your cat's teeth can lead to infections and other dental problems that might force you to consider a tooth extraction.
When to Consider Cat Gum Disease Tooth Extraction
Tooth extractions are often regarded as a last resort but sometimes become necessary in cases where gum disease leads to receded gums and the complications that come with them. Receded gums can reduce the structural integrity of your cat's teeth, causing certain teeth to become loose in the socket.
When this happens, the effects on the tooth usually can't be reversed. A loose tooth is very likely to develop an infection or create difficulties when eating, which is why your veterinarian may recommend extracting the tooth to save your cat from these complications.
In cases of infection, teeth need to be removed to prevent the infection's spread to other parts of the mouth, which can become life-threatening for your cat.
Tips for Preventing Cat Gum Disease
While most cats will develop gum disease at some point in their lives, attentive care by owners can delay its onset, and/or result in a milder case. They include:
- Changing your cat's diet to feature foods that limit gum disease.
- Giving your cat dietary supplements that support dental health.
- Brushing or rinsing teeth regularly.
- Giving your cat regular dental cleanings—ideally every six months.
Even with preventative measures, it's possible your cat will develop periodontal disease. While it can pose certain health risks, it's also possible for your cat to live a long, fulfilling life if the disease is effectively managed and treated.
Worried about possible gingivitis in your cat? The earlier you act, the better. Contact your local vet today to have your cat's dental health evaluated and create a treatment and care plan that preserves their future dental health.