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Gingivitis or Gum Inflammation

Cats are prone to chronic inflammatory diseases of the mouth including gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and stomatitis (inflammation of the oral mucus membranes).

Causes of Gingivitis

There are probably a number of causes of this chronic inflammation in the mouth and gums. It may actually be due to a combination of factors. The three factors which are receiving the most attention are:

  1. Hypersensitivity or allergic reaction to bacterial plaque. In this disease, certain cells involved in the immune system called lymphocytes and plasma cells move into the tissues of the mouth and we see severe inflammation where the tooth meets the gumline.
  2. Immunosuppression - A cat's immune response may be suppressed for a number of reasons but the most common is viral infections. It is estimated that 15% of cats with chronic oral inflammation are infected with either Feline Leukaemia virus (FeLV), Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), or both.
  3. Viral or bacterial infections - Feline Calicivirus can cause oral lesions, and in some studies, feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) has been implicated. A diagnosis of Feline Calicivirus is made by your vet sending a simple swab from the mouth to the laboratory.

Sometimes this disease can develop when the cat is very young. This is called a 'juvenile onset' form of disease. It may occur at 3-5 months when the permanent teeth are erupting and become more severe by 9 months of age.

Cats who are immunosuppressed have a greater tendency to have oral infections which may become chronic.

Signs of Gingivitis

Chronic gingivitis and stomatitis can cause severe pain. The animal's behaviour may change - irritability, aggressiveness, depression or hiding away may be seen.

The cat may salivate excessively, have difficulty eating or not eat at all. Some cats will go up to the dish as though they are very hungry and then run from the food dish because eating is so painful.

They will often have bad breath and may not be grooming themselves properly.


*The condition does occur in humans and can be due to an allergic response to certain ingredients such as food additives in our fast food diets.

It is believed that the same may occur in cats. If affected by inflamed gums, your cat may improve purely with a change of diet to an additive free cat food.

*Anti-inflammatories help control the symptoms of the disease and both steroidal based anti-inflammatories or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories can be used.

*Antibiotics specific for the mouth appear to help too.

If your cat suffers with bad dental tartar, it is best to have him admitted for a dental descale under general anaesthetic, but often the red gums remain if the underlying cause is an inappropriate immune response or due to Feline Calicivirus.

*If the swab results indicate that your cat is indeed affected with Feline Calicivirus, there are injections available that fight this specific virus.

They are injected into your cats' gums with him under a full anaesthetic, so it is a costly procedure as your vet would need to order the specific vaccine in and there is the cost of general anaesthetics.