A cat's teeth and gums are vital parts of its anatomy, and without a fully functioning set of pearly whites, your cat can have severe trouble with eating, grooming and other activities. As such, it's important to try and protect your cat's oral health against any and all diseases, and one of the most damaging and dangerous oral diseases a cat can suffer from is feline stomatitis. If left untreated, this condition can even threaten your cat's life, so if your cat is showing signs of stomatitis, then working closely with veterinary dentists to manage the condition is vital.
What is feline stomatitis?
Feline stomatitis is characterised by red, painful inflammation and swelling of the soft tissues inside your cat's mouth. While some cases only affect the gums, all parts of the lining of your cat's mouth are vulnerable to this condition, and in severe cases, inflammation can spread to the throat and the bones of the jaw.
What are the symptoms of feline stomatitis?
You might think that a swollen, painful mouth lining would be easy to spot, but cats are instinctively inclined to hide pain as much as possible from others and may be reluctant to let you inspect their mouth for signs of inflammation. If you suspect that your cat may be suffering from feline stomatitis, look for the following symptoms and changes in your cat's behaviour:
- Difficulty eating, or refusal to eat entirely
- Weight loss
- Constant and excessive drooling (in advanced cases the drool may contain blood and/or pus)
- Unkempt fur, due to grooming becoming too painful
- Refusal to let you touch his/her mouth or the front of the face
- Pawing at the mouth without actually grooming
It goes without saying that these symptoms can become very dangerous to your cat's health if left untreated, and many cats suffering from stomatitis quickly become weak and malnourished. You should therefore have feline stomatitis treated by a qualified veterinary dentist as urgently as possible.
What causes feline stomatitis?
This is where things get complicated, as feline stomatitis does not have a single, distinct cause. While it is generally believed to be an auto-immune reaction, in which the cat's immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own tissues, it can be triggered or aggravated by other conditions such as feline herpsesvirus or feline calcivirus. It can also occur as a result of periodontal (gum) disease caused by plague build up and poor hygiene in your cats mouth. Your cat's dentist will therefore conduct tests to try and determine the root cause of the stomatitis -- in some cases this can be done with a simple mouth swab, but more complicated cases may require your cat to be anaesthetised so a tissue sample can be taken.
How can feline stomatitis be treated?
Depending on the cause of the stomatitis, there are a number of ways the disease can be treated and your cat's oral health restored by a pet dentist or vet:
- Pain relief: Stomatitis can be a very painful condition for your cat, so your veterinary dentist will administer pain relief as a priority. This can be in the form of oral medications or topical gels; although, local anaesthesia may be required in cases of extreme pain. Anti-inflammatory medications can be used to control swelling, and your cat may be required to take them long-term to prevent the condition relapsing.
- Antibiotics: Cases of stomatitis brought on by oral plaque and other bacterial causes can generally be treated with a course of antibiotics. These antibiotics are effective and safe for your cat but can cause some minor, unpleasant side effects, so make sure to minimise your cat's discomfort and let your vet know of any sudden changes in his/her condition.
- Cleaning: The dentist may also recommend that your cat's teeth be thoroughly cleaned to remove plague buildup and bacterial deposits that can aggravate the condition.
- Tooth removal: In some cases your cat's teeth, particularly in the back of the mouth, may become too damaged and require removal. This is an invasive procedure and generally considered only in severe cases. However, cats generally adapt well to life missing some of their teeth, and removing damaged teeth gives bacteria and other pathogens less places to breed.
- Treatment of underlying conditions: If associated illnesses such as herpesvirus are causing your cat's stomatitis, treating them should be your main priority. Make sure that your cat's dentist works closely with their regular vet and is made aware of any chronic conditions your cat suffers from.