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Gingivitis in Cats

As with humans, dental problems can be very painful for your cat, yet, as many as 85% of cats over the age of three have some form of dental disease. Below, our Poway vets discuss the signs of dental disease in cats, along with information on diagnosis and treatment.

Gingivitis & Cats

Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums (gingiva) that surround your cat's teeth. The disease can range from moderate to severe, and in severe cases, cats with gingivitis may have difficulty eating and become very uncomfortable. To treat the condition, a tooth cleaning under anesthesia would be necessary. Plaque, a collection of germs, debris, dead skin cells, mucus, and food, can accumulate on the teeth and contribute to this dental problem, just as it does in humans.

Signs of Cats Gingivitis

Are you concerned that your cat may have gingivitis or other dental issues? Some of the most common indicators of gingivitis in cats are:

  • Difficulty eating or not eating at all
  • Difficulty picking up toys or food
  • Bad breath
  • Red or swollen gums, especially around the area of the inner cheek
  • Drooling
  • Calculi/tartar
  • Plaque build-up on the surface of the teeth

Causes of Gingivitis in Cats

The development of gingivitis in cats can result from a number of different conditions including: 

  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Old age
  • Soft Food
  • Bad Dental Care
  • FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus)
  • Crowded teeth

Diagnosis of Gingivitis in Cats

Cats are extremely good at hiding their pain. This means that your cat may not show any signs of discomfort, even if they are suffering from severe oral pain. Even cats who eat normally and are active can develop serious dental disease. Bringing your cat in for an annual routine exam is critical for detecting dental disease, as a veterinarian can often identify signs of conditions while observing an animal and checking for the symptoms listed above.

How to Treat Cat Gingivitis

Gingivitis treatment for cats focuses on eliminating accumulated plaque and dental calculus, as well as treating or extracting destabilized and/or diseased teeth. To address any inflammatory dental disease, routine tooth cleanings and dental X-rays should be conducted under anesthetic.

For cats suffering from stomatitis, to have a comfortable mouth, their teeth are frequently extracted by a veterinarian if it is called for.

The frequency of dental checkups will be determined by the degree of periodontal disease in your cat. If your adult cat's teeth are overcrowded, or if it has baby (deciduous) teeth, your veterinarian may recommend a tooth extraction. Your veterinarian will show you how to clean your cat's teeth, and you should schedule follow-up exams.

Maintaining Your Cat's Teeth

Gingivitis can be avoided by using toothbrushes and toothpaste designed specifically for cats, which are available at pet supply stores. Brushing should be introduced to cats in a gradual and consistent manner so that they can become accustomed to the ritual.

Get your cat familiar with toothbrushes and toothpaste

Snacks can be placed on the counter in close proximity to the toothbrush and toothpaste in order to help cats associate these items with something positive. Additionally, you can give them a small amount of toothpaste to lick off of your finger until they become accustomed to the sensation. 

Remember to use toothpaste specifically designed for cats, as human toothpaste can be harmful to them. Gradually introduce the toothbrush by letting your cat sniff and lick it before attempting to brush their teeth. 

Get your cat used to you touching their mouth

Apply a dental treat that your cat enjoys to their canine teeth. Choose a treat that they like. When they have reached a point where they are comfortable with it, gradually move it deeper into their mouth and onto their teeth. This helps them become accustomed to having their mouth touched by you, which makes it much simpler to introduce toothpaste.

Once your cat is comfortable with the dental treat, you can start introducing a toothbrush and toothpaste specifically designed for cats. Remember to go slow and be patient to ensure a positive experience for both you and your cat. 


You should find it less difficult to brush your cat's teeth now that they are accustomed to the toothbrush, toothpaste, and the fact that you are actually touching their mouth. They should be rewarded with a treat after you have brushed the gum line for fifteen to thirty seconds on the outside of their teeth.

This positive reinforcement will help create a routine that your cat will eventually come to accept and even enjoy. Remember to be patient and consistent in your approach to maintain good oral hygiene for your cat. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Contact our Poway vets at Best Friends Veterinary Hospital to learn more or to book a dental appointment for your cat.

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