Feline gingivostomatitis is a quite complicated and painful disease that can occur for a number of various reasons. Of course, viral diseases can be at the root of this health issue, but there are other causes, too.
In today’s article, we are looking at everything you should know about gingivostomatitis in cats, from its symptoms and diagnosis to whether or not it can be treated or prevented.
What Is Gingivostomatitis?
The name of this disease actually encompasses several different conditions, depending on their severity, development, and the location they affect in a cat’s oral cavity.
For example, some cats might experience gingivitis and periodontal disease, along with glossitis, palatitis, or general stomatitis, where most of the mucous lining inside the mouth is affected to some extent or the other.
This condition is debilitating because cats experience pain and ulcers that develop in their oral cavities. However, this can also interfere with the way they can eat food, which means that many of these animals can lose weight or even have their lives put at risk due to avoiding feeding.
What Causes Gingivostomatitis in Cats?
The most common reason why a cat can develop this disease is a viral infection. Several examples of such conditions are listed below:
Out of these, calicivirus is the one that is most commonly diagnosed in cats of all ages. In most pets, its development and progression are unique in that some might experience very severe symptoms time and again. In contrast, others will have episodes where they can’t feed because of the pain and periods where they can live a normal life.
While there are vaccines for all of these diseases, some of them don’t lead to excellent immunity. To give you an example, the calicivirus vaccine only provides protection to a 60% to 70% extent.
As such, pets that live in catteries or shelters have a higher likelihood of catching the disease from the animals they share their living space with. About half of all cats that are vaccinated against calicivirus develop strong immunity against it. The rest will only experience milder symptoms compared to cats that are not vaccinated against the disease at all.
Cats that have chronic gingivostomatitis can have a combination of two or more diseases. For example, they might be carriers of a virus and experience all the clinical signs related to that infection, but they could also have various bacterial complications, with germs such as Pasteurella, Prevotella, or Bartonella species.
Finally, gingivostomatitis in cats associated with irritations inside the oral cavity can also be the result of toxic or harsh substances, electrical cord burns, or even food allergies.
Diagnosing Feline Gingivostomatitis
The diagnosis of this condition can often be quite complicated as there could be several microorganisms leading to the clinical picture. On top of that, cats can experience a variety of other symptoms besides oral irritation and ulcers, such as the following:
- Weight loss
- Pawing at the face
- Excess salivation
- A lack or decrease in self-grooming habits
When you take your cat to the animal hospital, the vet might perform a number of different tests to try and tell what exactly is at the root of the health problem. These could be anything from a complete blood count and blood biochemistry to local x-rays and tests for viral diseases.
Differential diagnosis is essential in this case, as the vet needs to discover both the exact cause and try to eliminate as many other possibilities as they can – autoimmune diseases can cause the same symptoms, but so can periodontal disease (without any other pathogen being involved), ulcers developed as a result of the cat having a urinary health issue, and others.
This is a very challenging disease when it comes to therapy. Suppose the cat is suffering from a viral condition. In that case, chances are that the vet will recommend several ways to improve their quality of life through the use of oral gels, safe anti-inflammatory medication, and changes to the cat’s diet.
If a bacterial condition is discovered, the pet might have to be put on specific antibiotics.
If the symptoms are also caused by periodontal disease, some vets might recommend a tooth extraction. Unfortunately, heavy deposits of plaque and tartar can cause severe local irritation in both animals and humans. If the tooth is also completely compromised, it doesn’t make sense to remain in the cat’s mouth.
The extraction itself needs to be done in as much detail as possible. All of the tooth fragments, along with its root and all of the remnants resulting from the extraction, have to be removed.
Pain management and judicious anesthesia are required for most patients, especially if the more severe symptoms of gingivostomatitis are likely to appear in cats over the age of 5 and in pets whose oral health was never really managed properly.
Some pets might also be put on a variety of immunomodulators, such as interferons or cyclosporine.
Can Gingivostomatitis in Cats Be Prevented?
Getting your cat vaccinated against all of the viral diseases that we have mentioned in the first part of the article is one of the best things you can do to prevent this condition.
Even if some cats don’t develop complete immunity against these conditions, they will at least develop a partial one, which will lead to them experiencing less severe symptoms.
Keeping your cat indoors only can be another way of preventing these health issues. Pets that live in large cat populations can easily catch infections from one another.