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Gingivitis in Cats - Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Gingivitis in Cats - Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Proper oral care is important to every cat's health. Gum disease and gingivitis are common health issues in cats and can cause pain, tooth loss and other conditions. In this post, our Groton vets explain gingivitis in cats, including its symptoms, causes and treatment options.

What is Cat Gingivitis?

The gums (gingiva) surround a cat's teeth. When they become inflamed, this is known as gingivitis, a disease that can range from moderate to severe. In extreme cases, cats with gingivitis may have issues eating and become very uncomfortable. 

To treat the condition, your feline friend will need a tooth cleaning under anesthesia. Similar to humans, plaque — an accumulation of debris, germs, mucus, food and dead skin cells — can build up on the teeth and contribute to this oral health issue. 

Symptoms of Gingivitis in Cats

Common signs of gingivitis in cats include:

  • Bad breath
  • Drooling
  • Calculi/tartar
  • Plaque buildup on tooth surfaces
  • Difficulty picking up food or toys
  • Difficulty eating or not eating at all 
  • Swollen or red gums, especially around the inner cheek area

Causes of Gingivitis in Cats

Common causes of cat gingivitis include:

  • Soft food
  • FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus)
  • Crowded teeth 
  • Bad dental care
  • Old age
  • Autoimmune diseases 

Diagnosis of Gingivitis in Cats

Since cats are so adept at hiding their pain, they may not show any signs of discomfort even if they are in severe oral pain.

Even cats who are eating normally and are active can have significant dental diseases. Bringing your cat in for their annual routine exam is essential to the detection of dental disease, as a vet is often able to identify signs of conditions while observing an animal and checking for symptoms listed above.

How to Treat Cat Gingivitis

Cats with gingivitis will need effective treatment from a veterinarian, who will focus on removing plaque and dental calculus that have built up on the teeth. The vet will also treat or extract destabilized 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

Cat-specific toothbrushes and toothpaste are available for purchase at pet supply stores and can help avoid gingivitis. Brushing should be introduced gradually and consistently so that cats become accustomed to it.

Get your cat familiar with toothbrushes and toothpaste

Leave snacks on the counter near the toothpaste and toothbrush so cats can associate something positive with them. You can also place a dab of toothpaste for them to lick off your finger so they get accustomed to it.

Get your cat used to you touching their mouth

Choose a dental treat your cat enjoys and place it on its canine teeth. As they become accustomed to it, start placing it deeper and deeper into their mouth, on their teeth. This gets them used to you touching their mouth and makes it easier for you to introduce the toothpaste.


With your cat used to the toothbrush, toothpaste, and you touching their mouth, it should be easier to brush their teeth. Brush along the gum line for about 15 to 30 seconds, only on the outside of the teeth, and reward them with a treat afterward.

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 vets in Groton today if you have concerns about your cat's oral health. We can assess any problems and recommend potential treatment options.

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Companion Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Groton companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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