Red Gums Around the Teeth in Cats

by Brandy Burgess, Demand Media
    Your cat's red gums are likely caused by periodontal disease.

    Your cat's red gums are likely caused by periodontal disease.

    Simba’s gums are red and inflamed, he excessively drools and his breath is atrocious. If this sounds like your cat, he may be suffering from a number of periodontal diseases. Gum disease develops in 85 percent of cats over 2 years old, according to WebMD. Most are treated through professional teeth cleanings.

    Gingivitis

    In cats without periodontal disease, the gums lie snug around the teeth. If your cat has gingivitis, plaque builds up around the gum line, causing the gums to recede from the teeth. These “pockets” between the teeth and gum line fill with food debris and bacteria, causing the gums to become red and inflamed. While gum infections are typically caused by tartar buildup, your cat’s red gums could also be caused by certain nutritional disorders, feline panleukopenia, immune disorders, feline viral respiratory disease complex or liver or kidney failure. Cats with gingivitis should have their teeth professionally cleaned by a vet. Your vet may recommend a special diet and home dental care regimen, which generally consists of daily teeth and gum brushing.

    Periodontitis

    If your cat’s gingivitis is not treated promptly, it could progress to periodontitis. Unlike gingivitis, periodontitis is irreversible but treatable. Without treatment, periodontitis can result in abscess of the roots of the teeth. Along with redness along the gum line, periodontitis can also present with foul-smelling breath. Weight loss is also not uncommon, as eating can become painful for cats with periodontitis, sometimes causing teeth to fall out. If you take a look in your cat’s mouth, you may notice a buildup of tartar on his canines, molars and premolars. This may be accompanied by an offensive pus that secrets from the pockets between the teeth and gums. Under general anesthesia, your vet can remove tartar and drain pus from your cat’s mouth. He may also prescribe an antibiotic to help ensure that your little Simba is infection-free.

    Stomatitis

    Feline stomatitis is a painful oral disease that causes inflammation of the mouth. This chronic condition is believed to be autoimmune in nature, according to Dr. Karen Becker of HealthyPets. The immune system of cats with stomatitis overreacts when plaque builds up around the teeth, resulting in inflammation. The gums are not the only thing effected by stomatitis. The tissues within the mouth, the oral pharynx at the back of the throat and the underlying mouth bone can also become red and infected. Cats and kittens with gingivitis and those suffering from immune conditions like feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are more likely to develop stomatitis. In mild cases of stomatitis, a simple cleaning at the vet’s office may suffice. In more severe cases, the only treatment option may be a full mouth extraction.

    Prevention

    Most cases of periodontal disease can be prevented by paying close attention to your cat’s dental health. On a regular basis, push back your cat’s lips and look inside his mouth for signs of gum disease, such as redness, swelling or brownish tartar buildup. Brush your cat’s pearly whites and massage his gums twice a day using a small toothbrush or cotton swab and a special feline toothpaste. Your vet may recommend a special diet that will help minimize plaque and keep your cat’s teeth healthy. Offer your cat the occasional chew toy. Not only will it relieve your cat’s natural tendency to chew, but feline toys can also help massage your cat’s gums, scrape away soft tartar and floss his teeth, all while he’s enjoying a fun toy.

    About the Author

    Based in northern New York, Brandy Burgess has been writing on pets, technical documentation and health resources since 2007. She also writes on personal development for YourFreelanceWritingCareer.com. Burgess' work also has appeared on various online publications, including eHow.com. Burgess holds a Bachelor of Arts in computer information systems from DeVry University and her certified nurses aid certification.

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