If you or anyone you know has had gum disease or even gum sores, you understand how painful that can be. With cats and other animals, the issues are identical. Problems like gingivitis, a form of gum inflammation common among cats, may cause discomfort and pain and make eating difficult.
What is Gingivitis?
Simply put, gingivitis is a periodontal disease affecting mostly older but sometimes younger cats that results in gum inflammation and potential infection. According to WebMD, the condition begins when particles of plaque and calculus settle on teeth, close to gums. These particles eventually build up and push gums away from the teeth, creating small pockets that trap food and bacteria. After a while, the gums swell, become sensitive and may bleed easily when rubbed. This hurts!
One common symptom of gingivitis is difficulty eating, according to sources including the ASPCA and PetMD. When gums are swollen and sensitive enough to bleed easily, chewing food can cause excruciating pain. As Dr. Andrew Plotnick points out, cats may approach food dishes feeling very hungry, but will often avoid eating entirely due to fear of pain caused by chewing.
More Signs and Symptoms
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In addition to loss of appetite and fear of eating, other symptoms of gingivitis in cats include extreme drooling, pawing at the mouth and aversion to having their faces touched, lack of grooming, development of bad breath, ulcers on gums or tongue, swollen gums and, as noted by the ASPCA, the appearance of a "dark red line bordering on the teeth."
Prevention and Treatment
The good news is that gingivitis is treatable, reversible and even preventable! The primary thing to remember is that regular check-ups and cleanings by your veterinarian are very important. Also, once any sign of gum or tooth problems seem to surface, a trip to the vet is always a good idea. Veterinarians can recommend healthy kibbles and chew toys to promote dental health, as well as the right pet toothpaste and brushing techniques. Brushing your kitty's teeth is necessary, but not with toothpaste meant for people!
When eating is a chore, soft or wet food will always be easier for a cat to manage than dry food. A cat with gingivitis or other oral problems may reject dry food entirely, but give the soft, wet food a try. Dry, nutritious food, though, is important for oral health. It is, therefore, best to contact a veterinarian as quickly as possible if your cat has lost interest in food or if eating habits have changed.
Jeff Katz has been a professional librarian, educator, historian, writer and editor for almost 20 years. He holds a Master of Library Science degree from the University of British Columbia and a BA degree in Classical Studies from Hunter College of the City University of New York.