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Gingivitis in Cats: Signs, Causes & Treatment

Gingivitis, a common dental issue, can affect our feline friends just as it does humans. This condition, characterized by inflammation of the gums, can cause significant discomfort and lead to more severe dental issues if left untreated. In this blog post, our vets in Portland will discuss gingivitis, its signs, causes, diagnostic methods, and the various treatments.

What is gingivitis in cats?

Gingivitis in cats is the inflammation of the gums caused by plaque buildup. This plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth and gums. If not removed, it can harden into tartar, which irritates the gums and leads to inflammation. Gingivitis is the earliest stage of periodontal disease and, if caught early, is entirely reversible.

Signs of Gingivitis in Cats

Recognizing the symptoms of gingivitis in your cat is crucial for early intervention. Here are some common signs to look out for:

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

Causes of Gingivitis in Cats

Several factors can contribute to the development of gingivitis in cats:

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

Diagnosis of Gingivitis in Cats

Since cats are very good at hiding their pain, they may not show any signs of discomfort even if they are in severe oral pain. Even cats that are eating normally and are active can have significant dental diseases. Bringing your cat in for their annual routine exam is essential for detecting dental disease, as a vet can often identify signs of conditions while observing an animal and checking for the symptoms listed above.

How to treat cat gingivitis?

Treatment for gingivitis focuses on removing accumulated plaque and dental calculus and treating or extracting unstable and/or diseased teeth. Routine tooth cleanings and dental X-rays should be performed under anesthesia to address any inflammatory dental disease.

Cats suffering from stomatitis often have their teeth extracted by a veterinarian to ensure a comfortable mouth.

The frequency of dental checkups for your cat will depend on the severity of periodontal disease. If your adult cat's teeth are overcrowded or if it has baby (deciduous) teeth, your veterinarian may recommend 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, available at pet supply stores, can help avoid gingivitis. Brushing should be introduced gradually and consistently so 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, they start putting 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 and toothpaste and you touching their mouth, brushing their teeth should be easier. 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.

Importance of Cat's Oral Health

Gingivitis in cats is a common yet preventable condition. You can ensure your feline friend stays healthy and happy by being vigilant about your cat's oral health and seeking timely veterinary care. Remember, the key to preventing and treating cats' gingivitis lies in professional veterinary care and diligent at-home maintenance.

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.

Are you concerned with your cat's oral health? Contact our Portland vets today for a consultation and possible treatment options.

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

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