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Gingivitis in Cats - Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Proper oral care is essential to your cat's dental and overall health. If your kitty's teeth are not cleaned regularly, your cat can develop gingivitis and other gum diseases. Our Seattle vets define gingivitis in cats and discuss its signs, causes and treatments. 

What is gingivitis in cats?

Just like in humans, the gingiva (gum) surrounds your cat's teeth and can become inflamed, causing gingivitis. This gum disease can range from moderate to severe, and cats with extreme gingivitis may have problems eating and become very uncomfortable. To remedy this condition, a tooth cleaning under anesthesia will be needed. Similar to humans, plaque - a buildup of germs, debris, food, mucus and dead skin cells - can build up on the teeth and contribute to this dental issue. 

Signs of Gingivitis in Cats

Some common signs of gingivitis in cats include:

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

Causes of Gingivitis in Cats

Common causes of gingivitis in cats include:

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

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

Gingivitis treatment focuses on eliminating accumulated plaque and dental calculus, as well as treating or extracting destabilized and/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.

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