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Gingivitis in Cats: Signs, Causes & Treatment

Cats with dental problems may experience painful symptoms. The condition is as pervasive in kitties as it is in people - as many as 85% of cats over the age of three have some type of dental disease. Our vets in San Jose list signs and causes of gingivitis in cats, along with information on how the disease is diagnosed and treated.

What Is Gingivitis In Cats?

The gingiva, or gum, surrounds your cat's teeth. Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums - a disease that can range from mild or moderate to severe. In extreme cases, cats with gingivitis can experience severe discomfort and have issues with eating and other functions of the mouth.

To treat the condition, a tooth cleaning under anesthesia is needed. Just like in people, plaque - a buildup of dead skin cells, mucus, food particles, debris, and germs - can build up on the teeth and contribute to this dental problem.

Signs of Gingivitis in Cats

Common signs of gingivitis in cats are:

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

Causes of Gingivitis in Cats

Cat gingivitis is commonly caused by:

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

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

Cat 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.

Is your cat showing signs of dental problems, or are they due for a dental checkup? Contact our San Jose hospital to book a dental exam.

Now Welcoming New Patients

Bloom Plaza Animal Hospital is now welcoming new cat and dog patients! Our professional and talented vets are dedicated to the health of San Jose's companion animals. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for your furry friend. 

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