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How can I Prevent Gingivitis in Cats?

By M. Gardner
Updated Mar 05, 2024
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Pet owners can prevent gingivitis in cats by brushing their cat's teeth regularly and feeding their cat a quality diet. Routine visits to the veterinarian can help ensure the cat is free from dental problems, which can lead to mouth pain and tooth loss. The vet can also screen for diseases that sometimes accompany gingivitis in cats, including feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia virus.

Gingivitis occurs when the cat's gums become inflamed. This might occur in the gum line around one tooth or might be widespread throughout the mouth. Symptoms include red gums, yellow teeth, bad breath, drooling, receding gum line and decreased appetite. If left unattended, gingivitis might lead to bacteria buildup that could cause organ failure. Prevention is key in avoiding expensive veterinary visits related to gingivitis.

Good cat oral hygiene begins with regular tooth brushing — at least every other day. This might be an uncommon practice among cat owners, but it is key to avoiding gingivitis in cats. Pet supply stores carry toothbrushes and finger brushes made for pets. Cats should be exposed only to toothpaste made specifically for pets. Cat treats might encourage the cat to be more cooperative with the tooth-brushing process.

If possible, owners should help their cats become accustomed to tooth brushing at a young age. In the case of both kittens and adult cats, owners can introduce the practice slowly over a period of many days. First the owner might try handling the cat's mouth. After the cat becomes used to that, the owner should allow the cat to investigate a pet toothbrush and toothpaste. When the cat is comfortable with these items, the owner should try gently brushing the cat's teeth.

A cat who has had its teeth professionally cleaned might not need regular brushing. Instead, the vet may recommend applying a dental rinse that can be purchased at the pet store. A veterinarian might also recommend a combination of rinsing and brushing.

On the issue of a quality diet, there is much debate surrounding whether wet food or dry food is better for a cat's overall health. Studies have shown a significant correlation between a dry food diet and increased oral hygiene in both dogs and cats. Wet food tends to stick to a cat's teeth, and dry food helps remove plaque and food deposits, thereby preventing gingivitis in cats and dogs. Some pet food makers produce dry pet food specifically formulated to help keep cats' teeth clean.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is gingivitis in cats and how common is it?

Gingivitis in cats is an inflammation of the gums that can lead to discomfort and more serious dental diseases. It's quite common, with studies showing that by the age of three, most cats have some form of dental disease, often starting with gingivitis. Regular dental check-ups are crucial for early detection and prevention.

What are the main causes of gingivitis in cats?

The main cause of gingivitis in cats is plaque buildup, which can harden into tartar and lead to inflammation. Other factors include poor oral hygiene, diet, age, and certain viral infections. Cats with compromised immune systems or systemic diseases like diabetes may also be at higher risk for developing gingivitis.

How can I tell if my cat has gingivitis?

Signs of gingivitis in cats include red, swollen, or bleeding gums, bad breath, difficulty eating, and pawing at the mouth. You may also notice a reluctance to chew or a preference for softer foods. If you observe any of these symptoms, a veterinary check-up is recommended to assess your cat's oral health.

What are the best ways to prevent gingivitis in cats?

Preventing gingivitis in cats involves maintaining good oral hygiene. This includes regular brushing with cat-specific toothpaste, providing dental-friendly toys and treats, and ensuring a balanced diet. Additionally, routine veterinary check-ups, including professional dental cleanings, are essential for monitoring and maintaining your cat's oral health.

Can diet influence the risk of gingivitis in cats?

Yes, diet plays a significant role in oral health. Feeding your cat a balanced diet that includes dental care kibble can help reduce plaque and tartar buildup. Some studies suggest that a diet with the right balance of nutrients can enhance overall health and, consequently, improve dental health by strengthening the immune system.

Is professional dental cleaning necessary for cats?

Professional dental cleaning is a key component in preventing gingivitis in cats. It allows veterinarians to remove plaque and tartar that can't be eliminated by brushing alone. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, regular professional cleanings can significantly reduce the risk of dental disease and are recommended as part of a comprehensive dental care plan.

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Discussion Comments

By Soulfox — On Aug 23, 2014

@Logicfest -- It is probably better to use those treats than to remove a cat's claws to keep from getting hurt. When you remove a cat's claws, you also remove it's primary defense against attacking animals and doom the kitty to a life of living inside your house (can't prowl outside if she can't defend herself).

There are even some vets that will not remove a cat's claws because they worry about the welfare of the cat. So, in those cases where claws are a danger, it might be wise to find an alternative to whatever you need to do to treat or care for the cat.

By Logicfest — On Aug 22, 2014

@Markerrag -- That is why you should start when they are young. If the cat is too much of a problem, you might have more luck having a vet remove the critter's claws so scratching won't be so much of a problem.

In the alternative, they do make treats for cats that work similar to ones for dogs. Those are designed to clean teeth and work quite well for puppy dogs. The results should be similar for cats, right?

By Markerrag — On Aug 22, 2014

My hat is off to anyone who can manage to brush a cat's teeth. I have never had one that would cooperate with anything like that. Give the cat a bath? Nope. Give the cat some medicine? That is almost as difficult.

Grasping a squirming, clawing cat while trying to brush her teeth sounds almost impossible.

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