Many cat owners will someday hear the words ‘Feline Stomatitis‘ come out of their vet’s mouths. This scary-sounding diagnosis can be painful and hard on your feline friend and you need to know all you can to help your furry friend out.
Find out all you need to know from one trusted vet below.
Let’s take a deep breath and start with the basics of this new diagnosis…
What is a feline?
Plain and simple.
A darn cat.
The bigger question should be, what the heck is the stomatitis part?
What is Stomatitis?
Stoma- in medical terminology means “opening” and -itis means “inflammation”.
Add the two together and you have opening inflammation, or mouth inflammation, which is exactly what feline stomatitis is.
Feline Stomatitis, also known as Feline Chronic Gingivostomatitis, or FCGS, affects up to approximately 4% of the domestic cat population.
FCGS is incredibly painful to the cat because of severe inflammation (angry swelling) of the gingiva (gums) of the affected feline.
The cat’s own immune system “over-reacts” to plaque build-up on the teeth of your cat, causing a severe inflammation (swelling) of the gums surrounding those teeth, to occur.
Are There Different Types of FCGS?
Why yes there are.
There are two main types of feline stomatitis:
- Peridontal Stomatitis: “peri-” means around or surrounding in medical terminology, and “dontal” means teeth. This form of the disease
- Caudal Stomatitis: Caudal, meaning “tail” in medical terminology, refers in this case to the back of the mouth (the part of the mouth closest to the tail). Because this type of stomatitis is toward the back of the mouth, it is harder for veterinarians to reach and get to, and therefore can be harder to treat.
What Does Stomatitis Look Like in My Cat?
Stomatitis in cats can be observed as very red, swollen, angry looking gums.
The part of the gums that will look the most inflamed (swollen and red) will be gums touching or surrounding the teeth.
What is Faucitis?
Faucitis is a term that has been used to describe inflammation of the tissues behind the teeth in the back of the oral cavity, something that likely only your veterinarian will be able to see.
What is the Cause?
The cause of stomatitis is still unknown.
Us vets believe that there may be a few components that predispose (make it easier for one to have the condition) a cat to FCGS.
Such predisposing conditions may be:
- viruses (ex. Calicivirus)
- pre-existing inflammatory dental disease
What are the Signs of the Disease?
- If your pet has any of these symptoms, it's time to contact your vet:
- loss of appetite
- difficulty or the halt of daily grooming/licking
- halitosis (bad breath)
- growling at food or bowl
- weight loss
- pawing at mouth or face
- hiding / reclusiveness
If your pet has any of these symptoms, it's time to contact your vet!
How is it Diagnosed?
There isn’t a test for FCGS.
Your veterinarian will look take a good look at your cat during physical exam and put together all the signs and symptoms to create a stomatitis diagnosis.
If your veterinarian suspects feline stomatitis, they may recommend any or all of the following tests to be run:
- radiographs (x-rays) of your cat’s mouth (to see how much dental disease is present)
- blood work (to see how organ and blood components are behaving)
- virus screenings (to rule other viral conditions)
- gingival biopsies (to determine the root of the gingival (gum) swelling. Is it FCGS, cancer, or a localized mouth infection)
Is it Contagious to Other Animals?
So I am sure that you are wondering…. is this contagious to other animals?
Because we can exactly pinpoint what the root origin of feline stomatitis is, it’s hard to say that it is contagious.
Most vets will say that it is not contagious because what we do know is that stomatitis forms after the plaque buildup on teeth becomes bad.
Dirty teeth and plaque build up are not contagious.
Now, if there are underlying diseases predisposing your cat to a lowered immune system…. now those diseases may be infectious.
But you another cat cannot get FCGS from another cat.
Can I Get Stomatitis From My Cat?
You are also likely wondering if humans can get this disease from cats.
Just like in the above section about the contagiousness of the disease from cat-to-cat, FCGS is not contagious from cat-to-humans.
You can’t catch stomatitis from your cat’s mouth, although, you can catch a nasty infection if they bite you with a mouth of plaque-ridden teeth!
Feline Stomatitis Treatment
The treatment will be determined by how severe the case is.
Some mild cases will be easier to treat than more severe, widespread (covers the entire mouth).
Because there is no known cause, there is no known way to explicitly diagnose, there is also no known treatment specifically for the disease.
Vets will treat the symptoms.
Sometimes the first attempt at therapy may not work, but don’t lose hope, there are many things your cat can try as ways to combat the disease.
- Routine dental cleanings performed at your vet clinic (as well as at-home dental care)
- Antibiotic medications (if there is a bacterial infection component)
- Pain Mediciations
- Steroids (to help reduce the inflammation of the gums)
- Immunosuppressive medications (these are not the popular choice by most vets today)
- Laser Therapies
- Dental Surgery (see below under “Can it be Cured?” section)
Feline Stomatitis Diet
If your cat is going through this painful disease, the best thing you can do is feed them a comforting diet.
A soft diet, of easy-to-chew foods is optimum.
Even if your cat has had all of their teeth removed, they can still eat and enjoy their food and their lives.
What’s the Prognosis?
Most times dental cleanings, antibiotics, and steroids just aren’t enough if the disease has progressed (worsened) enough.
Often times, to make an impact, the feline patient may need to go to surgery.
During surgery, your vet will take out the teeth that are surrounded by the affect, swollen gums.
The veterinarian will also excise (cut out) the gums that have been affected.
By removing the problem areas, the procedure is hoping that the problem is resolved.
But is this surgery a cure???
Can It Be Cured?
There is no guarantee of a cure, even if your cat does go under the knife and a partial or full mouth extraction of their teeth and excision of the affected gums is performed.
For most feline patients, we control the disease rather than cure it.
Is it Preventable?
Oh the BIG question… Is this preventable?
Could I have prevented this from happening?
Since we don’t know the exact cause, it’s pretty dang hard to prevent, right.
Your best bet is to keep up with your cat’s oral hygiene and dental cleanings, make sure that they attend their routine physical exams, and bring them in if you notice unusual swellings or reddening of their gums, or problems eating or grooming.