Feline stomatitis, also known as Feline Chronic Gingivostomatitis, affects about 0.7 – 4 percent of cats. It is a painful and often debilitating, chronic inflammation of the mouth tissues.
There are two main forms: One form involves inflammation of the gums surrounding the teeth. The second form, called Caudal Stomatitis or Faucitis, affects the back of the mouth where the upper and lower jaws come together known as the "fauces." Caudal Stomatitis is more challenging to treat.
Cats with feline stomatitis are often in great pain and have difficulty chewing and eating. They may lose weight, have bad breath (halitosis), drool, swallow excessively, chatter their teeth, paw their mouth, and even bleed from the gums. These cats may also have a scruffy coat because of decreased self-grooming and are thin from poor nutrition.
Cause & Effect
Researchers have yet to discover the cause of Feline Stomatitis. They however, know that cats with Feline Stomatitis have altered immune functions that predispose them to develop Feline Stomatitis.
The cat's body launches an excessive inflammatory response to the plaque bacteria in the mouth, which, without intervention, may progress to a more severe auto-immune condition in which the body also attacks the dental tissue itself.
Recent studies also suggest that feline calicivirus (a virus that can affect a cat's oral cavity), and viruses that affect the immune system such as feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), may play a role.
Diagnosis & Treatments
There is no specific test for Feline Stomatitis. Veterinarians often diagnose Feline Stomatitis based on the cat's symptoms and an examination of the oral cavity. Veterinarians may screen for FeLV and FIV, perform dental x-rays to check for tooth root resorption. They may also biopsy the affected tissue to differentiate Feline Stomatitis from oral cancer.
Regular dental care and medical management are typically the first line of treatment. A routine dental procedure should be performed to address any inflammatory dental disease. Medical management is aimed at controlling the pain and oral infection and reducing inflammation.
Steroids can be used to reduce the inflammation in the mouth and provide some relief from the discomfort. However, steroids lose effectiveness overtime for this condition, and significant side-effects with long-term use can be an issue.
If your cat does not respond well to medical management, your vet will likely recommend extracting its teeth.
The reason behind the tooth extraction is simple: Teeth provide a surface for bacteria to cling to, which causes the body's immune system to overreact. Removing teeth eliminates the opportunity for bacterial colonisation. Usually, tooth extraction involves the removal of just the molars and premolars.
Overall, cats tend to do very well after this procedure and tend to eat better once healed. In fact, some cats can even eat dry food without teeth. In one study, 80 percent of cats benefited from tooth extraction, but it is not a guaranteed cure, and some cats will also need to continue with medical management.
By: Dr Goh Shuling (Dr Forest)
Principal Vet, Happy Vet
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Dr Forest is the Principal Vet of Happy Vet. She believes in the importance of working closely with pet owners to provide the best possible care for their furkids.
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