Can Cats Be Allergic to Their Own Teeth? Our Vet Explains Feline Dental Health Facts

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Feline chronic gingivostomatitis (FCGS) is an inflammation of the gums and mouth of cats. Although understanding of this disease is still evolving, it is widely reported to be an immune-mediated disease that may also involve feline calicivirus infection. Technically, cats are not born with dental allergies, but rather an unknown trigger causes their teeth or the substance on their teeth to react over time, causing severe inflammation that requires the affected tooth to be removed. Affected teeth.

Read on to learn more about this complex disease that may affect up to 26% of domestic cats1.

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What is chronic gingivostomatitis in cats?

Well, that's actually a very good question, and one that scientists are still studying. The understanding of this debilitating disease has come a long way, and it is now considered an immune-mediated disease.

Let's break down some of these complex words. First, the name: Cats (cat), chronic (existing for a long time), glue (related to gums), stomata (relating to the mouth) Finally –This is (meaning inflammation). Literally means inflammatory gum and oral disease in cats.

Now let’s talk about the immune-mediated part. An immune-mediated disease is a condition in which the immune system malfunctions and targets the body's own tissues, causing inflammation and/or disease.

Over the past few decades, various theories have been proposed for the development of FCGS, including cats being allergic to dental plaque, other viruses, and bacteria. This may be where the theory that cats are allergic to their own teeth comes from. Plaque is now thought to play a smaller role in the disease and its severity. However, oral care does play an important role in the treatment of this disease.

cat mouth teeth
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Clinical symptoms of feline gingivostomatitis

The most obvious feature of FCGS is varying degrees of inflammation in the oral cavity. Although cats can have both diseases at the same time, there are two main subtypes: proliferative FCGS and ulcerative FCGS.

  • Bad breath (bad breath)
  • Some, but not all, cats are reluctant to eat
  • food falling out of mouth
  • Significant inflammation of the gums and mouth
  • Signs of pain, such as hissing when trying to eat
  • Bleeding or pus from the mouth
  • claws at mouth
  • lose weight
  • Poor grooming
  • Slobber

Any of these signs means you should make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately for evaluation. Gingivostomatitis is a painful condition, and although many cats are adept at hiding their discomfort, treatment is crucial.

Diagnosis of chronic gingivostomatitis in cats

To diagnose FCGS, a complete oral examination is crucial. Your veterinarian will first perform a general health exam and examine the mouth. In many cases, due to severe pain, your veterinarian will need to anesthetize your cat in order to fully examine their mouth in order to schedule a second visit.

Your veterinarian may also recommend other tests, such as blood tests to rule out certain other viral diseases (feline leukemia virus or feline immunodeficiency virus), swabs to test for feline calicivirus, and dental X-rays to evaluate the teeth Resorption and periodontitis (periodontitis).

You may also be asked to fill out a form called the Stomatitis Disease Activity Index, or SDAI. This form helps evaluate and track signs of changes in your cat's mouth and how it affects his or her quality of life.

Veterinarian checks cat's teeth or mouth
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Treatment of chronic gingivostomatitis in cats

After careful evaluation, your veterinarian will make treatment recommendations. It is important to note that despite extensive treatment, cure is not always possible, so it is recommended to discuss the possible outcomes with your veterinarian.

Some veterinarians may recommend steroids and/or antibiotics as initial treatment. This will make the affected cat feel more comfortable, but only in the short term. While this is a common treatment option, other options are now available.

If possible, dental treatment is the primary treatment for these cats. Depending on the severity and location of the inflammation, many cats will benefit from having some or all of their teeth removed. This may seem daunting, but it is the only treatment currently available that has a good success rate in the long term. Even if your cat has no teeth, they will still be able to eat well and, more importantly, they will be in less pain.

If you are concerned about your cat's oral health, contact your veterinarian for a complete oral examination. It is also recommended to have regular annual checkups with your cat (once or twice a year) to check your cat's mouth, including its teeth.

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Other dental health issues

The two most common dental diseases in cats are tooth resorption and periodontal disease, which can also cause pain. Both conditions commonly occur with chronic gingivostomatitis in cats.

Tooth resorption

Tooth resorption, also known as Feline Fragmentary Resorption Lesion (FORL), affects approximately 70% of cats over the age of 5 years. It is often undetectable until quite advanced.

Despite the pain, many cats show no obvious clinical signs, and the problem may go unnoticed by their owners for a long time. However, some cats may exhibit the following clinical signs:

  • excessive salivation
  • Bleeding gums
  • Avoiding eating despite having an appetite
  • Uncomfortable to touch
  • increased irritability
  • If something comes into contact with the affected tooth, the tooth will bite or “chatter”

Treatment involves extraction of the affected tooth by a veterinarian after a dental examination.

Cat's gums are red, swollen, inflamed or tooth resorbed, gingivitis shows teeth
Image source: Yaya Photos, Shutterstock

periodontal disease

Periodontal disease is characterized by the progressive deterioration of the tissues surrounding the teeth: ligaments, alveolar bone, and gums. It begins as inflammation of the gums, which can be reversed with good dental hygiene. As the condition progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to resolve and can lead to tooth loss or extraction. Symptoms at home are similar to those seen with tooth resorption—inflamed and painful gums, possibly with visible plaque and tartar. Pain may cause behavioral changes, such as sleeping more, avoiding eating, or being irritable. Studies show that periodontal disease increases a cat’s risk of kidney, liver, and heart disease. As cats age, their risk of periodontal disease increases, highlighting the importance of regular health checkups for older cats.

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Frequently asked questions

Can FCGS in cats be treated?

FCGS is treatable in most cats; treatment does not guarantee cure of the disease. The best results are found in cats that are free of other diseases such as feline leukemia virus and have received professional veterinary dental care and tooth extractions. A study published in 2015 showed that with tooth extraction and medical management, the cure rate was 28%, with a significant improvement of 39%. They also found that 6% of cats showed no improvement and 26% showed little improvement. Realistic expectations for investment and ongoing care should be discussed with your veterinarian.

What should I do if my cat has stomatitis?

If your cat is diagnosed with gingivostomatitis, the best thing you can do is discuss treatment plans, home care, prognosis and costs involved with your veterinarian. A comprehensive examination and tooth extraction can be a considerable financial investment, and it's best to be prepared. Follow your veterinarian's instructions and continue taking any medications.

Is stomatitis in cats contagious?

No, feline stomatitis itself is not contagious. This is how a cat's immune system responds to triggers that are not yet fully understood. However, research shows that single cats are less likely to develop the disease than cats that live with other cats. Living with another cat increases the risk sevenfold.

How long can my cat live with stomatitis?

Cats with stomatitis can live for many years, but if left untreated, their quality of life and well-being will be severely affected. This disease causes considerable pain and oral discomfort. Reluctance to eat due to pain and even difficulty with daily care, such as grooming, may lead to weight loss. From the first signs of illness, it is crucial to take your cat to the veterinarian for evaluation and appropriate treatment.

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in conclusion

Currently, cats are not considered allergic to their own teeth. They may develop immune system dysfunction, leading to inflammation of the gums and oral tissues. The exact cause is still being studied, but it is now thought to be immune-mediated, possibly in response to feline calicivirus and possibly other other factors. In addition to pain, symptoms include excessive salivation, gum inflammation, feeding difficulties, poor grooming, weight loss, and behavioral changes.

Effective treatment usually includes medication and tooth extraction, but cure is not guaranteed.

Featured image credit: KMQ, Shutterstock

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