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Gingivitis in Cats: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

In some cases, poor oral health in cats can lead to the development of a painful condition known as gingivitis. In this post, our vets in Harlingen will share symptoms, causes, and treatment for gingivitis in cats.

What is gingivitis in cats?

Gingivitis occurs when plaque accumulates on the teeth, transforming into tartar and causing inflammation in the gums surrounding the teeth. Tartar build-up leads to erosion of the gums, forming pockets between the gum line and the teeth where infection can develop.

The disease encompasses various stages, ranging from mild to severe. Severe cases may result in your cat experiencing significant pain and being at risk of tooth loss. Treatment for severe cases requires professional veterinary dental intervention.

Signs of Gingivitis in Cats

Common signs of gingivitis in cats are:

  • Difficulty eating or not eating at all
  • Difficulty picking up toys or food
  • Bad breath
  • Red or swollen gums, especially around the area of the inner cheek
  • Drooling
  • Plaque or tartar build-up on the surface of the teeth

Causes of Gingivitis in Cats

Common causes of gingivitis in cats include:

  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Old age
  • Soft Food
  • Bad Dental Care
  • FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus)
  • Crowded teeth

Diagnosis of Gingivitis in Cats

Cats, adept at concealing pain, may not exhibit signs of severe oral discomfort, even if they are actively eating. Significant dental disease can be present in cats that appear normal and active. It is crucial to bring your cat in for an annual dental exam to detect dental issues. Vets can often identify signs of conditions by observing the animal and checking for the symptoms mentioned above.

Treatment for Cats with Gingivitis

Gingivitis treatment aims to eliminate accumulated plaque and dental calculus. Your veterinarian will recommend an extraction if the teeth cannot be saved. Typically, dental exams for cats involve the use of anesthesia, enabling your vet to thoroughly clean and examine each tooth and take any required X-rays.

The frequency of dental checkups for your cat will be determined by the degree of periodontal disease. Cats with severe gingivitis will likely need more frequent visits.

If your adult cat has overcrowded teeth or baby (deciduous) teeth, your veterinarian may recommend a tooth extraction to prevent further dental issues.

Your veterinarian will also guide you on providing at-home dental care for your cat.

Maintaining Your Cat's Teeth

Cat owners can purchase toothbrushes and toothpaste specifically designed for cats at pet supply stores. Regular use of these products can help prevent gingivitis. Introduce brushing gradually and consistently to help cats become accustomed to the routine.

Get your cat familiar with toothbrushes and toothpaste

Place snacks on the counter near the toothpaste and toothbrush so cats can associate something positive with them. Additionally, offer a dab of toothpaste on your finger for them to lick, helping them get accustomed to it.

Get your cat used to you touching their mouth.

Begin by gently massaging your cat's front teeth and gums for as long as possible. Perform this daily activity, gradually extending your reach into their mouth each session. The key here is to build trust. As you and your cat become more at ease, introduce a cat toothbrush (or use a piece of gauze if they struggle with the toothbrush).

Continue progressing gradually, aiming to brush a few more teeth each session.


With your cat used to the toothbrush and 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.

Is your cat due for their annual dental cleaning? Contact our Harlingen vets to book an appointment and help preserve your cat's oral health. 

Welcoming New Patients

Our vets at Altas Palmas Animal Clinic are now accepting new patients! Our veterinary team is passionate about keeping the cats and dogs of Harlingen happy and healthy. Contact us today to schedule your pet's first appointment.

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