Nice teeth and gums - they can chew through anything....photo by aylaujp
Feline Gingivitis is gum disease. This happens when bacteria infects the gums where dental plaque, calculus and trapped food combine in the small gaps in between the tooth and gum. The plaque, calculus and trapped food are an ideal medium for the growth of bacteria. Feline Gingivitis is a periodontal disease.
Feline Gingivitis - Terms
gingiva - this means gums
itis - this means inflammation
The two together mean inflammation of the gums
plaque - Dental plaque is biofilm (usually colorless) that builds up on the teeth. If not removed regularly, it can lead to dental cavities (caries) or periodontal problems (such as gingivitis). The microorganisms that form the biofilm are almost entirely bacteria (src: Wikipedia® published under GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version - see Wikipedia® licensing below). Plaque is soft and colorless. It is made of inorganic and organic material.
Periodontal - this relates to the periodontium — that is, the tissues that surround and support the teeth. Periodontitis (peri = around, odont = tooth, -itis = inflammation) refers to a number of inflammatory diseases affecting the periodontium (src: Wikipedia® published under GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version - see Wikipedia® licensing below)
Calculus - another word is tartar - refers to calcified deposits on the teeth, formed by the continuous presence of dental plaque. Its rough surface provides an ideal medium for further plaque formation, threatening the health of the gingiva. Calculus absorbs unaesthetic stains far more easily than natural teeth. (src: Wikipedia® published under GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version - see Wikipedia® licensing below). Calculus is made up of calcium phosphate and carbonate plus organic material. It produces yellow/brown staining on the teeth.
Feline Gingivitis - The disease
Sometimes Feline Gingivitis can occur with a disease such as feline panleukopenia or feline viral respiratory disease complex.
The gums become red, swollen and painful. When rubbed they may bleed. Note: the same disease affects humans as we are all probably aware. If left unattended it leads to periodontal disease and tooth decay. A sign of periodontal disease is bad breath which sometimes cat keepers treat as normal and so ignore a potential worsening situation. As it hurts to eat the cat may not eat, losing weight and looking unkempt.
Some cats suffer more than others. My cat, a 16 year old moggie has great teeth. I have never done any work on them except inspect them. Chronic gingivitis may be due to an immunal deficiency in some cats. A lowering of the immune response can be caused by FeLV (feline leukemia virus) and FIV (feline aids). Chronic gingivitis is difficult to treat.
Feline Gingivitis - The treatment
Feline gingivitis is normally treated by professional cleaning of the teeth followed by a program of dental care and treating any diagnosed underlying cause or exacerbating diseases such as feline calcivirus (one of the viruses that cause upper respiratory infections). This may mean antibiotics. Once home the cat keeper should clean the cat's teeth regularly (twice a week). This I think is easier said than done.
It will require commitment and patience using standard training techniques. One way is clicker training. A slow and purposeful build to full blown tooth brush cleaning will probably have to be adopted. This means first rubbing the cats muzzle where the teeth are. Then progressing to rubbing the teeth below by raising the lip, then applying special tooth paste to the fingers and rubbing with that. Obviously advice on this is a vet's domain.
Where vets differ in opinion is on the type of diet that might help resist the onset of Feline Gingivitis. Some recommend dry kibble as the abrasive action will, it is said, clean the teeth. Is this true? A specialist veterinarian, Dr. Hodgkins DVM says that tartar control cat food doesn't work. She also does not recommend dry cat generally (see cat food recipe). Her advice for cats that acquire plaque and calculus faster than normal is to be fed raw or cooked meat with ground bone on occasions. Dry cat food contains high levels of carbohydrates making them unsuitable for cats generally (being obligate carnivores) and for the control of tartar and plaque.
Feline Gingivitis to cat health problems
Feline Gingivitis - Sources:
- As stated in the text.
- I use Wikipedia as an supplementary means to define terms for the sake of certainty
- Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook by Drs Carlson and Giffin
- Veterinary Notes for Cat Owners by Trevor and Jean Turner.