Tooth decay and gum disease are quite common in cats. Usually, they cause mild to moderate pain that's alleviated once your vet pulls the affected teeth and puts your cat on a soft diet. However, for some cats, dental problems go deeper than simple decay and gum disease. Feline stomatitis is a serious, highly painful, life-threatening oral condition that all cat owners should be aware of and watch out for.
What is feline stomatitis?
The word "stoma" is a technical term that can refer to any body cavity, but in this case, it refers to the cat's mouth. The suffix "-itis" means "inflammation of." So feline stomatitis is inflammation of a cat's mouth. In this condition, the gums, cheek tissues, and tissues towards the back of the throat all become painfully swollen. They can swell to the point of blocking off the esophagus, making it hard or impossible for the cat to swallow.
What causes this problem?
Feline stomatitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection. Usually, the infection starts in the teeth or gums as general tooth decay and gingivitis, but when these conditions are not treated or when the cat's immunity declines, it spreads to the other tissues in the mouth.
What are the signs of feline stomatitis?
Sometimes the symptoms appear quite suddenly, and other times they start quite subtly and become progressively worse. Your cat may develop bad breath that eventually becomes so noxious you can smell it from several feet away. He or she may be unwilling to eat or may only eat soft foods. Some cats, if their throat tissues are largely swollen, may choke or gag when they attempt to eat. If you open the cat's mouth, you'll see that the gums and other tissues are puffy, red, and sometimes bleeding or exuding pus.
What should you do about feline stomatitis?
Take your cat to an animal hospital like Capitol Animal Clinic promptly if you suspect this condition. If it's not treated, your cat could choke to death or the infection could spread to the blood, causing sepsis (a systemic infection that's often deadly.) Your vet will likely treat the condition with a few strong rounds of IV antibiotics. Often, teeth that are badly infected will need to be removed, and if any other tissue is very badly infected, it may be surgically removed, too. Your cat may need to be on a modified diet to help keep the infection at bay in the future. You may also need to give him oral antibiotics for a few weeks after the initial vet care.