Red Alert. Signs Your Cat Has Stomatitis (And What To Do)

Introduction

Stomatitis is a painful inflammatory condition that affects a cat’s mouth, including the gums, tongue, lips, and back of the throat (PetMD). It causes severe inflammation and ulcers in the oral cavity. Stomatitis is more common in older cats, but cats of any age can be affected. There are different forms of stomatitis, with chronic ulcerative stomatitis being one of the more severe types. This condition is very painful for cats and can make it difficult for them to eat, groom, or do other normal activities. While the exact cause isn’t known, factors like bacteria, viruses, or an overactive immune response may play a role. Treatment focuses on reducing inflammation and managing pain. In severe cases, full mouth tooth extractions are sometimes needed to give cats relief. With treatment, the prognosis for cats with stomatitis can be good.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of stomatitis in cats include red, inflamed gums. According to the VCA Animal Hospitals, stomatitis causes inflammation along the gumline where the gums meet the teeth https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/gingivitis-and-stomatitis-in-cats. The gums become swollen and reddened. This inflammation is usually very painful for cats.

In addition to red, inflamed gums, stomatitis also causes: excessive drooling, loss of appetite, weight loss, bad breath, bleeding gums, pawing at the mouth according to PetMD https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/mouth/c_ct_stomatitis. All of these symptoms are a sign that the cat is experiencing significant discomfort and pain due to the inflammation and ulcers in its mouth.

Oral Ulcers

Oral ulcers are one of the most common symptoms of stomatitis in cats. They appear as painful lesions on the gums, tongue, lips, and other areas of a cat’s mouth. Ulcers can vary in size and number, from a single sore to multiple inflamed ulcers scattered throughout the mouth. According to PetMD, the most frequent cause of mouth ulcers in cats is periodontal disease or related conditions like tooth root abscesses and cysts. The ulcers are very painful and can make eating difficult for cats.

Ulcers form when the moist tissues of the mouth get inflamed. The inflamed areas develop breaks in the mucus membranes, creating open sores. Cats may excessively lick or paw at their mouth because the ulcers hurt. Severe ulcers can even bleed. Treatment involves addressing the underlying inflammation and infection, as well as providing pain relief while the ulcers heal.

Excessive Drooling

One of the most common symptoms of stomatitis in cats is excessive drooling, or hypersalivation. The constant drooling is due to the ulcers and inflammation being very painful for the cat. According to PetMD, the excessive salivation is often one of the first signs noticed by cat owners.

The drooling occurs because the ulcers make eating and swallowing very difficult and painful. The cat struggles to swallow their saliva, so it simply drips out of their mouth. In severe cases, the drooling can be constant throughout the day and night. Owners may notice wet spots on the cat’s bedding or floor from the excessive drool.

In addition to the drooling, affected cats often have trouble eating and drinking properly due to the mouth pain. Dehydration is a serious potential complication, so owners should monitor their cat’s water intake closely if excessive drooling is noticed.

Loss of Appetite

One of the most common symptoms of stomatitis in cats is a loss of appetite or refusal to eat[1]. This occurs because the ulcers and inflammation in the mouth become very painful, making it difficult for the cat to chew and swallow food. The discomfort can range from mild to severe, but in many cases it becomes so painful that the cat stops eating altogether. Some cats may still nibble on soft foods, while others refuse to eat at all. This loss of appetite leads to weight loss and malnutrition if not treated promptly. Because stomatitis causes such significant mouth pain, loss of appetite is one of the first and most obvious symptoms that cat owners will notice when their cat’s oral health deteriorates.

Weight Loss

One of the most concerning symptoms of stomatitis in cats is weight loss. This occurs because the painful ulcers in the mouth make it difficult for the cat to eat normally. As the condition worsens, the cat may start avoiding food altogether due to discomfort. This can lead to rapid weight loss in a short period of time.

Cats suffering from stomatitis may lose their appetite entirely, or they may eat less food at each meal because chewing and swallowing is too painful. Some cats may chew food but then spit it out because they cannot tolerate swallowing it. Whatever the specific cause, reduced caloric intake leads to weight loss and even emaciation in severe cases.

It’s important for cat owners to monitor their pet’s weight closely and watch for any decreases that could indicate an underlying health issue like stomatitis. Sudden or rapid weight loss in cats is always a cause for concern and warrants a veterinary visit for diagnosis and treatment. The sooner stomatitis can be identified and treated, the sooner the cat’s appetite and weight are likely to return to normal.

Bad Breath

One of the most common symptoms of stomatitis in cats is foul-smelling breath, also called halitosis. This is often one of the first signs that cat owners notice. Cats with stomatitis frequently have a very strong, unpleasant odor coming from their mouths (Gingivitis and Stomatitis in Cats – VCA Animal Hospitals).

The foul breath is caused by bacteria and inflammation in the mouth. As the condition worsens, more severe dental disease and oral ulcers develop, producing a very strong, often unbearable rotten smell. Owners describe the breath as smelling like garbage or feces. The odor often makes owners reluctant to interact closely with their cats. Severe halitosis can persist even after the stomatitis is treated (Stomatitis).

Bleeding Gums

One of the most obvious symptoms of stomatitis in cats is bleeding from the gums. This occurs because the inflammation causes the gums to become swollen and ulcerated, which leads to easy bleeding. Even minimal pressure or irritation while eating can cause the inflamed gums to start bleeding. According to veterinarians at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, bleeding gums are a “salient clinical sign” of stomatitis in cats (citeurl).

Owners may notice blood on their cat’s food bowls, toys, bedding, or even streaks of blood trailing from the mouth. Bleeding episodes can range from mild to severe depending on the extent of inflammation. In severe cases, owners describe the mouth looking filled with blood after eating (citeurl2).

While some mild gum inflammation and occasional bleeding can occur with routine gingivitis, consistent bleeding episodes point to the more serious stomatitis inflammation. It’s important for cat owners to monitor their pet’s oral health and contact their veterinarian if bleeding gums persist beyond a day or two, as stomatitis requires professional treatment.

Pawing at Mouth

One common symptom of stomatitis in cats is excessive pawing at the mouth due to discomfort and pain. Cats will repeatedly scratch at their mouths, even when not eating, in an attempt to soothe painful oral inflammation and ulcers. This pawing behavior is a clear sign that something is wrong and the cat is trying to alleviate irritation in its mouth. According to this article, pawing at the mouth is often one of the first signs a pet owner will notice when their cat has stomatitis.

Treatment

There are several common treatment options for stomatitis in cats:1

Steroids like prednisolone are commonly prescribed to reduce inflammation and provide pain relief. Antibiotics may also be used to control secondary infections. However, steroids and antibiotics only treat the symptoms, not the underlying cause.2

Professional dental cleanings can remove plaque and tartar to improve oral health. But inflammation usually returns unless the teeth are extracted.3

The most effective treatment is full mouth tooth extraction surgery to remove all teeth and eliminate the source of irritation. Cats generally recover well and adapt quickly to life without teeth.

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