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Feline Stomatitis

Stomatitis is a generalized inflammation of the tissues within the oral cavity. It can include the gingiva (gums), inner surface of the lips, tongue and top and/or bottom of the mouth. It should not be confused with gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums and shows up as a thin red line along the gum margin. Although not a common condition, stomatitis is serious and painful.

These cats usually have halitosis (bad breath), may drool and paw at their faces. Oral pain can lead to unusual vocalization, aggression, a decrease in feeding and subsequent weight loss. A decrease in grooming behaviour and activity are also common.

Mainly affecting adult domestic cats, the primary cause of this disease is not well understood. More than half of cats with ongoing oral inflammation have been found to have Calicivirus. Feline Herpes Virus-1 has also been found in the saliva of some affected cats. Lab tests indicate that this disease may have an immune-mediated basis, possibly caused by an exaggerated immune response to the presence of plaque bacteria and their toxins in the mouth.

Diagnosis of this disease is usually made based on patient history, symptoms and physical exam findings. Management involves a combination of things to help decrease the animal’s inappropriate inflammatory response to the presence of dental plaque. A tooth cleaning to remove plaque and tartar, along with any necessary extractions, is usually recommended. In some cases, this involves full mouth extractions. Brushing any remaining teeth and the topical application of antimicrobials and diet are used to help decrease plaque formation. Broad-spectrum antibiotics and systemic anti-inflammatories are also commonly used in the management of stomatitis. Early treatment/intervention has usually resulted in a better prognosis.

Written by: St. Vital Veterinary Hospital

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Last updated: August 3, 2021

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