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How to Manage Feline Stomatitis

How to Manage Feline Stomatitis

Critter Culture Staff



Feline stomatitis is a disease not many cat owners know about. Also called feline chronic gingivostomatitis (FCGS), it's a debilitating condition that causes pain in the animal and frustration for a pet parent.

You want your cat to live a happy life. FCGS reduces this quality of life if it goes untreated. Recognizing the symptoms and learning the step-by-step treatment options will give you comfort in knowing how to spot, manage, and potentially eliminate stomatitis properly.


What is stomatitis?

cat with red gums

FCGS is a chronic oral inflammatory disease. It affects up to one-tenth of all cats and is severely debilitating. It comes in two forms based on the location.

The easier of the two to treat is the teeth and gums. Though pain, redness, and bleeding occur, these areas aren't as difficult to contend with as caudal stomatitis. Caudal stomatitis develops in the back of the mouth where the jaw meets.


The causes of FCGS

cat lying on the floor Stegarau / Getty Images

A huge part of the problem with feline stomatitis is that its origins aren't entirely known. Prior health conditions like periodontal issues or feline leukemia may play a part in being predisposed to the disease. Studies show that just about all cats who develop FCGS have an abnormal immune system response.

There's a chance feline stomatitis could be a heightened response to plaque and bacteria. This overreaction attacks the healthy dental tissue in addition to the harmful substances. But FCGS is also caused by the immune system acting the opposite way. Stomatitis will equally show up in cats who have an insufficient immune response.


Symptoms of feline stomatitis

cat looking at bowl of food

Start investigating immediately if you notice a fairly strong, foul odor coming from your cat's mouth. Though this is also a sign of other conditions, it's a classic indicator of FGCS. Other symptoms include excessive drooling, oral bleeding, weight loss, crying while eating, dropping food, or refusing to eat.

The fur is also a good signal. If your kitty looks unkempt, it might be because they can't clean or groom themselves due to overwhelming oral pain. Poor nutrition will also cause their coat to lose their luster.


Diagnosing a cat with FCGS

Veterinarian examining teeth of a cat while doing checkup didesign021 / Getty Images

A detailed oral exam is typically enough to diagnose a cat with stomatitis. It's a visual disease, so the vet will see signs of inflammation in the form of redness and bleeding throughout the mouth. If there's only a localized affected area, it may not be caused by FCGS.

Blood tests, screenings, x-rays, and biopsies can also assist with diagnosis. They are used to rule out other diseases while also attempting to discover any underlying causes for feline stomatitis.


Initial treatment options

teeth cleaning of the cat in a veterinary clinic Byelikova_Oksana / Getty Images

Usually, your vet will begin treatment by getting rid of as much plaque and bacteria as possible during an anesthetized cleaning. Unfortunately, this is only a minor improvement; if pain and inflammation subside, they'll likely return soon. Still, while you're waiting on the next treatment step, it's best to keep up with this oral maintenance at home. Your vet will provide you with a program and tips for daily care.


Potential medication

Woman at home holding her Devon Rex cat on lap and gives it a pill. insonnia / Getty Images

Steroids will initially help reduce inflammation, but they'll eventually lose their effect. Antibiotics counter the bacterial infection, but it tends to recur with a vengeance once the treatment period has run its course. Vets may experiment with other therapies too, but overall, medications end up only being a temporary solution.


Surgical options

anesthesiologist prepares a cat for surgery

The odds are high that your cat may need to have tooth extraction surgery. This is the current go-to method for treating FGCS. It can involve pulling several teeth or all of them. For extremely severe cases, it's not uncommon to remove surrounding tissue and even bone.

This extensive operation may require a veterinary dentist, but your regular vet will be involved with the process and follow-up care. Prior to surgery, it's best to transition your cat to a wet diet so they can get used to eating soft foods.


Surgical aftercare

Brown cat eating his food deepblue4you / Getty Images

A soft diet is important for the healing process. Make sure your kitty stays away from dry food for at least two weeks after surgery. Once this period is over, it's okay to begin slowly incorporating some harder food into their meals. When the surgical site heals, most cats are fine with dry food.

Your cat may not want to eat after surgery, so prescription medication to improve their appetite may be administered. The vet will also provide you with medication for inflammation and pain.



Recovery rate

man petting his cat Magui-rfajardo / Getty Images

The more extreme the measures, the higher the chances are for full FCGS recovery. Most cases that go through partial or full extractions are a total success. For cats who don't achieve remission, medical management will at least keep painful symptoms at bay. Even bone and tissue removal may not end stomatitis, but they'll be enough to adequately control the condition.


Importance of routine dental care

veterinarian checking mouth of cat Vesnaandjic / Getty Images

Felines should have a wellness checkup with their vet once a year. Seniors and those with medical issues should visit more frequently. It's imperative that you responsibly follow this protocol to keep your furry friend as healthy as possible. Avoiding the vet until something goes wrong is not safe for your cat.

Regular appointments help detect issues that have the potential to be harmful, such as stomatitis. During an oral exam, a vet will notice the beginning stages of FCGS and be able to prevent it from becoming severe. Let your kitty live their best life: don't ever underestimate the importance of routine vet visits and your own follow-up maintenance.


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