Thursday, December 15, 2016

Kitten gingivitis: What it is and how to help

Fergus the kitten sitting on the couch

Like many young Siamese-type cats, Fergus is vocal. He likes nothing more than to sing the song of his people as you prepare his dinner. And he really likes to chirp and cheep while he sits on the laps of the people he loves. That means Fergus often has a wide-open mouth when I'm spending time with him. And that made me notice something.

This kitten has epic bad breath. This isn't breath that is mildly bad due to a recent meal or a sudden burp. This is breath that is consistently and overwhelmingly foul.

Since Fergus was a bottle baby, and since I was the human handling the bottle, he lets me do almost anything to him. That comes in handy when there's a medical problem afoot. I don't need to get help to examine him or restrain him. I can just do it myself.

So when I noticed this problem, I propped open the little cat's mouth, and I saw this.

Fergus the cat with swollen gums

His teeth are perfectly white and clean, but his gums are swollen and bright red.

Typically, a cat's gums get like this due to plaque accumulation on the teeth. It's something I've seen in very old cats in the shelter. But Fergus is just a kitten and he has no plaque. I couldn't figure it out, so off to the veterinarian we went.

The official diagnosis is "juvenile periodontal disease," which means Fergus has a case of kitty gingivitis. He may not have plaque, but his gums are reacting as though there is plaque on his teeth.

Apparently, this isn't all that uncommon in young kittens. Researchers like this one aren't exactly sure why it happens, but it's likely due to a combination of bacteria, genetics and stress.

Tiny Fergus kitten in his bag

Fergus has a moderate case of gingivitis, and for now, the treatment is conservative. Every night, I brush his teeth before he heads to bed. And every morning, I use a dental spray to kill any bacteria on his teeth. The bottle baby thing continues to work in my favor, as he really doesn't mind either of these steps. And he doesn't seem to be in any sort of pain.

If his gums don't get better, we may have to resort to a tooth cleaning and some kind of antibacterial treatment, but we're all hoping it won't come to that. Fergus isn't quite a year old, and any kind of anesthesia isn't easy on a cat's body. We'd like to stick with conservative if we can.

But I'm reminded of the importance of checking on the dental health of your cats. At one point, I recommended looking inside the mouths of older cats to check for illness or disease. But with this happening, it looks like I'll have to expand that recommendation and suggest that cats of all ages need mouth checks regularly.

And if you haven't been brushing your cat's teeth, it's never too early to start. I wish I had brushed Fergus's teeth months ago. If I had, things may not have progressed to this state. Even seniors can come to love a daily toothbrushing, as I found out a few years back.

In the interim, I'm sure Fergus would love some well wishes for his sore gums. Leave me a note in the comments, won't you?


  1. This is a great post. I always worry about gingivitis with my kitties, and I sometimes (although I'm admittedly bad about doing it regularly) apply Maxiguard oral cleaning gel to their gumline. Fergus sure is lucky to have such a wonderful and attentive mom!

    P.S. I failed to let you know earlier that we received a secret little package from you all the other day! We are trying to hold out until a little closer to Christmas to open it. I don't know if we'll make it much longer, though, and I'm thinking we'll be having us some early Christmas presents this weekend! That is, if I can keep the furbabies from it for that much longer. They keep finding it no matter where I try to hide it, so there must some real treats in there! Thank you, Secret Santa Paws! We'll be digging into our gifts soon, and of course posting about it! We can't wait!

    1. I'm so glad you got it! And I'm excited to see what the crew thinks of the presents.

  2. Wishing good oral health for adorable Fergus! I never thought of the advantages of frequent handling of a bottle baby, but that surely helps. Happy holidays!!

  3. Poor Fergus, I hope the teeth brushing helps.

  4. Oh dear, we hope that Fergus's oral health gets better asap... and thanks so much fur sharing this great post on kitty oral care/hygiene.

    Sweetest purrs

    Basil & co xox

  5. He looks so much like one of our cats!