Stomatitis in Cats

Estimated Reading Time 3 minutes
Stomatitis in Cats

Stomatitis is inflammation of the lining inside the mouth. This includes the gums, tongue, inner area of the lips, and the roof and floor of the mouth. It is a severe type of inflammation that involves more than just the gums. If you’ve ever experienced inflammation or irritation inside your mouth such as a burn from eating something too hot, you know that it’s painful and uncomfortable. Stomatitis in cats also causes discomfort when they try to eat. As a result, cats will often not eat and lose weight. Read on to learn about causes, symptoms, diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and when to contact a vet if you think your cat has stomatitis.

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Causes of Stomatitis in Cats

Unfortunately, the cause of stomatitis is unknown, making it difficult to control and treat. Experts speculate that it may be caused by an overreactive response of the oral tissues of the mouth to bacterial plaque (which contributes to dental tartar). Essentially, cats become “allergic” to their teeth which leads to inflammation and pain in the mouth.

Signs and Symptoms of Stomatitis

Stomatitis can be very painful, leading to a decrease in appetite due to the discomfort and pain. Simple grooming becomes too painful for cats suffering from stomatitis leading to poor, unkempt, or matted fur. Cats may also salivate excessively.

Diagnosing Stomatitis in Cats

Diagnosing stomatitis is often done by seeing the inflammation inside the mouth along with a history of a decrease in appetite or not eating, weight loss, and not grooming. Other tests such as a urinalysis and blood work are recommended to make sure there is no other illness that could contribute to the stomatitis. X-rays of the teeth and mouth help show any damage to the tooth roots and other supporting bones and structures of the mouth.

How to Treat Stomatitis in Cats

Any underlying illnesses found from blood and urine tests that may be contributing to the stomatitis need to be treated first.

Previous treatment options for stomatitis in cats involved thorough teeth cleaning, polishing, pain management, gold therapy, antibiotics, lasers, and daily brushing. In most cases, this therapy helped only temporarily, and cats continued to be in pain.

Often, no specific underlying illness is found and the treatment of choice for cats with stomatitis involves removing many or all of the teeth. This removes the source of the inflammation and pain. Under general anesthesia, the mouth and teeth will be thoroughly evaluated, cleaned, and polished. Dental x-rays will be performed, allowing the vet to determine which teeth need to be removed.

Cats recover and heal in a very short amount of time. Owners notice improvement of quality of life, increased appetite, better grooming habits, weight gain, and playfulness. Some cases may need additional medication and therapy.

Can stomatitis be prevented?

While we don’t understand or know what causes stomatitis in cats, we do know that plaque caused by bacteria contributes to dental tartar which can lead to inflammation of the mouth and contribute to stomatitis.

Begin oral preventive health care as soon as you adopt your new kitten or cat. Use a small finger toothbrush specially made for kittens and cats. Begin by simply brushing their teeth (without any toothpaste). Offer a special treat every time to make the experience a positive one that your kitten or cat will look forward to. Talk to your vet about adding special toothpaste or other dental products that are safe for your kitten or cat once they get used to having their teeth brushed. Never use human toothpaste as it contains ingredients that can be harmful to your cat and cause upset stomach and vomiting.

Read more about dental care in cats by clicking on the following links:

Dental and Oral Anatomy in Cats

Brushing Your Cat's Teeth: Step-by-Step Instructions

Prognosis or long-term outcome for cats diagnosed with stomatitis varies from cat to cat, depending on their response to treatment.

When to Contact a Vet

If you notice that your cat has bad breath, is dropping their food or kibble, not eating but acting hungry, losing weight, and showing signs of not grooming, you need to schedule an appointment with your vet right away.

Read more:

What happens when my pet has their teeth cleaned?

Everything You Need to Know About Your Cat’s Dental Health

Why is my cat not eating? 3 Common Causes of Anorexia in Cats

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Published: 6/4/2021
Last updated: 8/9/2021
Dr. Denise Michanowicz, Veterinarian

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