Why does my cat have red gums?
Your cat’s gum color provides a peek into their current health and well-being. Your cat’s gums are also prime indicators for the presence of dental disease. Keep reading to learn what is normal for your cat’s gums and when you should be worried.
What do normal gums look like?
Healthy gums typically have a light pink color. They should be slightly moist and shiny. Your cat’s gums are important indicators of several issues that may be present. For example, dehydration causes a cat’s gums to feel sticky or dry.
When you press lightly on the gums, they will normally turn pale but will return to their normal light pink color within two seconds. This is referred to as “capillary refill time” or “CRT”. A CRT that’s more than 2 seconds may indicate dehydration, poor circulation, or abnormal blood pressure.
Sometimes, it’s normal for certain cat breeds to have dark-colored gums. Their black gums are brought about by the abundance of melanin (a dark pigment) in their mouths. It may also be normal for some cats to have gums with a mixture of pink and black. Any cat with a black hair coat or skin may tend to have dark-colored gums. Chances are, this color variation is normal, especially if it’s been present since early kittenhood.
Abnormal Gum Colors
There are several abnormal variations in the color of the gums. Depending on the issue that’s present, the gums may turn pale, bright red, blue, muddy-brown, yellow, or even splotchy. This article will tackle the possible reasons why a cat’s gums may turn red.
Being aware of these abnormal color variations of the gums, and what they could mean, can help you decide if there’s an immediate need to have your cat examined by your vet.
Common Causes of Red Gums in Cats
Gingivitis is a condition that is characterized by the inflammation of the gums around a tooth/teeth with a defect. The gums appear red and swollen, and affected cats suffer from pain and discomfort.
As plaque accumulates above the gum line (the area where the teeth meet the gums), it will eventually migrate deeper toward the base of the tooth and to the subgingival region. This can trigger the immune system to mount a response against the bacteria leading to inflammation (gingivitis).
Experts believe that in cats with good oral health, the bacteria in the mouth are composed of mostly beneficial species. But when plaque is present, this can create a shift in bacterial populations from the normal beneficial bacteria to disease-causing species.
Symptoms of Gingivitis in Cats
Gingivitis is primarily a disease of the gums. Affected cats have gums that are swollen, red, and painful. In severe cases, bleeding may occur in the gumline where the gums meet the teeth. The cat may be hesitant to eat and may turn their heads to one side while eating. Some cats with gingivitis may prefer soft foods while others stop eating because of the pain. Drooling and bad breath may also be present.
Is Gingivitis Reversible?
Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease, and it’s the only stage that’s generally reversible. The treatment will depend to a large extent on the severity of the inflammation as well as the underlying cause. The treatment regimen may also involve the following:
- Home dental care of your cat’s teeth
- Full dental exam and cleaning under general anesthesia
- Antibiotics (if there is an infection)
- Immunosuppressive drugs
- Tooth extraction (in extreme cases)
If gingivitis is a result of an underlying systemic illness, your vet will address the primary disease first in order to manage the gingivitis.
2. Other Potential Causes of Red Gums and Gingivitis
Gum inflammation may also be caused by a variety of infectious or systemic illnesses, such as:
- Feline leukemia virus (FeLV)
- Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
- Feline calicivirus
- Diabetes mellitus
- Severe kidney disease
- Autoimmune disease
When gingivitis is brought about by any of these systemic diseases, the inflammation of the gums may be accompanied by stomatitis, which is a condition characterized by inflammation or sores in the lining of the mouth.
How Can You Support Your Cat’s Oral Health?
In addition to annual dental check-ups, here are some tips to support your pet’s dental health at home:
- Examine your pet’s mouth regularly to check for any signs of irritated or inflamed gums, loose or decaying teeth, etc.
- Ask your vet for specially formulated dental chews and treats for cats that can help remove plaque and prevent tartar buildup while keeping your pet’s breath fresh and odor-free.
- There are also dental products, such as water additives, dental diets, etc. that you can use on your pet’s teeth. It is highly recommended to ask your vet about these products before using them on your pet.
- Early detection and intervention are essential to minimize serious dental problems in cats. If you notice any signs of tooth and gum problems or changes in your cat’s behavior (pawing at the mouth, loss of appetite, chewing on odd objects, etc.), make an appointment with your vet at the soonest possible time.
Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your cat’s red gums or another condition?
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