How to Deal with Feline Stomatitis in FIV Cats
What’s Feline Stomatitis?
Feline stomatitis is a severe and painful disease that causes a cat’s gums and mouth to become inflamed and excruciatingly painful. In most cases, it also triggers the formation of sores in various structures inside or outside the mouth, including the lips, tongue, gums, and the back of the throat.
While there’s no specific cause for feline stomatitis, it’s usually seen in cats suffering from a viral or bacterial infection, as well as conditions that affect the hormones or immune system. It’s also known to result from auto-immune diseases that prompts the body to attack healthy tissues, including the ones surrounding the oral cavity.
How Do FIV Cats Get Stomatitis?
Feline stomatitis is probably the most common disease that develops in FIV cats. While nothing is for certain as of today, a number of researchers believe that one reason for that is the fact that FIV weakens the immune system and makes infected cats more vulnerable to harmful pathogens
According to Dr. Judy Rochette, the co-owner of West Coast Veterinary Dental Services, a healthy cat’s mouth has a balanced number of “neutrophils, lymphocytes, plasma cells, interleukins, cytokines, prostaglandins, histamine, complement, kinins, helper and suppressor T-cells, natural killer cells, and antibodies.”—all of which play a role in protecting cats from pathogens that come into contact with the oral cavity.
However, in the case of FIV cats, white blood cells or lymphocytes are destroyed. This causes the number of cells inside the body to become imbalanced, leaving infected cats more prone to dental diseases, like feline stomatitis.
What Are the Signs of Feline Stomatitis?
Feline stomatitis causes affected cats extreme pain and makes it almost impossible for them to live normally. If your cat has it, you’ll most likely notice changes in their behavior and routines. They may suddenly lose interest in food, become more irritable, or stop grooming themselves because doing so has become too painful.
Other signs of feline stomatitis include constant pawing at the face or mouth, excessive salivation (usually with blood), bleeding gums, bad breath, unkempt coat, and weight loss.
How Is Feline Stomatitis Diagnosed?
Generally, veterinarians start by visually examining the mouth for inflammation, sores, wounds, and bleeding. However, since the pain makes most cats reluctant to open their mouths, they’re normally sedated prior to examination.
While a visual and physical examination are usually sufficient to provide an accurate diagnosis, veterinarians may sometimes need to do a biopsy, which is a medical procedure that involves taking a small sample tissue for further evaluation. To determine the extent of damage, dental x-rays may also be needed.
How Is Feline Stomatitis Treated?
Treatment of feline stomatitis depends the severity of the disease. Some cats may need pain relief and anti-inflammatory medications to alleviate discomfort, while others may simply need to be put on a liquefied diet until they recover.
However, in most cases, antibiotics are administered to prevent bacterial buildup and keep the disease from getting worse. Teeth removal may also be required if too much damage has been done to the tissues surrounding the teeth.
How Can I Prevent My FIV Cat from Developing Stomatitis?
The best way to prevent your FIV cat from feline stomatitis is through consistent dental care. If you haven’t already, make sure to invest in an at-home teeth cleaning kit for them. They may not allow you to brush their teeth the first time, but with patience and the right training methods, they eventually will.
Start by touching your cat’s mouth every day. Once they’re allowing you to do that, try lifting the flap of skin covering their teeth and touching a tooth with your finger. Work your way up to doing the same thing with a toothbrush. Throughout the training period, you can use anti-plaque chew toys or dental sticks.
In addition to at-home dental care, it’s also important to bring your FIV cat to the veterinary clinic for professional teeth cleaning at least once a year. Not only will it help you protect your feline friend from dental diseases, like feline stomatitis, but also allow your veterinarian to spot developing oral problems early.