Does your cat have a mouthful of teeth that are causing extreme discomfort and a lack of appetite? That constant pain may be caused by relentless bacteria as a result of the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), an auto-immune disease that affects cats worldwide. While the virus can be slow-acting and a cat may not show any symptoms of the disease for several months or even years, the disease can lead to many uncomfortable- and sometimes life-changing- dental problems.
In FIV+ cats, the immune system’s inflammatory response is very abnormal, and their bodies are not healthy enough to fight off chronic oral infections. Since the body cannot fight infections effectively, small mouth infections can quickly become majo
r problems, potentially resulting in gingivostomatitis due to chronic inflammation. Gingivostomatitis is a dental disease classified by severe and chronic inflammation of a cat’s gums (gingiva) and mucosa (the the moist tissue that lines the oral cavity). FIV can also cause an abnormal immune response to plaque in the mouth, which is the thin coating of bacteria that normally accumulates on the surface of the teeth. As the disease progresses, the gums will begin to recede from the
tooth root and the root will begin to be absorbed, resulting in tooth loss.
Signs and Symptoms To Watch For In Your FIV+ Cat
If your cat is FIV+ or if your cat is experiencing frequent dental problems, there a few significant behavior changes that you should keep an eye out for in your cat. Several common signs of gingivostomatitis include severe oral pain and discomfort; swollen, ulcerated, and bleeding gums; lack of appetite or the inability to eat; weight loss, blood in the saliva; bad breath; and pawing at the mouth. Every cat is different and therefore each cat may experience different symptoms. Some cats may mask their pain well, so it is always a good idea to bring your cat to the veterinarian frequently for a wellness checkup, especially if your cat has been diagnosed with FIV. Additionally, the condition of a cat’s teeth can vary depending on the stage of the disease, and it is important to have your vet check the strength and health of your cat’s teeth.
If you have an FIV+ cat, you know this disease is all about management. If your cat has been experiencing dental problems and has been diagnosed with gingivostomatitis, the condition can often be managed. Drugs that are used to suppress the immune system and control the rapid increase in numbers of bacteria are frequently prescribed by a veterinarian to keep oral infections low. If medication management does not work for your cat, your veterinarian may recommend surgery to remove all of the cat’s teeth. By removing all of the teeth, you are eliminating all of the associated bacteria with the dental disease. Recovery time after the surgery takes about five to 10 days, however your cat can still live a healthy and happy life with no teeth!
Unfortunately, there are no preventative measures for gingivostomatitis and it is one of the most common secondary problems associated with an FIV infection. You can however, brush your cat’s teeth to try and keep his or her mouth as healthy as possible before any diseases occur. If your cat has FIV, studies show that they may have different bacteria that is found in the mouth than in cats without FIV, in addition to having higher numbers of bacteria as well. That being said, there is little that you can do to prevent gingivostomatitis, but brushing the teeth before any inflammation can help keep infections at bay longer. It is important to note that you should not brush the teeth of an animal once they do have inflammation and have gingivostomatitis. Brushing a cat’s teeth with this dental disease can be extremely painful for a cat with severe inflammation. Chronic mouth pain from brushing or the disease itself can result in a decreased appetite and weight loss.
We know that some of the secondary diseases associated with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus can be really scary, however educating yourself about the illness and learning how to give your cat the best possible life is the best thing that you can do for your pet! For more information about the secondary dental disease, we suggest you check out fivtherapy.com.