The Most Common Skin Infections in FIV Cats
The Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, better known as FIV, is a virus that attacks the white blood cells of infected cats, weakening their body’s defense system and making them more vulnerable to diseases and infections. However, FIV is a slow-acting virus and it takes several months, even years, for it to completely inactivate the immune function. That means despite FIV, most infected cats are able to live normal lives for quite a long time. Although, in between the good days, some cats may occasionally experience a few issues depending on the phase of FIV infection.
During the early stages, it’s usually a skin problem. Most of which are easily preventable and treatable as long as you know how to spot a developing infection and the actions to take once you do. To help you do exactly that, we’ve compiled the most common skin infections that occur in FIV cats and what you need to know about each one.
Periodontitis, also known as periodontal disease or gum disease, is a condition where the tissues that surround and support the teeth become red and inflamed, causing the teeth to loosen or sometimes even fall out. It happens when bacterial plaque accumulates and hardens around the teeth as a result of poor dental hygiene. The hardened plaque irritates the gums and causes it to become swollen and painful, making it difficult for cats to eat.
The key to preventing periodontitis in FIV cats is to maintain good dental hygiene. Plaque starts off soft, so when you regularly clean your cat’s teeth, it won’t get the chance to harden. Once it does, it’ll become much more difficult to remove. Check your cat’s teeth daily and look for any sign of bacterial plaque. If you come across hardened ones, schedule your pet for a professional dental cleaning session with your veterinarian right away.
At home, make sure to brush your feline friend’s teeth every day. It can be a challenge at first, especially if your cat doesn’t tolerate their mouth being handled, but you can start by touching their mouth then giving them a treat. Slowly work up to opening their mouth, then touching their teeth. Over time, they’ll become desensitized to the actions and let you do what you want. As you go through the process, you can simply invest in a teeth-cleaning chew toy, like Petstages Catnip Chew Mice and Pioneer Pet Nibblers, or some dental sticks, like the WoLover Natural Molar Sticks, to prevent plaque buildup.
Feline gingivitis happens before periodontal disease develops. In fact, according to PetMD, it’s considered as the earliest phase of periodontitis and similarly, it’s caused by bacterial plaque buildup. The infection begins when the bacteria inside the cat’s mouth enters the gap between the teeth and the gums. When this happens, the gum tissues become irritated and eventually, inflamed. If left untreated, the bacterial infection will advance to periodontitis.
Just like feline periodontal disease, feline gingivitis can be prevented through oral hygiene, which involves the combination of daily at-home teeth cleanings and professional dental care. Make sure to check your FIV cat’s teeth and gums daily. Signs of gingivitis included excessive drooling, pain or discomfort when chewing or swallowing food, bad breath, and red, bleeding or inflamed gums.
Feline Ulcerative Stomatitis
If gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums and periodontitis is the inflammation of the supporting tissues surrounding the teeth, feline ulcerative stomatitis is the inflammation of the basically the entire mouth. It’s a painful oral infection that causes ulcers to form on the lips, cheeks, tongue, gums, and the tissues lining the throat.
There’s no specific cause of feline ulcerative stomatitis, but it’s assumed that the disease is associated with bacterial buildup inside the mouth, viral infections, and immune problems. That explains why it’s one of the most common issues that develop in FIV cats. If your cat does end up with feline ulcerative stomatitis, the best course of action is to take them to the veterinary clinic right away. Depending on the severity of the infection, your veterinarian may simply prescribe antibiotics or suggest that it’s better to have your pet’s molars removed. Believe it or not, but most cats do very well without their teeth and recover just fine.
To make sure that your FIV cat doesn’t have feline ulcerative stomatitis, always look out for any signs of pain or discomfort when eating, excessive drooling, absence of grooming, loss of appetite, and bad breath.
In FIV cats, skin abscesses can form as a result of a scratch, a bite wound or an accidental injury. Since they have a weaker immune system, they usually don’t heal as quick as a cat without FIV. That means their cut remains open for a longer amount of time, allowing bacteria to enter through the broken skin and cause abscesses to develop. Luckily, skin abscesses can easily be prevented through proper wound cleaning and treated with antimicrobial creams or ointments.
To keep your FIV cat from getting injured and possibly developing skin abscesses, it’s best to keep them indoors. If you have multiple cats or planning to add more felines to the family, make sure that all the cats get along. FIV be transmitted through deep bite wounds, so catfights will not only hurt your FIV cat but spread the disease to the other cats as well.