Imagine your mouth being so inflamed and painful that you couldn’t eat. Maybe it would hurt to talk. And maybe you’ll drool constantly. Doesn’t sound pleasant does it? Sadly, this does happen with cats from time to time and it can be a devastating problem most often referred to as stomatitis (though also called gingivo-stomatitis, ulcerative stomatitis, or lymphocytic-plasmacytic stomatitis).
How did kitty get here?
That’s the million dollar question because despite years of research, the exact cause is unknown. It is thought to have multiple contributing factors including bacteria, viruses, and a poor immune system. It’s impossible to predict if it will happen but it appears in adult cats and perhaps more often in purebred cats such as Persians or Siamese. Most cases are going to end up being chronic and progressive though some sudden onset or shorter term cases can be due to toxic burns.
Some testing can be done to help rule out viral diseases and blood tests can help assess the blood cells and immune system. A biopsy can give more definitive results though in many cases, the condition is quite clear and diagnosed before getting to that point.
How can we help?
Many treatments have been tried with variable results. Secondary bacterial infections are often a common component and antibiotics may be prescribed. Pain medications and anti-inflammatories are an absolute necessity. Some immunosuppressive or immune modifying treatments, such as cyclosporine, bovine lactoferrin, or gold salts, can also be tried. Hypoallergenic diets may also be used to reduce antigen loads in case food allergies are contributing. Ultimately, many cats end up having a full mouth extraction of all teeth as tartar can perpetuate the condition. Tooth extraction may be the most successful component. Laser ablation of inflamed tissue may be used to follow up and current research is being done on the use of stem cells.
Many cats can do quite well after some treatment though strict monitoring and follow up care are needed. Even without teeth, these patients can still eat and be comfortable as they live a pretty happy life especially if the stomatitis problem is diagnosed and treated early. So if your cat seems to be having trouble eating or something doesn’t look right in their mouth, don’t delay and have them checked out by your veterinarian.
- A note about dogs…while this condition can occur in dogs and may go by various other names, I have seen it less commonly and we may discuss it at a later time. It has some similarities but there are also some differences.
Disclaimer: Blog posts may contain some opinions which are my own and may not reflect those of any current or former employers.