THE ORAL PLAGUE OF CATS: STOMATITIS, TREATMENT & PREVENTION
It may sound like a stomach ailment, but it’s
actually a painful oral disease that can seriously affect your cat’s overall
well- being by leading to years’ of suffering until diagnosed because so few
cats receive an annual or even every 2-3 year Wellness Examination, which many
veterinarians will do in-home. Few cat care givers ever look into their cats’
mouths and any cat with the beginnings of stomatitis will fight having the
mouth opened because it is so sore. Here’s what you need to know about it, and
how to keep your cat healthy.
By Dr. Michael W. Fox
Does your cat have bad breath, or trouble
Does s/he rub head or face, or have difficulty grooming? If so, your cat may be
developing stomatitis. It’s an inflammation of varying degrees of severity that
afflicts various parts of a cat’s mouth. Stomatitis is an all too common feline
malady that left unattended can mean much suffering and heartache, as well as
expense. As the condition progresses, cats have great difficulty eating, may
become anorexic, feverish, drool and even have blood in their saliva.
What causes it?
The degenerative dental disease called feline
caries or feline odontoclastic resorption lesions is all too common in cats and
is often coupled with kidney problems in older cats. The condition may be
triggered by periodontal disease, herpes or other chronic viral infection and
excess vitamin D in the diet. It causes much discomfort, making eating
difficult unless a mushy food is provided, and the associated bacterial
infection can spread to internal organs.
A less common condition called allergic
stomatitis, or feline lymphocytic-plasmacytic stomatitis, usually involves
inflammation, infection and ulceration of the gums, the roof of the mouth and
throat regions. It can be caused by an underlying viral infection such as
feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). This infection may trigger an autoimmune
reaction that results in the production of antibodies that attack the delicate
cells lining the mouth and around the gums. Other viral infections may also be
involved, notably feline herpes, calicivirus and feline leukemia virus (FLV).
Feline specialist Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins
(co-author with myself and Professor Marion E. Smart of Not Fit for a Dog:
The Truth About Manufactured Dog and Cat Food), avoids what many
veterinarians do in severe cases of stomatitis: removing most if not all the
cat’s teeth. She contends that in many cases a food hypersensitivity may be
involved, compounded by the high acidity in the spray applied to most
commercial dry cat foods to enhance palatability. The net result of
inflammatory reactions in the mouth, and possible disruption of the healthy
bacterial population, is an invasion of harmful bacteria and even fungi, the
production of inflammatory substances called cytokines, and abnormal
proliferation of gum tissue that may have to be removed with laser surgery
along with loose and decaying teeth, all under general anesthetic.
Stomatitis can be so painful that the cat
anesthetized to be properly examined. Extensive oral inflammation and
infection, adverse reactions to anesthesia and even death make these high risk
patients for even the most experienced veterinarian.
Dr. Hodgkins’ approach is to transition
a moist, meaty diet, ideally home prepared, and to treat them with clindamycin
I also recommend this integrative approach
help reduce inflammation and infection, along with a good quality fish oil
supplement that has potent anti-inflammatory properties.
I strongly advise veterinarians to try VetzLife’s
Feline Oral Care Gel for Stomatitis which can help improve your cat’s
condition---and for many cats showing early signs of this condition actually
stop it in its tracks. For more details visit www.vetzlife.com
Dysbiosis, a disruption of healthy bacterial
populations in the oral cavity and digestive system, can be aggravated by
high-cereal content diets and genetically engineered corn and soy ingredients.
So part of the treatment regimen for cats with stomatitis is to correct
dysbiosis by giving them probiotics.
Until recently, dental problems in both cats
dogs were a neglected aspect of home health care. These problems include the
buildup of tartar or scale on the teeth, gum inflammation or gingivitis as well
as stomatitis, and serious periodontal disease and tooth root abscesses. Not
only do affected animals develop nauseating halitosis and find it painful to
eat, but the inflammation in their mouths can cause a spread of bacteria and
cytokines into the bloodstream and internal organs. This can damage the heart,
causing serious and often fatal heart disease, and also harm the kidneys,
pancreas, liver and other internal organs.
These inflammatory substances are also produced
from body fat in overweight and obese cats. Obesity and dental problems are
associated with highly processed manufactured commercial pet foods, especially
those high in cereals.
Since prevention is the
best medicine, starting cats out
right from kittenhood on a moist, meaty, balanced whole food diet is probably
the best insurance again stomatitis. Highly processed pet food ingredients,
especially corn and soy glutens, leave micro-particles adhering to the teeth
that foster dental disease. A natural meat-based diet will also help prevent
the diet-related diseases often associated with stomatitis, notably diabetes
mellitus, kidney disease (with uremia or ammonia poisoning), and food-related
skin problems that are often treated inappropriately with corticosteroids,
which in turn can lead to chronic infections in the mouth and urinary tract.
It is critically important,
especially for older cats, to
have a routine oral examination and teeth cleaning as needed. Get your cat used
to regular in-home tooth cleaning and oral healthcare maintenance. Wrap a moist
gauze bandage around your index finger and get your cat used to having his
teeth and gums rubbed. Then, every night, rub very strong organic green or
black tea, or some dry tea leaves, on the gums and between the teeth. This can
help stop plaque accumulation and aid in the treatment of periodontal disease.
PetzLife’s Complete Oral Care gel or spray (petzlife.com)
loosens scale and tartar, and helps reduce inflammation and infection.
Cats with serious oral
health issues may benefit from
daily treatments of a few drops of various essential oils (which variously have
anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, analgesic and anti-inflammatory
properties) diluted approximately 1
drop in 50 drops of a “carrier” oil such as olive oil, ( or a 50:50 mixture of
salmon and olive oil). These essential oils include clove, myrrh, thyme,
oregano and helichrysum. Propolis, the
remarkable product from bees, may also be beneficial in both treatment and
preventive regimens with these oils. More research and clinical trials are
called for as well as caution for cats because of their inherent deficiency of
certain detoxifying liver enzymes, and especially for cats and dogs with liver
and kidney disease.
Replace highly processed
manufactured treats with natural
food materials to help keep your cat’s teeth clean and gums healthy. Try giving
him raw, scalded (to kill surface bacteria) chicken wing tips, chicken or
turkey gizzard strips, or beef shank or heart slivers.
is an uncomfortable and difficult disease
that can lead to serious health problems. Neglecting a cat’s oral health care
maintenance can mean that when stomatitis takes hold and dental cleaning and
tooth extractions are called for the cat my die under general anesthesia. The
good news is that vigilant dental hygiene and quality nutrition go hand in hand
in preventing it and keeping your kitty happy and pain-free.