Cat Periodontal Disease

As seen in Petrax

Cat periodontal disease, or gum disease in cats, is an inflammation of some or all of a tooth’s deep supporting structures. It is one of the most common diseases in cats today.


If food particles and bacteria are allowed to accumulate along a cat’s gumline, it can form plaque, which, when combined with saliva and minerals, will transform into calculus (tartar). This causes gum irritation and leads to an inflammatory condition called gingivitis.


Gingivitis, which is evidenced by a reddening of the gums directly bordering the teeth, is considered to be an early stage of periodontal disease in cats.


After an extended period, the calculus eventually builds up under the gum and separates it from the teeth. Spaces will form under the teeth, fostering bacterial growth.


Once this happens, the cat has irreversible periodontal disease. This usually leads to bone loss, tissue destruction and infection in the cavities between the gum and teeth.


Symptoms and Types of Gum Disease in Cats


Periodontal disease in cats generally begins with the inflammation of one tooth, which may progress if not treated during different stages of the condition.


A cat with stage 1 periodontal disease in one or more of its teeth, for example, will exhibit gingivitis without any separation of the gum and tooth.


Stage 2 is characterized by a 25 percent attachment loss, while stage 3 involves a 25 to 30 percent attachment loss.


In stage 4 of cat periodontal disease, which is also called advanced periodontitis, there is more than a 50 percent attachment loss. In the most advanced stage of the disease, the gum tissue will usually recede and the roots of the teeth will be exposed.


Cats may also develop a cat gum disease called stomatitis (gingivostomatitis). Stomatitis is the severe inflammation of all of the gum tissue, which may affect the other tissues in the mouth.


Stomatitis occurs due to an overactive immune response to even small amounts of plaque and calculus.


Causes of Gum Disease in Cats


Cat periodontal disease can be caused by a variety of factors,  but is most commonly associated with bacterial infection. Bacteria under the gumline leads to pain and inflammation of the tissue.


There may also be a relationship between having a history of calicivirus infection and severe gingivitis.


Diagnosis of Periodontal Disease in Cats


In the exam room, your veterinarian will look inside your cat’s mouth for red, inflamed gums. That is the first indication of a problem. Your veterinarian may press gently on the gums to see if they bleed easily, which is a sign that a deep dental cleaning, or more, is needed.


Once under anesthesia, the diagnosis of cat periodontal disease involves a number of procedures. If periodontal probing reveals more than one millimeter of distance between the gingivitis-affected gum and tooth, a cat is considered to have some form of periodontal abnormality.


X-rays are extremely important in diagnosing periodontal disease in cats because up to 60 percent of the symptoms are hidden beneath the gumline.


In the disease’s early stages, X-rays will reveal loss of density and sharpness of the root socket (alveolar) margin. In more advanced stages, it will reveal loss of bone support around the root of the affected tooth.




The specific treatment for cat periodontal disease depends on how advanced the disease is. In the early stages, treatment is focused on controlling plaque and preventing attachment loss.


This is achieved through daily brushing with pet-safe toothpaste, professional cleaning and polishing, and the prescribed application of fluoride or other pet prescription products to minimize the development of plaque.


Sometimes it is necessary to remove the teeth associated with severe stomatitis.


In the more advanced stages, bone-replacement procedures, periodontal splinting and guided tissue regeneration may become necessary.


Living and Management


Follow-up treatment for periodontal disease in cats consists mostly of maintaining good cat dental care and taking your cat for weekly, quarterly or biannual checks.


The prognosis will depend on how advanced the cat gum disease is, but the best way to minimize the adverse effects caused by the disease is to get an early diagnosis, adequate treatment and proper therapy.




The best prevention for cat gum disease is to maintain your pet’s good oral hygiene and to regularly brush and clean her mouth and gums.


Cats can be trained to accept brushing when trained slowly over time and rewarded for their cooperation.


Prescription cat food dental diets are available for those cats who are unwilling to have their teeth brushed.


Cat dental treats, water additives and other products certified by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) are also shown to help reduce plaque and calculus.


Cat’s Drool—Dogs Rule or Visas Versa???

By Dr. Becker and Diane Weinmanncat drool

One of the most memorable quotes from the 1993 movie “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey” is spoken by Sassy the cat, who tells Chance the Bulldog, “Cats rule and dogs drool.”

When Chance brushes off such a notion, Sassy explains, “But it’s true. Cats are smarter than dogs, and more attractive … and we don’t drink from the toilet!” Someone needs to tell Miss Sassy that in fact, members of her species do drool (and some even drink from the toilet) and some even use the toilet to eliminate!

If you have a feline dribbler on your hands, you’re not alone. Kitties drool for a variety of reasons. However, there are only a few truly benign causes of drooling in a cat.

Some kitties drool when they’re purring and feeling very content. Others drool when they “make biscuits” (knead). Many cats drool while enjoying a bit of catnip.

A cat who drools at any other time, or a lot of the time, warrants a visit to the veterinarian. Potential serious causes of excessive salivation include:

  • Dental or oral disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Poisoning
  • Trauma or foreign body
  • Motion sickness/nausea

Dental or Oral Disease

A mouth problem is by far the most likely cause of kitty’s excessive drooling. He could have a buildup of plaque and tartar. His gums could be inflamed or infected (gingivitis). Or his dental disease could be so advanced that he’s experiencing bone loss.

Another problem called tooth resorption can also cause drooling. Tooth resorption is the gradual destruction of a tooth or teeth caused by cells called odontoclasts.

Often an affected cat will drool, bleed from the mouth, and/or have difficulty eating. Occasionally there can also be vomiting of unchewed food, behavior changes, and bad breath.

Another oral disease with similar symptoms, including drooling, is feline stomatitis, a very painful and chronic condition that is thought to be autoimmune in nature. An affected cat’s immune system seems to overreact to dental plaque around the teeth, which triggers inflammation in the tissues of the mouth.

Stomatitis can also occur at the back of the throat at the oral pharynx, and underlying bone in the mouth can become inflamed or infected. The inflammation appears as angry, red, and swollen tissue in the cat’s mouth.

Another mouth problem that can cause drooling, especially in older kitties, is an oral tumor, which can be either benign or cancerous.

Chronic Kidney Diseasecat drool 2

If your cat has chronic kidney disease (CKD), it means the kidneys have been gradually and irreversibly deteriorating over a period of months or years. Sadly, CKD is extremely common in older domestic cats and is a leading cause of death in kitties. In fact, I lost my cat, Milo to this awful disease, although my cat did not drool.


Symptoms of failing kidneys can include increased thirst and urination, leaking urine (especially at night), vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, weight loss, depression, anemia, and overall body weakness.

Other signs of kidney disease can be fractures resulting from weakened bones, high blood pressure that can lead to sudden blindness, itchy skin, bleeding into the stomach, bruising of the skin, and painful sores on the tongue and gums that cause excessive salivation and drooling. Just remember that your cat does not have to have all of the symptoms to have kidney disease.

Cats with kidney failure are also often dehydrated, which causes drooling. If you suspect your kitty is having kidney problems, it’s important to make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

If your pet’s kidney disease is the result of irreversible kidney damage, in many cases renal function will stabilize for weeks or even months at a time. The disease will continue to progress and kidney function will continue to deteriorate, but your cat’s symptoms can be minimized with supportive treatment.

Fluid therapy is the cornerstone of treatment for animals with kidney failure, primarily to prevent dehydration. Subcutaneous (under the skin) fluid delivery may be necessary, and many pet owners can learn to do this at home.


Almost any type of toxin your cat is exposed to can make her drool. A short list of examples:

Lawn fertilizers and pesticides ✓ Antifreeze
✓ Nicotine products ✓ Human drugs, especially topical medications
✓ Certain plants containing insoluble calcium oxalate crystals (e.g., Peace Lilies and Schefflera) ✓ Liquid potpourri
✓ Laundry detergent pods ✓ Household cleaners

If you suspect your cat has ingested a poisonous substance, immediately call your veterinarian, a local emergency animal hospital, and/or a poison control hotline such as the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435. The hotline is answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Trauma or a Foreign Body

Cats allowed outdoors unsupervised are especially at risk for many threats to their safety and health. If a kitty roaming freely outdoors experiences head trauma as the result of being hit by a car or attacked by a dog, injuries to the jaw or temporomandibular joint that prevent the mouth from closing can cause heavy drooling.

Another serious situation that can cause a cat to drool is the presence of a foreign object lodged in the tongue, soft or hard palate, or the back of the throat. Kitties aren’t indiscriminate eaters like many dogs are, however, there are certain strange objects that seem to entice them, for example, Christmas tree decorations, glow sticks and jewelry, and sewing needles attached to thread.

The best way to protect your cat from these types of injuries is to allow her outside only for walks with you on a harness and leash, or inside a safe feline-friendly enclosure. It’s also important to keep all indoor choking hazards out of reach of your kitty.

Motion Sickness/Nausea

It’s the very rare kitty who enjoys a car ride, and it’s not unusual for a cat who’s not used to traveling to develop motion sickness. It may not even be the movement of the vehicle that triggers nausea in your cat — it could just as easily be the stress she’s experiencing. My Milo hated the car- in fact all my cats hated traveling in a car.


Cats prefer to stick close to home and feel threatened by unfamiliar places, sights, sounds, and smells. They like to feel in control wherever they are, which is why being held hostage inside your car as it zips down the highway is so stress-inducing for kitty. One of the first signs your cat is feeling nauseous is excessive drooling. Other symptoms include loud crying, fear-induced immobility, urinating or defecating, and of course, vomiting or regurgitation.

Bach Flower essences, including Rescue Remedy can be beneficial in helping to calm a frightened or stressed-out cat. Administer 4-5 drops directly in your cat’s mouth about 10 minutes before you need to put them in the car. If they are still stressed out you can give another 4-5 drops more as you cannot overdose them and the drops do not interact with any other medications your cat may be taking; therefore, they are safe. In addition, Feliway is a calming pheromone product that you can spray in the cat carrier 15 minutes before you put your kitty in it for travel.


If your cat is having episodes of drooling at home, combined with a reduced appetite or vomiting it’s important to find out why by making an appointment with your vet. I wish I would of taken my cat sooner to the vet. Maybe the eventual outcome would have been different.