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.


Overweight cat?? Don’t feed a high fiber dry diet!!!!

Overweight cat?? Don’t feed a high fiber dry diet!!!!


By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Recently, researchers at the University of Illinois, with financial support from Nutro (a processed pet food manufacturer) published a study titled “Effects of weight loss while feeding a moderate-protein, high-fiber diet on body composition, voluntary physical activity, and fecal microbiota of overweight cats.”1 The study involved eight neutered male, overweight cats, and the researchers reported three primary findings:

·         It’s possible to help cats lose weight by gradually reducing their daily food intake over a period of several weeks

·         The cats’ fecal microbiota changed as they lost weight, with some bacterial groups increasing in number while others decreased, which could indicate positive health effects such as lower inflammation

·         The cats’ weight loss didn’t result in measurable increased voluntary activity, even though they were housed together in a large room with toys and cat towers for up to 22 hours each day

If Your Cat Needs to Lose Weight, Don’t Go This Route

While I’m happy to see additional research on feline health, I take issue with this study for its use of a high-fiber dry diet. In general, it annoys me to see research into how well a particular species of animal can digest food they were never intended to eat in the first place.

The theory behind fiber-filled diets is that they make pets feel full. The problem, however, is they’re not being “filled up” at the cellular level where it really counts. In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Animal Science,2 researchers showed that fiber blocks absorption of crucial nutrients into the small intestine. It acts as a barrier, preventing trace minerals, vitamins and antioxidants from being absorbed into the body.

Chronic deprivation of nutrients to the cells can result in feelings of constant hunger. This is because your carnivorous kitty isn’t getting enough protein to adequately sustain her biology. The constant hunger prompts many pet parents to feed more food. The end result is a pet that is still fat (and often fatter), but at the same time undernourished.

Next to water, protein is the most important nutrient for your cat. Every cell of her body requires protein and when she doesn’t get enough of this essential nutrient, a host of negative side effects can occur.

In addition, cats aren’t built to digest carbohydrates (which include fiber) efficiently. They lack the necessary enzymes to break down and digest fiber or turn it into energy. The majority of starch coming from carbs in a cat’s diet ends up stored as fat. Given the ingredients in dry cat food, it’s easy to see from a physiological standpoint how cats fed kibble become overweight in the first place.

Another problem with kibble — all kibble — is lack of moisture, which is extremely detrimental for felines. Cats don’t have an efficient thirst drive like dogs and other animals. Their bodies are designed to get most of the water they require from their diets, and kibble can’t handle the job.

If your cat isn’t getting sufficient moisture from her food, she’s going without. You won’t find her at her water bowl lapping up huge quantities of the wet stuff to compensate for lack of moisture in her diet. This puts her in a state of constant, chronic, low-grade dehydration, which over time can contribute to major organ failure and chronic constipation.

Moisture-Rich Diets Help Cats Lose Weight Naturally

A 2011 University of California-Davis study found that cats eat less, lose weight and maintain healthy body composition when fed moisture-rich diets.3 The researchers concluded that canned (wet) diets result in cats voluntarily eating less and a corresponding reduction in body weight.

Further, nutritional content and digestibility were not compromised, which as I mentioned is a big concern with dry cat food formulas. In addition, six cats involved in a concurrent palatability study “greatly preferred” the canned diets to kibble. These study results make perfect sense because cats in the wild don’t have problems with overweight or obesity. They hunt and eat their natural prey, which contains nutrients vital to their survival, including a high percentage of water.

It stands to reason that when the kitties in the UC-Davis study were fed food closer in digestibility and nutrient content to a species-appropriate diet, they needed fewer calories to feel full. They lost weight naturally without compromising healthy body composition.

The Diet I Recommend for Overweight Cats

Pet foods high in carbohydrates — typically kibble — are the biggest cause of obesity in both cats and dogs. Your kitty needs food high in animal protein and moisture, with low- to no-grain content.

A nutritionally balanced, high-quality fresh food diet is the best choice for pets who need to lose weight. It’s important to adequately nourish your cat’s body as weight loss occurs, making sure his requirements for key amino acids, essential fatty acids and other nutrients are met.

The key to healthy weight loss is to meet your cat’s unique nutritional requirements through a balanced diet but feed less food (portion control), which forces his body to burn fat stores.

My recommendation is a moisture-rich homemade fresh food diet, comprised of lean meats, healthy fats and a few fibrous vegetables as the only source of carbohydrates. Also be sure to calculate kcal (kilocalorie) requirements for your cat’s ideal weight, measure his food portions using a measuring cup and drastically limit treats (be sure to include treats in his total daily calorie count).

I recommend setting aside a small portion of homemade food that can be rolled into tiny pea-sized bites and used as treats throughout the day. Another option is homemade chicken jerky (I don’t recommend commercial jerky treats, as many have been linked to pet illnesses).

In the beginning days of a gradual transition to his new normal way of eating a better diet in smaller quantities, it’s almost a sure bet your cat will try to convince you to feed him more of what he wants. This is the time for tough love, so distract him with playtime, petting, brushing or a walk outdoors if he’s willing.

Given enough time and patience, most kitties can successfully make the change to a healthier diet and smaller portions. However, since it’s dangerous for felines to go without eating, it’s important to ensure your cat doesn’t simply refuse to eat as a reaction to a new or different diet.

This is especially true for overweight cats, because they can quickly develop a life-threatening condition called hepatic lipidosis triggered by a sudden loss of appetite or a sudden cutback in caloric intake. As long as the transition to a better-quality, reduced-intake diet is very gradual (see my part one and part two videos on how to win the healthy food battle with your cat) and he’s eating enough, stay the course. You won’t be sorry!

Indoor Cats, Especially Fat Ones, Need Encouragement to Exercise

It’s no surprise that the cats in University of Illinois study didn’t voluntarily start to exercise. Like dogs, most adult cats, regardless of body condition, need an incentive to get moving — which is where you come in.

Consistent exercise, including at least 20 minutes of high-intensity activity will help your cat burn fat and increase muscle tone. Make sure he has things to climb on, like a multi-level cat tree or tower. Invest in a laser toy, either a very inexpensive, simple one or something a bit more sophisticated like the Frolicat®.

When considering other feline diversions, think like a hunter and choose toys and activities that appeal to your cat’s stalking instinct. I recommend eliminating food bowls and hiding meals in food-dispensing “mice” placed around the house, forcing your cat to go look for food, an activity that engages his brain, body and palate. And don’t overlook old standbys, either, like dragging a piece of string across the floor in view of your cat.

Ping-pong balls are another oldie but goodie, along with bits of paper rolled into balls, and pretty much any light object that can be made to move fast and in unanticipated ways. For more ideas on how to challenge your cat both physically and mentally, take a look at my interview with cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy.

I also recommend walking your cat in nice weather using a harness. This gets him out into the fresh air, stimulates his senses and gets his paws in direct contact with the ground. An alternative is a safe, fully enclosed porch or patio area that prevents him from getting out and other animals from getting in.