Understanding feline gingivitis: A guide for UK cat owners

11 December 2023 - 3 min read

The information in this article has been reviewed by Kirsten Ronngren DVM MRCVS on 11 December 2023 . Although it may provide helpful guidance, it should not be substituted for professional veterinary advice.

Cat and toothbrush

Is your cat having trouble eating? Losing weight? Drooling a lot? They could have one of the most prevalent cat gum diseases: gingivitis. Cats can develop gingivitis for a number of reasons, and the disease often leads to more serious periodontal conditions. Fortunately,  gingivitis can sometimes be prevented and by learning more about it, you could spare yourself and your cat trips to the vet.  

To help you better protect your furry friend, let's delve into the key details of feline gingivitis, including its causes, symptoms, and the importance of treatment. 

Cats and gingivitis: Causes and symptoms

Gingivitis is a periodontal disease that affects animals and humans, causing a painful inflammation of the gums (known in Latin as gingiva). In cats and other mammals, gingivitis develops via a combination of factors, including a build-up of plaque, bacteria, and other substances in the mouth. In some cases, it may develop as a result of your cat's immune system. If left unchecked, gingivitis can spread across a cat’s mouth and throat, causing severe pain. 

Let’s look at some of the most common causes of gingivitis as a feline gum disease. 

Causes of gingivitis in cats

  • Plaque build-up: The primary cause of gingivitis in cats is plaque accumulation on the teeth. This subsequently causes irritation and inflammation of the nearby gingiva.

  • Poor dental health: Cats often develop gingivitis when their regular dental care is neglected.

  • Breed physiology: Certain cat breeds with tightly spaced teeth or very short noses, such as Persians or Siamese cats, are more prone to plaque formation. This, in turn, makes them more susceptible to gingivitis. 

  • Ageing: Older cats are more likely to suffer from plaque build-up, and so are more likely to develop gingivitis. 

  • Infectious diseases: If cats contract other types of infectious diseases, such as feline leukaemia, they may be more likely to develop gingivitis. 

  • Immune mediated causes: In rare cases, cats can develop a condition classified as feline gingivostomatitis. While the cause is still technically unknown, it’s suspected that these cats’ immune systems overreact to local tartar buildup and bacteria, leading to extensive and painful inflammation of the gums and mouth.

Symptoms of feline gingivitis

The most common symptoms of feline gingivitis are: 

  • Excessive drooling 

  • Bad breath

  • Red and inflamed gums

  • Pain and discomfort eating

  • Noise or crying during eating

  • Changes in eating habits, messy eating

  • Weight loss

The above list isn’t exhaustive, and some cats may display less pronounced symptoms of gingivitis. If you think your cat might have gingivitis, or any feline disease, it’s best to take them to a vet to have their symptoms checked. 

Feline gingivitis diagnosis and treatment

Vets will diagnose feline gingivitis after a thorough examination, and consideration of the cat’s symptoms and medical history. The process may include blood and urine tests to check for underlying disease, and x-rays to check if there is wider dental damage. 

To treat feline gingivitis, a vet will typically remove built-up plaque and tartar with the cat under general anaesthesia. After the effective removal of plaque, the gingivitis will usually subside. Many vets recommend that cats get an annual teeth cleaning to address plaque build-up, but some cats may need a more frequent cleaning schedule. 

In more advanced cases of gingivitis or periodontal disease, vets may have to deal with tooth and gum damage. In the case of damage, vets may need to extract infected or crowded teeth. Following gingivitis treatment, vets may prescribe antibiotics and/or anti-inflammatory medicines. For cases of gingivostomatitis, full mouth dental extractions may be offered as a treatment option. 

Preventing feline gingivitis

Other than visiting the vet for clinical treatment, there aren’t really any cat gingivitis remedies which owners can buy and apply themselves. However, you can slow the progression of plaque buildup and secondary gingivitis with a few simple measures.  

The best way of preventing feline gingivitis is to address the plaque build-up in your cat’s teeth by brushing them regularly. You can purchase a cat toothbrush and toothpaste from your local pet store or from your vet. 

Additional measures that may help to prevent the disease include special prescription dental diets, cat treats for gingivitis, drinking water additives, and antibacterial rinses. Certain specially formulated dental cat foods may also reduce the accumulation of plaque. A list of veterinary dental specialist approved products can be found via the Veterinary Oral Health Council.

Cat gingivitis treatment cost

Cat gingivitis treatment costs in the UK vary by a range of factors, including the age, size, and breed of your cat. It’s important to remember that preventative measures, such as regular teeth cleaning and vet check-ups can help to bring down the cost of treatment. Similarly, many pet insurance policies can help you manage the cost of necessary dental treatments.

Veterinary procedure Price*
Routine vet check-up £55
Dental cleaning £300
Dental x-rays (full mouth) £100
Teeth extraction £120
Antibiotics £30
Pain management drugs £15

*These prices are averages, and highly variable based on a range of factors, including individual veterinary practice, and your cat's age, size, and breed. 

Prevent gingivitis, protect your cat

Feline gingivitis is a very serious disease but it can be prevented, and reversed, with some simple, preventative steps. Preventative care is a foundation of good cat ownership: by looking out for health problems and addressing them before they become severe, we can improve our cats’ lives and ensure they stay happy and healthy. 

Pet health insurance is one of the best ways of proactively supporting your feline companion’s health over the course of its lifetime, and may be able to help you with the cost of dental care. To find out more, check our ManyPets’ cat insurance policies

Lewis Martins
Communities marketer

Lewis has worked in pet health since 2017. Before joining ManyPets in 2021, he led content production at VetForum and PetsApp. Lewis has collaborated with some of the world’s biggest vet groups and suppliers to write educational articles for vets and pet parents. His Instagram feed is 60% dogs, 40% cats.