What does Stomatitis mean?
A stoma is an opening. In cats, we refer to the stoma as the oral cavity or the mouth. Stomatitis is a general term that refers to the inflammation of the mouth. The gingiva refers to the gum tissue. Gingivostomatitis refers to an inflammation of the gums and the mouth.
Feline Stomatitis is seen largely in the adult domestic cat. It is a common, painful and, sometimes, a life threatening condition seen in many cats. It can occur in cats of all breeds and of all ages. This condition causes ulcers to develop in the mouth and can involve the lips, tongue, gums and the back of the throat.
A single cause for feline stomatitis has not been identified. A commonly implicated cause of stomatitis is dental disease (particularly periodontal disease). Periodontal disease results from the accumulation of plaque on and around the teeth which leads to inflammation involving the gums and teeth. Other medical conditions such as feline leukemia virus, feline immunodeficiency virus, calcicivirus, feline herpes virus and bartonellosis have also been thought to play a role in the cause of stomatitis. In most cases the cause is assumed to be immune mediated which means that the cat's immune system attacks it own oral tissue as an abnormal response to the bacteria or viruses in the mouth.
The clinical signs that are seen with stomatitis often are associated with extreme pain such as not being able to open the mouth to eat, crying out when trying to eat or dropping food as soon as it touches the mouth. Drooling often with blood, unkempt hair coat (because grooming is painful), refusal to eat, weight loss, bad breath, pawing at face or mouth or hiding and not meowing can also be seen with this condition.
Examining the mouth of a cat with stomatitis can sometimes be difficult because of the pain associated with the gums or lips. Sedation may be required to allow a complete exam. Even though the diagnosis is commonly based on clinical signs and physical exam findings, a basic blood chemistry panel and cbc may be recommended. Specific testing for feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus and bartonellosis may also be recommended.
Treatment for stomatitis tends to be long term and is aimed at controlling the pain and inflammation associated with this condition. Controlling plaque by dental prophylaxis and sometimes by tooth extraction can decrease the oral inflammation. In some cases, full mouth teeth extractions is warranted, but in some cases even with the extractions, the inflammation can return.
If your cat is having any of these symptoms a physical exam is needed. Give us a call and we can schedule an appointment to help your kitty!