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What are Enlarged Gums?

Enlarged gums in cats, also known as gingival hyperplasia, is a condition in which the gums become inflamed and enlarged in the mouth. The condition is rare but can be controlled and alleviated with proper oral care provided at home and by a veterinarian. Enlarged gums can increase in severity if an infection or bacteria enter the bloodstream. Inflammation of the gums can also be a sign of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or kidney disease.

Symptoms of Enlarged Gums in Cats

Cats who are suffering from inflammation of the gums may be reluctant to groom themselves and may also have a decreased appetite with the food that they consume each day, which can result in weight loss. They are also prone to persistent bad breath and other symptoms that include: 

  • Thick gums
  • Pockets that are present on the gums
  • Growth on the gum line
  • Drooling
  • Stomach upsets
  • Pawing at the face
  • Sensitivity around the mouth
  • Pus that has developed around teeth
  • Yellow deposits on the teeth
  • Depression or irritability 

Causes of Enlarged Gums in Cats

The main cause of enlarged gums in cats is often a lack of oral hygiene due to bacteria that develops in the mouth. This can be due to a poor diet or a lack of dental cleanings that are performed each day to remove plaque that forms near the gumline. 

Diseases or health conditions can also be the cause of enlarged gums, which are often a symptom of underlying issues. Age, breed, and genetics can also increase the risk of inflamed gums developing. 

Diagnosis of Enlarged Gums in Cats

Cats can be diagnosed with enlarged gums with a general exam that is provided by a veterinarian. Additional tests may be done to help determine the cause of the condition.

  • Biopsy: If a gingival mass is present during an exam, a biopsy will be performed to determine if cancer is present. This will require that tissue is removed from the cat's gums to be tested.
  • Xrays: Xrays may be performed by a veterinarian to discover if any underlying conditions in the gums are present. 

Treatment of Enlarged Gums in Cats

The treatment that is needed for enlarged gums depends on the progression of the condition. In most cases, home treatment will be advised with dental cleanings that will need to be performed each day. Advanced cases will require descaling to remove tartar that has accumulated over time. Cats that do not respond well to the treatment methods will need to be evaluated for underlying conditions or diseases that may be present, which can include diabetes or kidney disease.

  • Surgery: Surgical repair and deep cleaning of the gums will be needed for conditions that have progressed to restore the gum line to its original condition. Pain medication will be provided to alleviate pain or discomfort that is experienced during the procedure. 
  • Oral Antibiotics: Oral antibiotics will be prescribed to fight infection, aiding in healing the gums and reducing inflammation that is present.
  • Dental Cleanings: A dental cleaning will be performed by the veterinarian above and below the gumline to remove tartar that is present and maintain healthy gums. This may also be accompanied by polishing. 
  • Subgingival Curettage: A procedure performed by veterinarians to remove diseased connective tissue that is present in the mouth to reduce inflammation.
  • Periodontal Debridement: A surgery that is an alternative to root planing and gingival curettage to remove irritants of the gums, which includes bacteria.
  • Tooth Extraction: Some teeth cannot be saved during treatment for inflammation and must be removed to prevent infections from developing or progressing.

If treatment is not provided to cats for enlarged gums, it can eventually lead to tooth loss, gingivitis, and receding gums. Follow-up appointments will be needed after treatments and surgery are performed to monitor the health of the gums for proper recovery.

Recovery of Enlarged Gums in Cats

To reduce the risk of inflammation of the gums and manage them over time, dental cleanings should be scheduled throughout the year to reduce the amount of tartar that develops. Cats that receive proper treatment often have a good results, but relapse can still occur. If proper treatment is not provided, deeper pockets can develop in the gums, which can cause bacteria to continue to breed.

Tooth brushing each day is necessary for at-home treatment and should also be accompanied by providing the cat with an appropriate diet. Soft foods may need to be provided to the cat to ensure that they are not in discomfort while eating. The veterinarian may also provide the cat with dental sealants to reduce the risk of gum disease.