According to hawn Messonnier, holistic veterinarian and founder of Paws & Claws Animal Hospital, in Plano, Texas.
A normal, healthy set of cat gums will be light or bright pink. Gums that are bright red where the gumline and teeth meet signal gingivitis, a symptom of periodontal disease. Although regular brushing is the best home treatment, most cats don't submit willingly to the bothersome process.
If your cat falls into the less-than-cooperative category, you might have more success using an antibacterial liquid that can be sprayed on her teeth and gums on a regular basis -- or, easier still, added to her water bowl each day. Such products are available at pet stores. Some of the rinses, made with herbal oils, have a minty taste and fragrance that cats seem to enjoy; others, such as Oxyfresh Pet Oral Hygiene Solution, are odorless and flavorless. Cats with severe gum problems may require an over-the-counter product made with chlorhexidine, a stronger antibiotic.
Cats with chronic gingivitis, especially those that don't take well to brushing, will likely need more frequent dental cleanings at a veterinarian's office -- every six to nine months rather than just annually. While there are some who advocate anesthesia-free cleaning, be aware that it's impossible to do a thorough job -- which includes scaling and polishing the teeth and applying sealants -- on an awake pet.
In addition to periodontal disease, there are two other potential causes of chronic gingivitis in cats. The first is an immune-suppressing virus such as FIV (a.k.a. cat AIDS) or FeLV (feline leukemia virus). The second is an immune condition called gingivitis-stomatis complex. The cause of this ailment, which results in chronic periodontal infections, is unknown. The treatment for it will be more aggressive and may include steroids, antibiotics, and natural therapies. Cats must be screened for these conditions and treated properly.
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