A healthy cat will have firm pink gums, not an angry red, white, and/or black or brown color. Your cat’s gums should also not appear to be swollen. While some cats may have been born with a few black spots on the gums here and there, if a cat’s gums are mostly black or brown and are accompanied with bad breath, cracked or brown teeth, etc. there may be an underlying medical issue.
Dental problems are among one of the main reasons for veterinarian visits in dogs and cats. Even at a young age, cats can begin to develop plaque and other harmful bacteria that lead to black or brown gums. This unsightly problem can result in gingivitis or periodontal disease. It is for this reason that pet owners should pay close attention and watch for early signs of black gums. Early detection is crucial to your cat’s dental health and management.
Blacking or browning of the gums in cats can begin as early as 2 years old. It sometimes occurs when small bits of food get stuck inside the cat’s gum lines. This causes inflammation and discoloration of the gums. Food slowly begins to build bacteria over time and as a result the surrounding teeth begin to develop plague. Plaque’s interaction with saliva eventually creates a substance known as tartar. The degree of browning or blacking of the gums depends on how long the tartar and plaque have progressed.
In addition to black gums, other symptoms may be present. These symptoms indicate a serious dental health issue in felines. Cats with early stage gum disease, or gingivitis might have difficulty eating. Pet owners may also notice their cat having trouble chewing, or you might even notice your cat has simply stopped eating altogether. A telltale sign of late-stage gum disease is very bad breath that is caused from the buildup of bacteria in the mouth.
Minimal signs of browning usually indicates the early stages of gum disease, also known as gingivitis. A cat’s gums may appear swollen and/or bleed when brushed or when the cat eats. Slight browning around the teeth and gums is also common during this phase. Gums with later-stage gingivitis exhibit symptoms that include receding gum tissue and deep pockets between the cat’s teeth.
Periodontal disease is a condition that results in serious, sometimes irreversible tooth damage. The gums appear brown in this stage and teeth may also be brown or may even fall out. Unfortunately when a cat has this disease, they might also suffer from bone loss in the jaw and/or severe tissue damage. Remaining teeth may be loose and/or have multiple cavities.
Early treatment of slightly brown or black gums can really make a difference, and most cats will be able to make a full recovery. It is important to book an appointment with your local veterinarian if you notice these symptoms in your cat early on. He or she will most likely suggest a professional teeth cleaning for your kitty. In addition, he or she might also recommend a teeth cleaning schedule for you to follow until all signs of gingivitis and periodontal disease subside.
Treatment of advanced gum disease focuses on eliminating symptoms, since veterinarians cannot actually reverse the damage that has been done. A deep cleaning of the teeth and gums along with a regular application of antibacterial gel to the gums stops advancement of the disease. Other treatment options include tissue regeneration and bone replacement surgeries.
Damage to a cat’s tongue, teeth, palate, and gums can lead to more serious health problems. The good news, however, is that there are plenty of steps pet owners can take to prevent dental and medical issues in cats. A regular home check up and the occasional tooth brushing can go a long way when it comes to preventing dental problems in felines.
It may sound silly, but getting up close and personal with your cat to take a whiff of his breath can be beneficial in the long run. While kitty’s breath is not meant to smell like a bed of roses, it should not be extremely offensive. If you smell your cat’s breath and it has an abnormally strong, foul, odor, it could be an indication of digestion problems or a gum condition, and should be examined by a vet immediately.
When you have a minute where you are able to grab kitty and hold him facing towards you, gently push back his lips and take a quick gander. Kitty’s gums, if they are healthy, should be firm and pink, not white or red. In addition, they should not show signs of swelling. A cat’s teeth should be clean and free of any brownish or blackish tartar. In addition your cat’s teeth should also not appear to be broken, loose, or cracked.
Taking An Even Closer Look
In addition to taking the steps listed above, you should watch for any of the following signs, which could indicate a dental problem:
- Dark red lines along the gums
- Ulcers on gums or tongue
- Loose or cracked teeth
- Red or swollen gums
- Brown teeth
- Difficulty chewing food
- Not eating
- Excessive drooling
- Excessive pawing at the mouth area
Signs Of Gum Inflammation
At any sign of gum inflammation, your cat should be taken in for a veterinarian exam. If left untreated, gum disease can develop, possibly leading to tooth loss and/or inability to eat. Inflammation could also point to an internal issue like kidney disease or feline immunodeficiency virus.
Brushing Kitty’s Teeth
Bacteria and plaque forming foods can cause a buildup of bacteria on a cat’s teeth, which can harden into tartar and cause gingivitis, receding gums and tooth loss. Regular teeth cleanings can help prevent this problem before it starts. Here is what you will need to brush kitty’s teeth:
- Cotton swabs
- One small toothbrush
- Toothpaste that is formulated for felines
Never use toothpaste that is meant for humans, as this is toxic to cats. While brushing kitty’s teeth you can also use salt and water. Ask your veterinarian for suggestions when it comes to purchasing brushing supplies for your cat’s teeth, he or she may know of the best products or tools to use.
Cleaning Those Pearly Whites
To brush your cat’s teeth at home, you can follow these few easy steps:
- Get your cat used to the idea of having his or her teeth brushed. This can be done by starting off gently massaging their gums with your fingers or touching a cotton swab to them.
- After a few sessions, put a tiny bit of feline formulated toothpaste on kitty’s lips to get them used to the taste.
- Introduce a toothbrush that is designed specifically for cats. These brushes are much smaller than a human’s toothbrush and are equipped with softer bristles meant for kitty’s sharp but sensitive teeth. Toothbrushes that you war over your finger are also available and are easy to use. They allow you to give your cat’s gums a nice massage that they might actually enjoy.
- Apply toothpaste to kitty’s teeth and gently brush.
- Veterinary exams can be done beforehand to find out if your cat’s gums are inflamed, as brushing too hard can irritate kitty’s gums even more and hurt them.
Chew toys are wonderful and can help satisfy your cat’s natural desire to chomp on things, while also making her teeth strong. Gnawing on a chew toy can also help floss kitty’s teeth, massage her gums and scrape away any soft tartar that has developed. There are a lot of toys designed specifically for kitty’s dental health. There are even toys meant for kitty to chew on that massage her gums and clean food debris from her teeth. Ask your veterinarian or local pet store for more suggestions on these types of products.
Dieting For Healthy Teeth
If your cat suffers from dental issues, ask your veterinarian to recommend a kibble or wet food that will keep your feline companion’s teeth healthy, while also helping to remove plaque buildup.
Know Your Dental Disorders
The best way to prevent dental problems and underlying medical issues in your cat is to be aware of the many dental disorders that your kitty can develop. Be on the lookout for the following conditions and symptoms, and report to your vet immediately if you see your cat exhibiting any of the following:
- Gingivitis – The inflammation of kitty’s gums. This condition is most often seen in older cats. It may start out as a dark red line bordering on kitty’s teeth. If left untreated, gums may become sore and ulceration may occur. This could also be a sign of FIV or another type of infection.
- Periodontitis – If gingivitis invades kitty’s tooth socket, his or her tooth may become loose, causing an abscess to form.
- Somatitis – This inflammation of the mouth lining can result from a foreign body in the mouth, a viral disease or dental issue. Typically, your cat will have difficulty eating and the inside of his or her mouth will also appear an angry red.
- Rodent Ulcer – A slowly enlarging sore or swelling on the upper lip.
- Salivary Cyst – If salivary glands or ducts that carry saliva to the cat’s mouth become blocked, a cyst may form under kitty’s tongue.
- Mouth Ulcers- Ulcers on a cat’s tongue and/or gums are sometimes caused by feline respiratory or kidney disease.