Stomatitis in cats

Stomatitis in cats is a complex, painful, and frustrating disease that causes severe inflammation of the mouth and gums. Cats who live in a multi-cat household are at increased risk of developing this condition. 

Stomatitis in cats is also known as feline chronic gingivostomatitis or gingivitis stomatitis complex. Stomatitis can be mistaken for red gum disease. Any age or breed of cat can be affected. Do not ignore dental disease in your cat, the sooner this condition is detected, the better the outcome.



What is stomatitis in cats?

  • Stomatitis means inflammation of the inside of the mouth.
  • You might notice your cat’s gums are red, and their mouth is covered with bright red spots that bleed easily.
  • This condition is very painful and chronic (long-term condition).
  • The exact cause is unknown.
  • It’s understandable that a variety of factors contribute to this condition, such as:
  • It’s relatively common, up to 12% of cats are affected by this disease.



Symptoms of stomatitis in cats

There are different levels of severity for this condition.

The signs include:

  • Red gums
  • Red areas inside the mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Reduced appetite
  • Dropping food
  • Grooming less
  • Pawing at the face
  • Drooling saliva
  • Losing weight
  • Reluctancy to yawn
  • Behaviour changes (hiding, vocalising, etc.)



Cats at risk of stomatitis

Multi-cat households, breeding catteries, and cat shelters are risk factors for this disease.

This is due to the stress of living in such environments and the ongoing exposure to viruses shed by infected cats.



How is stomatitis in cats diagnosed?

Diagnosis is usually based on your cat’s symptoms and a visual examination of the mouth. Sometimes sedation may be necessary for a better evaluation.

To help rule out any other conditions, your vet may recommend the following:

  • Dental x-rays
  • Blood and urine tests
  • FIV and FeLV test (two different types of viral test)
  • Biopsy


Vet treatment

Treatment of stomatitis in cats

The majority of cats require medication in addition to tooth extractions, and some are dependent on lifelong medications. Unfortunately, medication alone is unlikely to be effective long-term.

  • Tooth extractions: may be partial when removing only a few teeth or, in some cases, all teeth, or full-mouth extractions
  • Medication:
    • Steroids: usually in the form of tablets.
    • Recombinant feline interferon omega: interferons are proteins that interfere with viral multiplication. Liquid, given by mouth.
    • Cyclosporine: medication that suppresses the immune system. Given by mouth.
    • Stem cell therapy: can modulate the immune system. Complex treatment that’s not easily available. Given by injection.
    • Antibiotics: only used in certain cases. Usually in tablet form.
  • Acupuncture and laser therapy may be beneficial, but more studies are needed to determine their effectiveness.


Home treatment

How to look after a cat with stomatitis at home?

A full mouth extraction can sound scary. But it’s been shown that 70-80% of cats have significant improvement or resolution after surgery.

Your cat’s behaviour, appetite, and quality of life improve once the mouth is pain and inflammation-free.

What to expect after surgery:

  • Your cat will get pain medication after tooth extraction surgery.
  • Wet food is usually necessary for at least 2-3 weeks after the procedure.
  • Cats who have trouble eating after surgery can be prescribed appetite stimulants.
  • Once the gums are healed, most cats are willing to eat dry kibble again.



How to prevent stomatitis in cats?

There is nothing you can do to prevent stomatitis. However, the outcome is best when surgery is not delayed by attempts at controlling the disease with medication alone.

Early detection is best for stomatitis. This condition can be mistaken for periodontal disease (red gum disease), which is less serious. Do not ignore your cat’s red gums.


When to worry

When to worry about your cat with stomatitis

If your cat shows any of the following signs, call your vet practice:

  • Pawing at the face
  • Not eating
  • Losing weight
  • Not improving despite treatment

Call us at Joii if you need help:

  • Giving medication
  • Identifying pain in your cat
Consult a vet - £28

Consult your vet online. Anyday, anytime.

Consult a Joii vet online for £28. Or free if you’re insured with one of our partners.

Developed by vets 🩺

QR code to app

How to get an

Join a practice

*It's free*

Download the app to register and become a member of Joii vets. In only a few taps you will have access to digital vet care 24/7 as well as a vet practice

Download the app

We’re writing as quick as we can

This article is currently being written by one of our expert vets. Check back soon.