Dental problems are one of the main causes of veterinarian visits for cats and dogs. Even at a young age, cats begin to develop plaque and harmful bacteria that lead to brown gums. This unsightly problem results from gingivitis or late-stage periodontal disease. Watch for early signs of brown gums. Early detection leads to better dental health management for your cat.
Browning of the gums in cats can begin as early as 2 years old. Small bits of food get stuck inside the gum line. This causes a slight inflammation and discoloration of the gums. The food begins to grow bacteria over time and the surrounding tooth develops plaque. Plaque's interaction with saliva eventually creates a substance called calculus, also known as tartar. The degree of browning on the gums depends on how long the calculus and plaque have progressed.
In addition to brown gums, other symptoms show up, which indicate a serious dental health issue. Cats with early-stage gum disease or gingivitis may have a problem eating. You may notice your cat having difficulty chewing, or the cat may simply stop eating. A telltale sign of late-stage gum disease is extremely bad breath. The buildup of bacteria causes a foul odor in the mouth.
Early Stage - Gingivitis
Minimal signs of browning usually indicates the first stages or the beginning of gum disease, a condition known as gingivitis. The gums may appear swollen and bleed when brushed or when the cat eats. Slight browning around the teeth and gums is not unusual during this phase. Gums with later-stage gingivitis exhibit symptoms that include receding gum tissue and deep pockets between the teeth.
Late Stage - Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease results in serious, sometimes irreversible, tooth damage. The gums clearly appear brown at this stage. The teeth may also become brown and may even fall out. Cats can also suffer from bone loss in the jaw and severe tissue damage. Remaining teeth may be loose and have multiple cavities.
Early treatment of slightly brown gums usually results in a complete recovery. Take your cat into your veterinarian to have a professional teeth cleaning. The vet may 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 stopping the symptoms since veterinarians cannot reverse the damage. A deep cleaning of the teeth and gums and a regular application of antibacterial gel to the gums stops the advancement. Other treatments include tissue regeneration and bone-replacement surgeries.
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David Montoya is an attorney who graduated from the UCLA School of Law. He also holds a Master of Arts in American Indian studies. Montoya's writings often cover legal topics such as contract law, estate law, family law and business.