Gingivitis, a condition marked by swollen, tender, red gums, is a common problem affecting cats of all ages. While gingivitis itself is a relatively mild condition that usually can be treated at home, it is important to consult a veterinarian about a cat with chronic or recurrent inflammation in the gums. This could be a sign of a more serious health problem, including compromised function of the liver or kidneys.
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The easiest way to eliminate gingivitis in a cat is to eliminate the underlying cause. While many pet foods contain sugar, grains and other ingredients that promote tooth decay, it is important to select brands that are natural and contain primarily animal-based products. A diet consisting of both wet and dry food is best for a cat's dental and overall health.
Cat owners should brush the cat's teeth using a specialised brush (available at either a pet supply store or vet's office). A cat with gingivitis is likely to resist efforts to brush his teeth, since it likely will cause them pain. Most importantly, always make sure that the cat has a bowl of clean water at all times --- this will help to rinse bacteria out of his mouth.
Immune support herbs
Many over-the-counter herbal supplements are available that can help to naturally treat gum disease, both in cats and in humans. Though the safety of herbal supplements for pets has not been thoroughly studied, some herbs have been extensively used as immune-support boosters with little risk of side effects or interactions.
Echinacea and goldenseal are two of the most popular immune-supporting herbs for humans, and can be prepared as a tea. A strong herbal tea made with echinacea and goldenseal should be given twice daily in doses of 3 to 6 ml (1 to 2 teaspoons) at a time. One to two drops of oil of oregano, a potent antibacterial, can also help to treat cats with gingivitis.
Vitamins and minerals
Vitamin C is one of the most common nutrients used to support immune health. Because vitamin C has no known toxicity threshold in cats, it is considered to be very safe. Capsules or liquid drops containing 100 mg of vitamin C should be given to cats once per day until symptoms abate.
Another potent antioxidant vitamin --- vitamin E --- can also help to support the immune system and speed healing time for the gums. Vitamin E is not believed to be toxic to cats or kittens, and should be administered in a liquid or softgel, twice daily, for a total of 200 IUs. The safest, healthiest form of vitamin E is natural a-tocopherol.
Cats with gingivitis are likely to experience moderate to severe discomfort. Topical treatments can help to ease the pain associated with gingivitis, which may, in turn, help the cat to return to his normal diet and activity levels more quickly.
Aloe vera gel, a popular topical treatment for humans, is one of the best soothing, tissue-healing treatments for gum disease in cats. Myrrh oil can both speed the healing process and help to numb the pain, though it should be used with caution because it is very potent. Many local anesthetics for humans, including benzocaine (Orajel) are highly toxic to cats and should never be used as home remedies.
When to call the vet
Temporary gum inflammation in cats is usually not a sign of a serious problem, but it can be uncomfortable to the cat and may lead to other complications. As a general rule, it is safe to use home treatments for up to seven days before contacting a veterinarian. If the infection continues longer than a week without professional care, the cat stands a higher chance of developing a complication.
There are, of course, exceptions to this guideline. A cat who suddenly develops severe gingivitis may have a serious infection, a profound vitamin deficiency or failure of a major organ, and should be seen immediately. Likewise, if the cat stops eating entirely for more than two days, he will require veterinary care to prevent nutritional problems. Home remedies can be effective, but they should never take the place of professional help during an emergency.
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