Feline Juvenile Periodontitis

The normal healthy young cat’s mouth is as seen on the right.  The gums are not inflamed and are a uniform pink colour whilst the teeth have a clean white appearance.


All cats will develop a periodontitis (inflamed gums which may be painful = “eruption periodontitis”) during the eruption stages of the permanent teeth.  This inflammatory process will subside in a short time-frame after all teeth have erupted.  In a small percentage of cats, the periodontitis continues well after 12 months of age.  This is a very painful condition and is known as juvenile periodontitis.  The gums are red and angry and bleed easily.

 

As the disease progresses, the bony support of the teeth is reduced and the gums can start to recede.  Eventually, the teeth will be lost due to this severe form of periodontal disease. It is difficult to treat effectively even with repeated cleaning and polishing under general anaesthesia. 

Normal healthy cat mouth

1 year old cat with severe juvenile periodontitis

The exact cause of the condition is unknown at this time.  It appears as if the cats develop an immune-mediated process associated with the initial eruption periodontitis which then leads to the condition being ongoing and continuing to worsen.

 

Cats with juvenile periodontitis exhibit intense oral pain (and are often bad tempered cats).  They will resent oral examination and are virtually impossible for the owner to give tablets to.  This will have an impact on possible treatment regimes for the condition if the treatment involves administration of medication by mouth.  The cats usually present with really bad breath.  The disease has a lot in common with chronic gingivo-stomatitis.

 

As with gingivo-stomatitis, juvenile periodontitis appears to be more prevalent in purebred cats. 

15 month old cat with juvenile periodontitis with visible bifurcation of the roots (arrows) due to bone loss and gum recession

15 month old cat with juvenile periodontitis and tooth loss

Treatment

Initially, a careful and thorough dental clean, scale and polish and appropriate antibiotic therapy may be attempted and this may give relief (although only temporary).

 

Permanent resolution is only accomplished by extraction of all teeth other than the canines.  The remaining canine teeth need to be brushed daily to prevent plaque build-up and development of the condition involving these teeth.  If these teeth are involved at the initial examination, they must also be extracted.  Recently we have had good responses in saving the canines with the use of Hexarinse® (Virbac Australia) as an adjunct to the daily brushing.

 

The progression of this disease cannot be halted without extraction.  With complete extraction, the prognosis is good.  In cats treated by extraction but keeping the canine teeth, most will get complete resolution of clinical signs although a small percentage will require removal of the canines as well.

 

Prevention

Until the cause of the disease is clearly understood, no prevention is possible.

 

 

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Some Photographs copyright and courtesy of Dean Saffron.

 

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