If you’re wondering “what is stomatitis in cats” or looking for feline stomatitis treatment options, you’ll want to read this post about our kitty Blanche. I’m hoping it will help you if you are facing a feline stomatitis diagnosis and you stumble onto this post!
Feline stomatitis treatment
Today I am sharing something totally different. You guys know I love my cats so, so much. I have talked about Blanche’s health issues in passing before, but today I am going to share her full feline stomatitis treatment story.
I’m hoping that if there are more kitty parents out there suffering, that they might stumble onto this post while frantically searching Google and find that it CAN have a happy ending. So let’s start from the beginning. 🙂
Adopting Our Blanche
When we first adopted our sweet Blanche, she was sick. In fact, while we were visiting the shelter, tiny kitten Blanche sneezed seven straight times and blew snot on Mike. I thought she was a lemon. Mike thought she was perfect. Turns out we were both right 🙂
The shelter assured us that Blanche just had an upper respiratory infection, which is common among shelter cats. I knew this, so I didn’t really think much about it. She was a bit stuffy and had some discharge in one eye, so it added up. They said most infections usually clear up within a few days of leaving the shelter.
Here are some adorable pictures of when Henry first met Blanche:
So we took our new little dear home and set her up in the second bedroom while we let Henry sniff around her empty crate and chill outside her door. A few days passed and Blanche didn’t seem to show any improvement. We started getting worried, so we took her in to a vet that gave us some medicine. They didn’t seem too alarmed and diagnosed it as likely feline herpesvirus, which is commonly passed among cats in shelters.
She eventually got better and seemed totally normal. This cycle went on for about a year. She’d get sick and be lethargic, be stuffy, and get gunk in her eyes. But when she was about a year old, we noticed that she was developing another symptom: her breath smelled absolutely terrible. Not just bad breath, but AWFUL breath.
After a while, we also noticed sores on the corners of her mouth, mostly when she yawned. We took her into the vet and, long story short, she was diagnosed with feline stomatitis.
What is Stomatitis in Cats?
Feline stomatitis is an awful condition that can lead to severe and painful inflammation and bleeding in a cat’s mouth—mostly the gums. The condition often leads to ulcers and sores all over the inside of the mouth, including the throat area. In Blanche’s case, she also had sores on the corners of her mouth and very labored breathing. It sounded like her entire nasal cavity was inflamed and struggling to get air through.
Symptoms include sores and inflammation in the mouth; drooling, sometimes with blood; bad breath; weight loss from refusal to eat; a decrease in grooming because it’s painful; and pawing at their mouth area. Blanche had all of these symptoms and more. At her worst, she was shouting in pain while eating and crying when she yawned. It was the saddest thing we’d ever seen, and at that point we were getting desperate.
Feline stomatitis causes
This is a hard one to answer because the experts just aren’t sure. They think dental disease is a common cause, namely periodontal disease that results from plaque accumulation around the teeth and leads to inflammation. However, stomatitis is often related to a cat’s immune system. Viral infections like FeLV, FIV, and calicivirus can also be associated with stomatitis in cats.
Sweet little B’s doctor settled on a likely mix of a virus and and altered immune state/immune system response. Essentially we were told that her immune system was attacking its own oral tissue because of the presence of plaque, which was causing the inflammation and stomatitis. Great to have an answer, but not so great to hear there isn’t an instant-cure medicine.
Feline Stomatitis Treatment
One of the first doctors we met with said that the most effective treatment for severe feline stomatitis, which is what Blanche had, was to remove all of the teeth. My mad Google searching revealed the same. This was an expensive surgery, though, and seemed excessive.
Weren’t there any other effective treatments for feline stomatitis? Blanche’s doctor said that some feline stomatitis patients responded well to managing the condition, so we decided to take that route first. They recommended a few things, and like you might be doing right now, I took to the Internet.
The first thing our vet did was provide us with some pain management medication to help her get more comfortable. We gave it to her daily.
Here is a list of everything else we tried:
- Different antibiotics to control pain and inflammation
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Immunosuppressants like Atopica
- Water additives to help control plaque
- A variety of treats meant to reduce plaque (mostly her brother Henry ate them all because he is a RUDE BOY)
- Homeopathic snake oil supplements on the Internet that we knew probably wouldn’t work but we were desperate
- Diet changes
The only thing we didn’t try was laser therapy, which was expensive, and we weren’t sure it would even help such a severe case.
If you have a cat that is in severe pain and it suffering from this awful condition, I need to break the news to you: there are currently no long-term treatment options available that have a high success rate. Some cats will have improvement, but those are typically cats with milder forms of stomatitis. The only option is long-term treatment of the symptoms and pain management.
From our perspective, and after speaking with multiple vets and reading veterinary research on stomatitis, the most effective and most humane course of action was to remove all of Blanche’s teeth.
The Cure for Blanche’s Stomatitis
I know you probably just gasped. What kind of a monster would have all of her cat’s teeth removed? Monsters who loves their kitty and couldn’t bear to see her in such pain any longer. Her quality of life had gotten so, so poor. We decided to opt for a full-mouth tooth extraction when Blanche’s symptoms dramatically worsened and she all but stopped consuming anything but watered down tuna.
There is no stomatitis cure, and the veterinary dentistry practice we went to was very honest with us: removing the teeth might even not clear up BB cat’s symptoms 100%. We might only get 80%. But to us that felt like a cure. Removing the teeth removes the surfaces with plaque, which we thought was her only chance at decreasing the inflammatory response she was experiencing. We scheduled our appointment for her surgery a few days later.
And man, we wish we would have done it sooner. I dropped Blanche off in the morning before work, and we picked her up that evening. She was groggy, loopy af from her pain patch, and drooling. She was so sad! But let me tell you this—within 24 hours, she was already a dramatically different cat. Within a week, she seemed like an entirely new cat.
Here are some pictures from when we took Blanche home from surgery. She stayed weirdly propped against the wall like this for a few hours. (The shaved area and blue thing is a pain medicine patch.)
And not even 48 hours after surgery, she was rolling on the carpet in a sunny spot.
My advice for you, fellow pet parent
If you stumbled to this page because you’re in the situation we were, here is my advice: Find a good vet who has experience with feline stomatitis treatment. Call around and ask. See if you can find someone who specializes in cats, too. And ask them to be very honest with you about your cat’s prognosis. We wish we would have sprung for the full-mouth tooth extraction sooner.
We didn’t because it was thousands of dollars and also seemed extreme…but thinking about how much time and money we wasted in failed treatments—and how much longer Blanche was in pain—it just kills me! A specialist familiar with the condition—not just a veterinarian—will help explain what particular things may also be contributing to your cat’s problems. (Though our vet was and is amazing during her treatment!)
They will test for underlying conditions that could be treated, evaluate the severity of your cat’s condition, and hopefully help you decided the most effective way forward. If they decided to remove any number of teeth, a veterinary surgeon specializing in dentistry should do it, not your primary care vet. But you should make sure to keep your vet informed every step of the way to ensure any follow-up care needs are met.
So how is Blanche now?
As I said earlier in the post, Blanche is our perfect little lemon. Sometimes I call her the gummy bear. A few weeks after her surgery once she’d healed, nearly all of her inflammation had gone away. Months later, her mouth looked perfect. Her symptoms immediately resolved and we noticed a huge difference in her personality. She started grooming a lot more and even playing with her toys.
She also began eating without problems. And she is able to eat dry food without problems, which blows my mind. We tried wet food and she won’t touch it. (She’s on a prescription food for an unrelated issue because she loves to drain our bank account.) Her inflammation must have gone up into her sinus cavities, too. Because we noticed a dramatic improvement in her labored breathing a few weeks after the surgery, too.
I’m going to show you some before and after pictures that are quite shocking. These before photos the surgeon took of her mouth just before the extraction surgery make me want to cry. (She was sedated at this point and in professional hands.)
And here is the sweet gummy toothless angel about two months after her surgery. Absolutely remarkable! Look at the difference. We are so happy with her progress. She had a small amount of remaining inflammation at this point that eventually went away as well.
I wish I could get another updated photo now. All of this happened a few years ago, and she’s had no problems since. But this was a lucky yawn shot. I’ve been able to see in there, though, and it looks great.
I hope if you’re looking for answers you can find a doctor who can help you and your kitty. It’s a terrible condition. I wish you well my feline-loving reader. Find someone who can help you. There is hope!
If you’re reading this, I bet you love your kitties. You can check out some of my other kitty-related posts: DIY cat tree made using a real branch, DIY Ikea cat condo, raised modern cat feeder, 20 DIYs for people who love their pets, and my cat house side table build.