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    Gingivitis in cats: association between oral health and the retrovirus test

    Gingivitis or gingivostomatitis is inflammation of the oral mucosa that mainly manifests in the gums, around the base of the teeth. It can also affect the oropharyngeal mucosa and tongue.

    Inflammatory oral disease in cats

    Gingivitis or gingivostomatitis is inflammation of the oral mucosa that mainly manifests in the gums, around the base of the teeth. It can also affect the oropharyngeal mucosa and tongue.

    Although oral inflammation is the clearest sign, other clinical signs of gingivitis in cats include gingival hyperplasia, hypersalivation, vocalisation, anorexia, oral bleeding, lethargy and halitosis. Sometimes patients hold their mouth open or tongue out most of the time.

    You can learn more about the specialty of dentistry, oral hygiene, and preventing gingivitis in pets in thedentistry module taught by Dr Mateo.

    Gingivitis in cats: causes

    Unlike other animals, in which gingivitis is mainly linked to the accumulation of tartar and bacterial colonisation, oral inflammation in cats is often provoked by a virus or other causes.

    According to Small Animal Medical Differential Diagnosis by Mark S. Thompson (1), there are seven types of stomatitis:

    • Infectious stomatitis. The infectious origin may be feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) calicivirus or herpesvirus, among others.
    • Stomatitis due to immunosuppressive disease.
    • Stomatitis due to feline eosinophilic granuloma complex.
    • Chronic idiopathic stomatitis/gingivitis.
    • Autoimmune stomatitis.
    • Uremic stomatitis.
    • Radiation-induced stomatitis.

    Detecting the root cause of gingivitis in cats is vitally important when prescribing the most effective treatment and preventing other complications.

    Study of the prevalence of retrovirus in feline gingivitis

    Vets from the University of Ontario (Canada) performed a study in 5,179 cats (2) unvaccinated for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Their aim was to determine if there was a relationship between oral health status and FIV or FeLV seropositivity.

    Oral health was analysed across the study sample, as was the subjects’ retrovirus serology using an ELISA technique.

    The researchers obtained the following results in the cross-analysis of the data:

    • Inflammatory oral disease was associated with an increased likelihood of being FIV or FeLV seropositive.
    • Specifically, stomatitis was associated with seropositivity for FIV.
    • The risk of oral disease in cats with retrovirus seropositivity increases with age.

    Since gingivitis and other inflammatory diseases of the oral cavity are associated with retrovirus seropositivity in cats, the authors recommended testing the retroviral status of cats brought to the clinic with gingivostomatitis.

    (1)  Mark S. Thompson. Small Animal Medical Differential Diagnosis. 2014. Elsevier.
    (2)  Kornya MR, Little SE, Scherk MA, et al. Association between oral health status and retrovirus test results in cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2014;245: 916-922 available at: https://www.affinity-petcare.com/veterinary/actualidad-veterinaria/abstracts/asociación-entre-el-estado-de-salud-oral-y-resultados-de-tests-de
    Josep Campmany
    Associate No: COVB 1125

    Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Zaragoza and Advanced Management Program. Marketing Management (ESADE, Barcelona)

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