Other health problems

Mouth Ulcers in Cats

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: July 23, 2024
Mouth Ulcers in Cats

See files for Cats

Mouth ulcers can occur in cats for a variety of reasons. These include plaque buildup to feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). In most cases, mouth ulcers appear as small, open sores in the cat's mouth. The most common symptoms are bleeding and pain, especially if left untreated. If you see ulcers in your cat's mouth or other symptoms that make you suspect your cat is developing ulcers, contact your veterinarian immediately to determine the causes and develop treatment.

In the following AnimalWised article, we explain what mouth ulcers are in cats, as well as the most common causes and treatment.

You may also be interested in: Squamous Cell Carcinoma in a Cat's Mouth
  1. What are mouth ulcers in cats?
  2. Symptoms of mouth ulcers in cats
  3. Causes of mouth ulcers in cats
  4. Diagnosis of mouth ulcers in cats
  5. How to treat mouth ulcers in cats?

What are mouth ulcers in cats?

A common cause of discomfort in cats, which often goes unnoticed, is mouth ulcers. Mouth ulcers are lesions that occur in the oral cavity and are characterized by a focal loss of the epithelium that makes up the oral mucosa. These lesions may be single or multiple, vary in size, and are usually well demarcated and reddish. In addition, these ulcers may appear on the tongue, gums, floor of the mouth, or even on the lips or nose.

Mouth ulcers are not only extremely painful for the cat, they can easily become further infected. If left untreated, these infections can lead to a more serious scenario and affect the cat's ability to swallow and speak. In extreme cases, these sores prevent eating and can lead to further immune problems later in life.

Finally, it is important to know that mouth ulcers in cats are not the same as mouth ulcers in humans, where these lesions are caused by the herpes virus.

You may be interested in this other article where we talk about tooth decay in cats, its symptoms and treatment.

Symptoms of mouth ulcers in cats

The most common clinical signs that may be seen in cats with mouth ulcers are:

  • Changes in the appearance of the cat's mouth: cats usually show redness and irritation in areas of the mouth. In some cases, the gums may also be white or yellow.

  • Pain: cats may show their pain by loud vocalizations, scratching their mouths, or shaking their heads. It is also common for them to stop grooming themselves.

  • Anorexia: it can be partial or complete. Anorexia may be caused by loss of appetite or difficulty grasping, chewing and swallowing food. In either case, there may be significant weight loss. In some cases, vomiting may also occur.

  • Changes in salivation: it is possible for cats to have either a dry mouth or, conversely, an excessive amount of saliva.

Depending on the cause of the ulcers, these symptoms may occur alone or accompanied by other systemic signs.

Cats are masters in the art of disguising signs of pain. Because of this, it is difficult to tell that they are suffering. Continue reading this other article to learn how to tell if your cat is in pain.

Causes of mouth ulcers in cats

There are many factors that can contribute to the development of oral ulcers in cats. Poor oral hygiene is the most common reason. The accumulation of plaque and bacteria on the surface of the teeth can eventually lead to these painful sores as well as inflammation in the throat and mouth area.

Below, we list other factors that can also lead to these ulcers:

  • Nutrition: most commonly due to protein-calorie malnutrition or frequent consumption of acidic foods.

  • Traumatic: due to foreign bodies such as thorns, splinters, splinters of bone or wood, etc. In some cases, they may also be the result of fights between cats, blows, falls, etc.

  • Infectious: there are some common dental infections that can cause sores in the mouth of cats, such as periodontitis or gum disease. However, they can also be caused by viral infections such as feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus, FeLV, FIV, etc.

  • Immune mediated: specifically in cats, there are some types of immune-mediated stomatitis that can also cause mouth sores, such as feline chronic gingivostomatitis, feline eosinophilic granuloma complex, pemphigus vulgaris, and bullous pemphigoid.

  • Metabolic diseases: it is known that certain metabolic diseases such as diabetes, hypoparathyroidism, and kidney disease can cause mouth ulcers as a side effect.

Diagnosis of mouth ulcers in cats

An examination of the mouth should be performed if your cat exhibits any of the symptoms above. This mouth inspection can be done at home, although we recommend that it be done by a veterinarian, especially if the cat is showing signs of pain or stress. However, if you would like to inspect your cat's mouth before taking them to the veterinarian, you should do so as follows:

  • Ask another person to help you restrain the cat, preferably someone familiar with the cat, to avoid unnecessary stress to the animal.

  • Place one hand on the cat's head and place your thumb and index finger in the spaces behind the fangs.

  • Once you are holding the head, tilt it up slightly to open the mouth.

  • With your free hand, open the mouth by gently pulling down on the jaw.

If, in any of the above, the cat shows signs of pain or stress, it is best not to force the situation and take it directly to the veterinarian. At the veterinarian's office, a thorough examination of your cat's medical history is usually performed, including dental records and procedures to rule out standard dental diseases.

Once the ulcer is located, your veterinarian will need to perform a series of complementary tests to determine the cause of the ulcer. These include:

  • A blood profile
  • An electrolyte panel
  • A urine test
  • Antibody tests
  • A biopsy and histopathological analysis

You may be interested in this other article where we talk about periodontal disease in cats.

How to treat mouth ulcers in cats?

Treatment of oral ulcers depends largely on the underlying cause. In general, however, there are two different approaches:

  • Symptomatic treatment: aimed at promoting healing of the ulcer and relieving the animal's pain or discomfort. Depending on the severity of the situation, it may be necessary to offer a moist food that the animal can easily ingest. If the animal cannot tolerate this food, an esophageal tube should be placed to feed it, and fluid therapy should be administered to keep it hydrated. In addition, mouthwashes with local antiseptics (such as 0.2% diluted chlorhexidine) should be performed to prevent infection of the ulcer.

  • Primary treatment: this depends entirely on the cause that triggered the ulcer. Depending on the case, medical treatment or even surgical treatment may be required.

Time is of the essence when it comes to oral ulcers, because if they become infected, the situation can worsen dramatically. Therefore, we stress the importance of consulting a veterinarian as soon as you notice a symptom, in order to initiate the most appropriate treatment as soon as possible.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Mouth Ulcers in Cats, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

  • AVEPA Feline Medicine Specialty Group. Oral problems in cats.
Write a comment
Add an image
Click to attach a photo related to your comment
What did you think of this article?
Mouth Ulcers in Cats