In this section, I will be discussing many different aspects of Stomatitis and hopefully answering some of your questions. I will touch on the question is Stomatitis contagious, describe feline Stomatitis symptoms, explain some feline Stomatitis treatments as well as tell you my stories of Stomatitis in my cats.
What is Feline Stomatitis?
Stomatitis is a severe and painful inflammation of the mouth and gums that can cause ulcers. It is caused by dental disease, viruses, and other inflammatory conditions however it is not at all contagious. Treatment is usually long term in order to control the disease. Symptoms included:
- Poor coat
- Refusal to eat
- Bad breath
- Weight loss
- Pawing at mouth
How do you treat Feline Stomatitis?
Initial treatment is usually a medication that is administered for inflammation and pain including antibiotics and possibly an anti-viral. Treatment also includes a dental cleaning and/or tooth removal as well as treatment for any underlying disease. Unfortunately, there really is no natural treatment for feline Stomatitis as well as no natural cure.
This is definitely very basic though and is the information that I gathered from top websites about the disease. Treatment is much more intense and the disease is horrible to watch your cat go through. 2 of my cats have had Stomatitis recently. Zoli had it in the winter of 2018 and Feri had it in the Fall of 2019. Both are fine now and Feri’s was caught much earlier than Zoli’s because I knew what I was looking for and treated it much quicker. Here is Zoli’s story first.
Zoli and Stomatitis
I didn’t notice there was anything wrong with Zoli for a long time. He hides his pain so well and is never a huge meower. What I noticed was that he had lost a ton of weight. Zoli is a 13 lb chunk and always has been. He loves to eat and especially loves his dry food, so his weight loss was definitely a concern to me. I started to watch him eat and noticed that when he would try to eat, he would scream (the most mortifying sound I have ever heard, if you’ve never heard a cat scream, be thankful!), shake his head and run away. I would try everything to get him to eat but he was just not interested. So after a couple of days of trying to get him to eat on my own with no success, I took him to the vet.
The vet looked at Zoli’s mouth and told me he had severe gingivitis. She did not mention Stomatitis at this point. I was familiar with the term but had never really dealt with it before. Anyhow, the vet prescribed an antibiotic and said that he should be eating in a few days but first I had to get the medication compounded at the pharmacy. After picking up the now fish-flavored liquid antibiotic, I attempted to squirt some of it in Zoli’s mouth. Usually, he is pretty good with taking medicine and allows me to poke and prod him but it was so horrible to try and get him to take this medicine. I’m assuming that the mouth pain was so bad that anything touching anything in there was super painful. I googled ways to make a cat take medicine, I watched YouTube videos. Everything! Finally, I found a good one where you wrap the cat in a towel so they can’t scratch you. (Here’s the video just in case you need the knowledge to one day! The techinque is in the second half of the video)
I squirted as much of the medicine I could possibly get into his mouth but even after a few days, nothing had changed. He still wasn’t eating and at this point, I felt like I was just torturing him!
If you haven’t read my other articles, then you wouldn’t know that my cats all have Feline Herpes virus. You can read all about that here. You may be wondering why I am mentioning their Feline Herpes virus on the Stomatitis page and that’s because it is definitely related and I’ll explain. The Herpes virus suppresses the immune system and there for allows things like Stomatitis to be much worse for FHV postive kitties. FHV positive kitties are much more suseptible to diseases and negative effects of other environmental factors becasue their immune system is weaker. When Zoli and I went back to the vet, the doctor wanted to try an anti-viral next since they are positive for FHV. We went back home to try to see if this would work but it was super hard to get him to swallow a pill. His mouth was so tender and he just wasn’t having it. It was a struggle! I gave it to him as prescribed though but nevertheless, it didn’t help and we went back to the vet. At this point, my chunky little Zoli who once weighed 13 lb was way down in weight and not eating at all and I was really starting to get worried.
My gut feeling at this point was that Zoli had Stomatitis. The symptoms were just completely on point. When we got to the vet, she recommended that Zoli see the dentist and just as I had suspected, he came back with the Stomatitis diagnosis. So on December 26, 2018, Zoli had his surgery and had all of his teeth removed. It sounds awful lot and it is but because there was so much back and forth before the final diagnosis, his mouth got so bad that almost everything had to come out. His fangs and little teeth in the front were kept so that his tongue doesn’t fall out of his mouth too much. (It still does a tiny bit but it’s so cute! Here’s a cute pic of that). So great, the surgery is done! Zoli will get better now! Or so I thought. We weren’t completely out of the woods and actually it got a bit dire after the surgery was completed.
I brought Zoli home and they had given him a pain shot that was supposed to last a few days. I thought that once I brought him home he would start gobbling up food but I was wrong. He would try to eat but still scream and run away. At this point, I was making his food into soup basically so that he would just get some of it in but it didn’t help. He was hiding under the bed for hours at a time. After a couple of days, I called the vet and told her he was hiding and still not eating so she suggested that we go in for another pain shot and hopefully that will get him over this initial 3-day hump of a super painful mouth. The vet told me that if he still isn’t eating in 2 days, to bring him back in for one last pain shot and of course, he still wasn’t eating. So back to the vet we go for the 5th time in a month! What happened next, I just couldn’t believe.
At this point, Zoli is down to 8.5 pounds. He hadn’t eaten in days and still seemed miserable. So when we got back to the vet, she tells me that sometimes Stomatitis doesn’t go away after teeth removal and sometimes kitties don’t get better. She said that I did everything for him and that if I wanted to stop, that it was OK and no one would judge me because I really did everything by the book. This absolutely broke my heart! OMG no! Zoli can’t die! He’s not ready! I knew it in my gut that it was not his time. I wasn’t putting him down for anything. It just wasn’t right and I was a bit mortified at the suggestion. She proceeded to tell me that if I wanted to keep going that there were a couple things that we could do. One was to put a central line in him and get him medicine and food through a feeding tube with the hopes that he starts eating soon. This would have been costly and time consuming. The other thing that we could try was so simple and although a bit mean sounding on the surface, it was our last shot.
The other thing that my vet suggested that we do was to force-feed him. It sounds absolutely cruel but it wasn’t really that bad and I’ll explain as they showed me what to do since I opted for this option. First, they gave me some super high caloric food which is basically McDonald’s for cats. I was to take an 1/8 of the can, so a super small amount, and mix it with water to make is super runny. They also supplied me with this huge syringe which I was to suck up the watery food with and squirt into his mouth. They showed me how to hold him so he wouldn’t freak out and so it would be easier to feed him in this manner. When they did the procedure, I watched Zoli and it was as if he didn’t remember how to eat. His tongue was all over the place, it almost looked like he didn’t know how to use his tongue to swallow. However, by the end of the food in the syringe, he looked so much more at ease with it and it was as if he remembered how to use his tongue to swallow. He didn’t cry out in pain or anything either. I was so happy and thought that this was going to work. So I left the vet with kitty McDonald’s cat food and gigantic syringe feeling very confident.
A few hours after we got home, it was time to eat again. Because he really hadn’t eaten much in a few weeks, we had to go with small portions every few hours so as to not upset his stomach. I went and made his food super mushy as instructed and then picked Zoli up to put him on the counter. I went to grab the syringe to fill it up and he started to eat by himself! OMG, I couldn’t believe it! I was so happy! I put the syringe down and allowed Zoli to finish his food on his own. There was no screaming or running away and he finished it all by himself. Each subsequent meal after that was the same. Zoli ate on his own. What I think happened was this, I think Zoli’s Stomatitis went on for so long that a few things happened. First, it was so painful to eat for so long that he feared to eat. Second, because he hadn’t eaten in so long he forgot how to swallow but also, there was now all this room in his mouth for his tongue to flop around and I think it would get in the way. For a few months after this, Zoli would shake his head a bit while eating or drinking because his tongue would get in the way. He has a much better control over it now and I don’t really see him doing that at all anymore. Zoli now also eats his dry food that he loves and has no problems at all. He Stomatitis is completely gone and had regained all of his chunk and is back up to 13 lbs. Everybody was doing great until the Fall of 2019 when I noticed Feri started to act weird. Feri’s story is much less complicated thanks to Zoli’s dramatic case.
Feri and Stomatitis
One day, during the Fall of 2019, I noticed Feri hissing and running away. I didn’t think too much of it at the time because that was Feri’s general behavior. Usually, Zoli was bothering him and he would hiss at him and run away. But then I noticed it again the next day, and the next so I started to watch him a bit more closely. I had just put down food when Feri started to eat it but then jumped back, hissed and ran away. For the next day or so, I would watch Feri while he ate and the same thing would happen. So then I realized, something was going on in his mouth. Feri isn’t the most cooperative kitty but I was able to take a quick look and saw that his gums were very red and looked quite painful. Of course, I called the vet and brought him in.
When we arrived I told the vet what I saw and what I thought as I immediately thought Stomatitis. She agreed and we first tried an anti-biotic and an anti-viral for 10 days to see is perhaps we could get rid of it first with medication. I already knew this drill and was familiar with administering the medication, but Feri was a different patient. I would have to wrap him in a towel and squirt as much in his mouth as possible. Sometimes he would gag and I would feel so bad but I really wanted the medicine to work so that he didn’t have to have his teeth taken out. To no avail, after 10 days and another look by the vet, the medication did not work and we scheduled the extraction for the following week.
Since this was my third cat having their teeth removed (Cica had her teeth removed as well for a different reason), I wasn’t so worried especially since Zoli just had his done a year prior. I dropped Feri off in the morning and by mid-morning the vet was calling to let me know that everything went well and I could pick him up that evening. They generally keep them all day just to make sure that they come out of the anesthetic alright. I was fine with that and was glad that the surgery went well.
When I went to pick him up, he seemed like a regular old Feri. The vet told me he had 11 teeth removed and he was doing fine. They gave him the antibiotic shot so that I would have to administer medication in to his sore mouth. I did, however, have to administer the pain medication but that was a quick little syringe shot that was nothing like getting a syringe full of medication in him! We went home and I could tell that Feri was not happy. He tried to eat and drink but it was just too painful for him. The Stomatitis wasn’t gone just yet and his mouth wasn’t healed but Feri’s healing time was so much quicker than Zoli’s. After about 3 days, he tried to eat a tiny bit. After a week, he was eating mushy wet food fine and attempting to eat dry food. That was still to sore though. After 2 weeks, he was perfectly fine. We also went back to the vet for a quick recheck and the Stomatitis was all gone and his gums were nice and pink.
The vet showed me how nicely his gums had pinked up but I was a bit taken aback. Feri still had his bottom teeth. So I asked her about it and she had told me that the top teeth were the ones that were in bad shape so he had only the top removed. The other teeth were professionally cleaned by the vet dentist and were in really good shape. I was happy about that because it would be easier for Feri in the long run.
Now, as you can imagine, this procedure is not cheap. With all the vet visits, all the follow-up visits, all the medications, the surgery, aesthetic, cleaning, everything, Zoli cost me about $2,500 and Feri cost me $2,000. I used what little money I had and used my Care Credit. Care Credit is basically a line of credit to use for whatever medical procedures I need. I can use them for my dentist, at the pharmacy, whatever doctor I choose and of course at the vet. I have 6 months to pay it off without having interest charged but if I was to go past the 6 months then I get charged interest for the full amount. Zoli I was able to pay off within 6 months but Feri’s I won’t be able to. I’m still super thankful that I have this option as payment!
I am well versed on Stomatitis now and can see the signs from a mile away! I hated seeing them in so much pain. Both cats are now in a great place. Both are healthy, happy and thankfully feline Stomatitis free!