The vet told me I got a lemon of a cat. A sweet lemon, but a lemon nontheless.
March 12, 2010 12:25 PM   Subscribe

Is my vet pulling my leg? Can a cat be allergic to her own saliva?

Okay... so, my sweet, loveable rescue fostered-turned-adopted cat has bad teeth (among other problems, but maybe those'll be next week's question...). They're really bad teeth -- her breath stinks up the joint. I knew I was in for a lifetime of cat-dental issues. But this?

The vet (highly regarded and recommended, if slightly overpriced) took one look at my cat's teeth, her gums, and the fact she's in pain when you touch her jaw. Then he announced that she had some disease (can't remember the name -- long and complicated) that basically amounted to her being allergic to her own saliva. This was causing her body to attack her gums, due to the ever present layer of saliva that exists on them. And then of course teeth with horrific gums don't do so well either.

Has anyone heard of this before, or is my vet just pulling my leg? I walked in there already expecting a big teeth-cleaning bill -- he has no reason to make stuff up... but this sounds kinda fishy. Not that I don't believe it's possible, but just that it's so common that he can diagnose it in 30 seconds.

I tried googling, but everything brings up reports of humans being allergic to cat saliva, not cats being allergic to their own.

Has anyone heard of this before? Any experiences?
posted by cgg to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The worst form of gingivitis is Plasmactic-Lymphocytic Stomatitis (LPGS), a gum disease is so severe that a cat's body is allergic to plaque surrounding the teeth. A sign of LPGS is marked inflammation where the gum line and tooth meet. A thorough examination, including a biopsy, is needed for a proper diagnosis. [ref]
search terms: cat gum disease allergic
posted by MesoFilter at 12:29 PM on March 12, 2010

Yes. It's called "gingivitis stomatitis," and it's a real condition.
posted by valkyryn at 12:33 PM on March 12, 2010

Yes. My cat has it. Had to remove several teeth. There's nothing that can be done to prevent it and, depending on severity, will probably at some point have to have all of her teeth pulled. You also have to brush their teeth if possible.

Sucks, but the cat can still have a good life and eat.
posted by vivzan at 12:36 PM on March 12, 2010

Huh -- that definitely looks right. I had no idea it was so prevalent. Thanks -- ask.mefi strikes again!
posted by cgg at 12:53 PM on March 12, 2010

Others have identified it, but just wanted to say that one of my friend's cats has this too and over the course of four years had to have all his teeth pulled. Which doesn't prevent him from trying to gum the occasional mouse to death when he catches one.
posted by MsMolly at 1:27 PM on March 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

a little off topic, but what does a cat w/o teeth meow like? People w/o teeth talk funny, do cats?
posted by Gungho at 1:31 PM on March 12, 2010

According to what I've read, cats without teeth get along fine, and can eat dry food without any problems. Though I wouldn't take that as a given.

Cat meows don't have consonants, so I'd assume they'd meow & hiss just fine.
posted by MesoFilter at 1:50 PM on March 12, 2010

Both of my parent's cats, who were healthy human-raised-from-kittens, also had this affliction and only have few teeth each anymore. They came out over 2 or 3 procedures, separated by a few years.

Cats jaws are so strong, it doesn't really bother them at all. Mine still have a few front teeth and a canine, but no molars. They still eat crunchy dry food, and you can drag them across the room from the corner of a blanket they're biting into.

It's cool, just expensive, and you may get a day or two of "what the hell did you do to me?". But you knew that. And laughing at stoned post-op cats probably makes up for it.
posted by fontophilic at 2:31 PM on March 12, 2010

a little off topic, but what does a cat w/o teeth meow like? People w/o teeth talk funny, do cats?

One of my cats has no teeth due to this issue (OK, he does have one poor, lonely fang left, but I doubt it matters much at this point). He sounds exactly the same as he always did.
posted by vorfeed at 3:34 PM on March 12, 2010

My old girl kitty just had this done last year around this time, same reason, and you would NEVER KNOW it now. She's spunky, she plays like a demon, and she put on weight after the surgery. She's back to killing socks and I'm so glad we did it.
posted by cooker girl at 3:56 PM on March 12, 2010

Question: my cat has this and my vet wanted to pull out all of his teeth, which I shied away from. Did removing all of their teeth help your cats? Did the problem completely go away afterwards?
posted by sickinthehead at 4:22 PM on March 12, 2010

Yep, two cats (sisters) with that here. And two is twice as expensive. And ironically it's the third (totally healthy) cat that likes to chew and destroy all our stuff.

Our two are six, and down around half of their teeth at this point, and eat and miaow just the same as before. The one thing they have trouble eating is wet food with chunks in it, other wet food and the dry pellets are fine. The only thing you'd notice is that sometimes their lips will get caught on a fang when the other fang in the pair is missing, and then they look like they're sneering.

Sickinthehead - We said no to having them all pulled when they got the immediate diagnosis, but you do need to do something, or the cat suffers and the teeth gradually fall out. We've taken the approach of having the vet check every so often, and pull out the worst few when it's needed. The downside is that repeated anesthetics are riskier for the cat and cost more for the people.
posted by crabintheocean at 6:11 PM on March 12, 2010

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