Stomatitis essentially means “inflammation of the mouth,” and it can be called several different names: ulcerative stomatitis, idiopathic stomatitis, lymphocytic-plasmacytic stomatitis, or chronic ulcerative paradental stomatitis. No matter what this condition is called, it is extremely painful to any pet unfortunate enough to be affected. Cats tend to suffer more from stomatitis conditions, but dogs of any breed can also develop this disease.


While stomatitis can affect any pet at any age, the following dog and cat breeds are most commonly affected:

  • Somali
  • Abyssinian
  • Maltese
  • Greyhound
  • Cavalier King Charles spaniel
  • German shepherd
  • Rottweiler
  • Siberian husky
  • Alaskan malamute
  • Pug


Causes of stomatitis

Stomatitis is usually an indicator of a larger disease process, although it can sometimes occur spontaneously with no known cause. Some cases in cats are associated with a persistent feline calicivirus infection, which can cause blisters within the mouth. Also, a weakened immune system from feline immunodeficiency virus may prevent a cat from clearing the infection. In both cats and dogs, stomatitis can be a sign of:

  • Allergic reaction to plaque accumulation or the teeth themselves
  • Diabetes
  • Hormonal deficiencies, such as hypothyroidism
  • Uremia caused by kidney disease
  • Severe reaction to certain medications
  • Exposure to caustic or acidic substances
  • Lymphoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Tooth malocclusion
  • Eosinophilic granuloma
  • Bacterial, parasitic, or fungal infections


As you can see, the list of causes is extensive, and a detailed history of your pet is necessary to determine the cause of stomatitis. Once stomatitis has been diagnosed, we may recommend certain diagnostic testing to find the root cause and allow us to treat your pet appropriately. Additional testing may include:

  • Complete blood count
  • Chemistry profile
  • Electrolyte profile
  • Thyroid panel
  • Urinalysis
  • Biopsy of inflamed tissue
  • Culture to identify bacterial growth


Signs and diagnosis of stomatitis

Chronic ulcerative paradental stomatitis has a hallmark sign—a paradental, or “kissing,” lesion located where the larger teeth come in contact with the cheek tissue. Other signs often seen with stomatitis cases include:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Difficulty eating
  • Excessive or bloody saliva
  • Pawing at mouth
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Decreased appetite
  • Chattering jaw
  • Thick, ropey saliva
  • Plaque accumulation on teeth
  • Swollen, inflamed gums
  • Reluctance to groom
  • Weight loss
  • Sores on the gums, cheeks, and tongue


Since the signs of stomatitis are similar to those seen with most dental diseases, a physical examination by our veterinarian is the most accurate way to diagnose this condition. The majority of pets are too painful to tolerate an oral exam and will require anesthesia. Upon sedation, we can thoroughly examine your pet’s mouth to search for any diseased teeth and see how far the lesions travel without causing pain. Some pets have lesions that wind down the back of their mouths and throats. And, as with all dental diseases, X-rays are warranted to determine the extent of the problem, since inflammation of the jaw bone and marrow can be seen with stomatitis.


Treatment of stomatitis

Stomatitis in pets is a challenging condition to treat, although treating the underlying cause may allow the inflammation to resolve, such as in cases of caustic substances or medication usage. Often, the most effective treatment is extraction of every tooth, removing the source of plaque-causing inflammation. This is a drastic measure and is usually only considered for the most severe cases. Surprisingly, pets do quite well once the source of pain is removed and suffer no ill effects after healing from oral surgery, although we do recommend feeding these pets soft foods. Before jumping straight to full-mouth extractions, we may recommend trying these courses of treatment:

  • Dental cleaning under anesthesia to remove plaque and diseased teeth
  • Application of a tooth sealant to provide a barrier against plaque
  • Rigorous dental care at home, including brushing, water additives, and antibacterial wipes, rinses, or gels
  • Antibiotics to knock down the bacterial load in the mouth
  • Corticosteroids or immunosuppressants to reduce inflammation
  • Pain medication to allow your pet to eat comfortably


Keep in mind that many of these treatments act only as bandages, and if your pet does not show improvement, tooth extraction will provide the best way to alleviate pain. We understand that pulling all of your pet’s teeth is scary, but once your pet is healed after oral surgery, you will be amazed at the difference in her quality of life.


Is your pet showing signs of oral pain? Schedule an appointment to find some relief for your best friend.v