Pale Gums in Cats – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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Causes   Symptoms   Treatment

Pale gums in cats

About

The colour of your cat’s gums can paint an overall picture of his health. Normally they are a light pink colour and firm to the touch. Some cats will have black spots on their gums; this usually occurs in red or orange coloured cats and is known as lentigo. Teeth should be firmly adhered to the gum, with no pockets between the tooth and the gum.

Causes

The most common causes of pale gums in cats are the following:

  •  Anemia
  • Shock (which causes decreased blood flow due to a drop in blood pressure or loss of blood from an injury)
  • Internal bleeding (which may be due to trauma, a rupture, or blood clotting disorders)

All of these causes are life-threatening and require immediate veterinary care

There are several types and causes of anemia in cats, but essentially it is a deficiency of red blood cells. Two common causes of anemia are a heavy flea infestation or parasitic worms, especially in young kittens or senior cats. Other causes are the destruction of the red blood cells, blood loss, and inadequate red blood cell production.

Shock is a life-threatening medical condition which occurs when the body is not getting enough oxygen due to a decrease in the circulation of blood. There are several types of shock, including:

  • Hypovolemic – The most common form of shock, caused by decreased blood volume (such as with blood loss).
  • Cardiogenic – Caused by decreased blood circulating the system due to damage to the heart.
  • Septic – Drop in blood pressure caused by bacterial infection circulating in the blood.
  • Anaphylactic shock – Drop in blood pressure due to a severe allergic reaction.

Other gum colours:

  • Blue-tinged gums – Lack of oxygen, cardiac arrest.
  • Yellow gums – Jaundice.
  • Red gums – Heat stroke, carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Red margins around the gums – Dental problems.

The gums can also be used to check the capillary refill time. Just below the surface of the gums are the capillaries which are what give gums their pink colour. When you press down on the gums with your finger, it will become pale (blanched), remove your finger from the area and watch to see how quickly the colour returns to the gum. This will give you an indicator of the amount of blood flow circulating. Colour should return to the gums almost immediately.

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination of your cat and obtain a medical history from you. He will ask about other symptoms you may have noticed such as lethargy, possible exposure to an allergen which could have caused anaphylaxis, vomiting blood, defecating blood.

Diagnostic tests will be necessary and will include:

  • Baseline tests: Biochemical profile, complete blood count, and urinalysis which will evaluate liver and kidney function as well as the hydration status of your cat. Complete blood count evaluates the cellular components of blood and determines the number, size, and shape of the red blood cells.
  • Check blood pressure – This is a simple procedure similar to the blood pressure test humans have.
  • Fecal flotation – To check for worm eggs.

Further medical tests may be required depending on the suspected cause.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to find and address the underlying cause as well as provide supportive care, which may include:

Emergency care:

Anemia:

  • Anti-parasitic medication to treat fleas or worms.
  • Antibiotics oxytetracycline or doxycycline and treatment with high doses of immunosuppressive drugs such as prednisolone will be given to diminish the immune-mediated component of the disease process if the cat is found to have feline infectious anemia.
  • Surgery and or chemotherapy to treat cancer or remove zinc-containing foreign objects.
  • Anti-viral medication will be prescribed to cats with FIV or FeLV; supportive care is also necessary.
  • Nutrition, switch the cat a complete and balanced diet.
  • Discontinuing medications which cause anemia.
  • Stomach acid-reducing medications such as cimetidine, ranitidine or famotidine can be given to cats with gastric ulcers as well as Sucralfate, which forms a gel-like substance to cover ulcers and prevent further blood loss (and damage). The veterinarian may recommend a bland diet during the recovery period.

Internal bleeding:

Find and treat the cause which may include surgery to repair damage or treatment for blood clotting disorders.

Shock:

  • Fluids to increase blood volume.
  • Blood transfusion.
  • Surgery to repair injuries or ruptures.

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