A few years ago I started dedicating part of my time to animal volunteering. Since that time, I have tried to be aware of wild or wandering animals that I come across. Whenever possible, I intervene in these situations, trying to help improve the living conditions and welfare of dogs and cats I encounter. Many of them, for whatever reason, were born on the street or ended up there.

My cat Tome was one of those cases. The initial idea was just: rescue, sterilize and refer to responsible adoption. All with the help of an animal protection association that had already helped me in other situations, but fate ended up doing its own and I ended up, like my boyfriend, falling in love with him.

That's how I took him home, where his feline sister's Cookie and Sushi already lived, also rescued from the streets under very similar circumstances.

Tomé looked like a healthy animal, despite its low weight, which disappeared after a few weeks, allowing it to become a robust and beautiful animal, which enchanted everyone.

Until it stopped being like that. After a few months, and quite suddenly, his behaviour changed radically. Soon Thomas, who had always been very playful, was now much quieter, spent much more time lying down and often isolated himself.

As until then, he had always been very sweet and adept at the lap, I quickly noticed, one of the times I took him, that he had exuberant halitosis and the drool ran in a string from the corner of his mouth! We immediately went with him to the vet, who after observing him for a few minutes diagnosed him with a very severe gingivitis-stomatitis. Tome had a huge inflammation all over his mouth, with big and ugly ulcers that caused him pain and prevented him from eating…

We had done the IVF and FeLV tests at the time we decided to adopt it, and fortunately, both had been negative, so the possibility that any of these diseases was the cause of the problem in the mouth was immediately ruled out. Months earlier, because we had noticed a considerable accumulation of tartar on the teeth, we had thought of scaling, but the veterinarian who attended him at the time thought it unnecessary to do so. However, today we know that tartar may be one of the predisposing agents for gingivitis-stomatitis. However, it was too late for that: Tomé had to be hospitalized, to be sedated and undergo fluid therapy to avoid dehydration, but it didn't take long to know that he would have to undergo an extraction surgery of all molar and premolar teeth.

The causes of gingivitis

Oral cavity diseases are quite common in cats, and their severity can vary from simple inflammation of the gums to a pathology that, in the end, could even endanger the animal's life. It is therefore essential that tutors pay attention to any changes in the behaviour and physiognomy of the small cats, such as the apparent lack of interest in the small cat food dish, difficulty in chewing, bad breath or a significant loss of weight in a short time, without reason visible. In our case, the drool that ran down the corner of his mouth and the extreme bad breath I felt on him that night, in addition to the almost lethargic state in which I found him, was enough to take him urgently to the veterinary clinic.

Gingivitis-stomatitis can have a relatively simple cause, such as plaque and tartar buildup, which can be easily resolved by cleaning the oral cavity by the veterinarian while the animal is anaesthetized. But it can also have other, more complex causes that often prevent the definitive resolution of the problem, which is now considered chronic and recurrent: feline herpesvirus (causing rhinotracheitis, calicivirus (responsible for a pathology similar to rhinotracheitis, still that with milder symptoms) or the feline immunodeficiency virus (the much-feared FIV, referred to by many as cat AIDS) can also determine the emergence of this problem.

However, in addition to the viral and bacterial causes, gingivitis -stomatitis may still have a genetic origin, and the scientific community believes, in light of several studies, there are certain breeds of cats – such as the Maine Coon, the Persian and the Siamese, precisely – more vulnerable to this disease. A large part of domestic cats is certainly, at some point in life, affected by diseases of the oral cavity, with gingivitis-stomatitis in the head.

The treatment

The medical answer for feline gingivitis-stomatitis is still controversial, as very effective alternatives to extraction (tooth extraction), which can be partial or total, are not yet known. Usually, all molars and premolar teeth are removed, but there are more serious cases where the canines and incisors must also be extracted. In the case of Tomé, and because periodontal disease and tooth mobility already existed, all molars and premolars were extracted, and in the first phase, with specialized monitoring and medication, the problem seemed to have been resolved. Unfortunately, the solution was not very lasting...

About six months later, gingivitis-stomatitis returned and it was necessary to move towards new therapeutic measures, all the more so as it was discovered that the problem was so serious that it had already spread to other organs: Tomé now suffers from chronic renal failure, with the kidney function already quite compromised (although there are no symptoms of this disease yet, as it is a silent pathology that only begins to produce symptoms when more than two-thirds of the renal function are lost), he has an affected lung ( we are in the study phase to understand exactly the extent of the problem at this level) and presents a picture of quite a persistent cough, which may indicate the existence of heart problems (we are also trying to assess this possibility).

From what we know so far, Tomé may not have long to live, and everything seems to be due to the advance of gingivitis-stomatitis, which may have appeared long before we know it, and this may even be the reason why Tomé ended up abandoned on the streets. The complications resulting from the disease are many, serious and with long and expensive treatment, but we are not going to give up, to the limit of our strength, to help this beautiful Siamese to have the quality life he deserves, whether for just a few more months, be, as we wish (and bearing in mind that he is estimated to be only four or five years old), for many long years...

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