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7 Causes Of White Gums On Cats And How To Help

7 Causes Of White Gums On Cats And How To Help

Despite the fact that cats are good at hiding their pain, there are some signs you can observe to learn about their health.

Their gum appearance is one of them. I believe you haven’t paid much attention to the inside of your cat’s mouth, but this can be very helpful.

Healthy cat gums should be pink and have a smooth texture. A change in a cat’s gum color can indicate distress in it, possibly even a medical emergency.

White gums on cats are something that definitely isn’t normal and something you shouldn’t ignore.

Let’s look at the seven causes for your cat’s gums to turn pale, and what to do to help.

1. Anemia

Pale gums on a cat
Credit: Reddit

White gums are one of the indicators of anemia in felines.

As VCA Animal Hospitals explains, this condition refers to a reduced number of circulating red blood cells, hemoglobin, or both of these in a cat’s body.

Anemia isn’t a separate disease, but the result of some other underlying condition. A cat with anemia shows symptoms related to a lack of oxygen. White gums are one of them.

According to the cat tongue color chart, anemic cats also manifest white patches on their tongues. Other common signs here are blood in the urine or stool, lethargy, and difficulty breathing.

How To Help?

The veterinarian will need to perform several tests on your cat’s blood samples to diagnose anemia.

Different underlying conditions can cause anemia, such as parasitic infections, tumors, and autoimmune diseases.

Some anemic cats will need to get a blood transfusion. Further treatment will be decided after the underlying cause of anemia is diagnosed.

When anemia is detected early, and the cat is in relatively good health, the prognosis is favorable, with a high likelihood of continuing to lead a normal life.

2. Medications Side Effects

One thing to consider upon noticing white gums in your cat is whether it has consumed any medications lately.

There’s a chance that this change in your cat’s gum color is a medication side effect.

Some other symptoms you could notice in this case are gastrointestinal issues, lethargy, and increased thirst and urination.

How To Help?

You should take your cat to a vet clinic as soon as you notice potential medication side effects symptoms in it.

Make sure you explain everything you noticed in detail to the vet. 

In case they confirm the specific medication caused a reaction in your cat, they will suggest slowly decreasing the medication dose and substituting it with another one.

3. Ticks Infestation

Noticing white gums on your cat can also be a sign it has ticks.

These parasites feed slowly on the blood of their host. You may not even notice them for a significant time on your cat’s coat. 

Ticks usually attack cats waiting for them on the tips of grasses and shrubs. Meriam Saleh and her associates [1] investigated tick infestation in companion animals across the United States.

The result of their study showed that most pets with ticks had outdoor access. However, a few dogs and cats that never go outside were also submitted with ticks. This suggests that these tiny parasites can be carried into the home on clothing and, hence, present a risk for indoor cats.

As ticks feed on a cat’s blood, white gums are a common symptom. Additionally, an infected cat can show redness on its skin, excessive itching, decreased appetite, and fever.

How To Help?

You can examine your cat’s fur and body for ticks at home.

Make sure you wear gloves while doing this. You should pull the tick out with tweezers. The most important thing here is to remove the entire parasite.

If you have trouble doing this, you should bring your cat to a vet clinic.

After removing ticks from your cat’s fur, you should observe it carefully to be sure it’s recovering fine.

The best prevention here is to keep your cat indoors, especially if you live in an area known for ticks. You should also consult your vet on the best type of tick prevention for your feline friend.

4. Toxic Ingestion

White gums on a cat
Credit: Quora

Have you encountered your cat sniffing and licking on all kinds of things numerous times? Well, our furry companions have a strong sense of smell and are very curious.

Unfortunately, this can sometimes bring them into trouble like ingesting a toxic substance. 

White gums are one of the clinical signs of poisoning in cats. Other symptoms you may notice are drooling, difficulty breathing, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, and even collapsing.

Cornell Feline Health Center names the following as the most frequently identified causes of feline poisoning:

• Insecticides

• Household cleaning agents

• Antifreeze

• Human medications

• Indoor and outdoor plants

How To Help?

The recovery here will depend significantly on the moment you bring the cat to a vet clinic. 

Of course, the type of toxic is essential here, as well as how much of it the cat has ingested. If, for instance, the cat has been poisoned with antifreeze, the veterinarian will administer ethanol to its body.

Also, the cat will get fluid therapy to expel the toxin from its body more quickly. Induced vomiting is another form of treatment, while some cats will need to take activated charcoal.

The best prevention here is to keep all the products that are toxic for your pet out of its reach at all times.

5. Kidney Disease

White gums on cats can be a sign of kidney disease. Since this condition decreases a cat’s ability to produce red blood cells, a cat’s gums can appear to be pale or white.

Kidney disease also causes lethargy in felines, as well as poor appetite and weight loss. Affected cats are usually more thirsty, pee more often, and could have gastrointestinal problems like vomiting.

This medical condition is quite common among felines. According to Oaklanad Veterinary, some form of kidney disease affects around 20-25% of cats, with senior cats having an even higher percentage.

How To Help?

Kidney disease treatment includes various approaches, such as intravenous fluids, vitamin injections, medications, and supplements.

In some situations, veterinarians suggest surgery to remove any blockage. 

This disease doesn’t have a real cure. The goal of treatment is to slow down the progress of this condition and manage the symptoms so that the cat can still live a quality life.

Unfortunately, some cats with kidney disease develop severe symptoms and even have to be euthanized.

6. Addison’s Disease

A cat featuring white gums
Credit: Reddit

White gums are also a potential sign of a rare condition called Addison’s disease.

MSD Veterinary Manual explains that this condition is caused by a deficiency of adrenal gland hormones. This can lead to weakness and organ irritation in cats.

The cause of Addison’s disease usually isn’t known, but underlying health issues like tumors and damage to the adrenal gland can lead to it.

Together with white gums, affected cats are lethargic, pee often, are very thirsty, and experience hair loss and abdominal pain.

How To Help?

The veterinarian will need to perform a series of diagnostic tests to diagnose a cat with Addison’s disease. This will include blood tests and a cat’s stool test.

This is another condition that cannot be completely cured. 

The treatment for a dehydrated and weakened cat with Addison’s disease typically involves intravenous fluid therapy and the administration of electrolytes.

7. Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

Finally, white gums can also point to the feline leukemia virus. This is a contagious disease that is passed from one cat to another through blood and saliva, and even through urine and feces.

A cat may seem to be perfectly healthy and still could infect another cat with the feline leukemia virus.

Besides white gums and anemia in general, an affected cat will usually have symptoms such as fever and weakness. Over time, a cat’s immune system will become disrupted and it’s likely that the cat will also develop various other diseases.

How To Help?

FeLV is another condition that cannot be completely cured. It’s possible to alleviate the symptoms in a cat with antibiotics, antiviral drugs, and electrolytes.

Also, affected cats should have vitamin supplements to strengthen their immune system.

Regrettably, some cats will have severe symptoms and their life quality will be too impaired. This is a type of situation where veterinarians advise euthanasia as the only noble option.

Conclusion

I don’t want to scare you, but it’s important for all of you to understand that white gums aren’t normal in cats.

A healthy cat’s gum should be pink, so, any other color in general isn’t something you want to see.

My advice here is to have your cat checked as soon as you notice white gums in it. Most likely, you’ll also notice additional symptoms of distress and pain in your cat.

Since the symptoms of most of these conditions overlap, the only right thing to do is to take your pet to a veterinary clinic.

References:

[1]  Saleh, M.N., Sundstrom, K.D., Duncan, K.T. et al. Show us your ticks: a survey of ticks infesting dogs and cats across the USA. Parasites Vectors 12, 595 (2019). DOI, Retrieved November 28, 2023.