Cat flea allergy and Gingivitis

by Charlotte

Hi I'm in need of some help for my 2 year old tabby cat Marley.

Marley started with his flea allergy at about 6 months and the vet's answer is just to give him a steroid shot each time he gets really bad, which is only in the summer months. I always de-flea him but, as you know, there's no flea stuff out there that stops them trying to bite.

In the last 6 months he has started suffering from gingivitis. Now the vet is telling me there is nothing they can do apart from manage it because the problem is with his gums, not his teeth? They gave Marley a steroid shot or something to fight the infection but yet, when I asked why he still has gingivitis in his mouth, they said that's okay as long as it doesn't seem to bother him.

Now they are telling me somehow the flea allergy and gingivitis is linked? What can I do for my poor baby? My insurance doesn't cover me for his flea allergy as he already had that when I got it.

Dear Charlotte,

Thank you for writing in with your questions about your cat’s health.

You didn't say if the steroid shot that has been given to your cat in summer for his cat flea allergy is just given once or given multiple times. If the steroid injection is only given once, this, as a form of treating flea allergy symptoms, is not as bad as your cat receiving these shots multiple times across a period of just a few months. In general, steroid shots are not the best thing for cats, as cats can develop diabetes and other serious conditions from receiving steroids.

To control your cat’s flea allergy, it is best to eliminate the flea problem. It is not exactly true that you cannot prevent flea bites. Using a cat flea medication such as Frontline or Advantage has proven to prevent flea bites in cats. However, if you say that this is not possible because your cat goes outside and therefore, despite monthly cat flea medication treatments, gets bites from fleas anyway, it sounds as though your cat would benefit from being kept indoors with such a severe cat flea allergy.

As far as your cat’s mouth goes, I don't have enough information about your cat’s gingivitis and the condition of his mouth without seeing your cat in person, but it sounds like your veterinarian is saying that cleaning his teeth won't do any good because there is no plaque buildup on the teeth themselves. This may or may not be true, and can depend greatly on the individual cat. If you haven't tried a thorough cleaning with appropriate antibiotics and steroids as follow-up, this should be done.

Flea allergy and gum disease are not necessarily linked at all. The causes of chronic gingivitis in cats are controversial and still being researched. That being said, there are cats out there that never get over feline gum disease until all of their teeth are pulled. Of course, this is done as a last resort after all other possible treatments have been exhausted. While this may sound drastic and appalling, cats that don't respond to any other forms of feline gingivitis treatment can be greatly helped by full-mouth extractions. Cats can live very long, happy lives and eat well with no teeth, and for these cats, it is better to have a healthy mouth with no teeth than an unhealthy, infected mouth.

I would recommend seeking a second opinion from another veterinarian and discussing the various treatment options for your cat’s health problems.

All the best,
Dr. Neely

Return to The Role of Cat Flea Medicine in Feline Allergies.