PLASMA CELL STOMATITIS (FELINE)
(also called “Lymphoplasmacytic Stomatitis” or “LPS,”
A general physical examination involves an inspection of the teeth and mouth, provided that the patient is of a cooperative nature. We see plaque build-up, tartar, missing teeth and all sorts of dental conditions that result from a lifetime of basically no toothbrush use (sadly, the norm for cats) but sometimes we see a very special type of gingivitis. In this situation, the gums are bright red and inflamed especially in the area in the back of the mouth where the upper and lower jaws hinge together. This area is called the "palatoglossal arch" or sometimes the "fauce."
The picture on the left shows a cat photographed mid-yawn. The teeth show fairly moderate to heavy tartar deposits but the soft tissues of the mouth are relatively normal. This cat needs his teeth cleaned but probably, beyond some periodontal disease, he does not have any major oral problems.
The cat on the right has plasma cell stomatitis. The gums are puffy, red, and irritated. The teeth have already been extracted in treatment of this condition. The area where the inflammation centers is the "fauce," which is the area in the back of the mouth where the upper and lower jaws come together. Often this area is so painful that the cat can hardly open its mouth, will hardly eat or groom him/herself, and will have stinky breath.
A biopsy is necessary to confirm the diagnosis of plasma cell stomatitis but the inflammation in the area of the fauce area is often used as the sole diagnostic criterion.
HOW DO CATS GET THIS DISEASE?
HOW DO WE TREAT IT?
No single treatment seems to be appropriate for every patient but the basic principles in treating feline caudal stomatitis involve: plaque control, inflammation control, pain control, and nutritional support.
FULL MOUTH EXTRACTIONS
Though it may seem dramatic, the best way to control the on-going oral reaction in this situation is to extract the teeth. Generally, all the molars and premolars (all the teeth from the fangs back to the throat) must be removed including any root tips. Some cats must have the fangs and the tiny incisors between the fangs removed as well but most cats are controlled with just back teeth extractions.
Full mouth extractions may seem extreme but this approach yields the best long term results for most patients. In one study of cats with plasma cell stomatitis that had their molars and premolars extracted, 20% were improved to a point where medication could control the pain and inflammation and 60% were cured outright with no further treatment needed. The 60% number was increased to 90% when the canine teeth (fangs) were extracted as well.
Most of the cats that did not do well with full mouth extraction had been on medical management for months to years prior to extraction (there is a point where the inflammation is too well seated for extraction to work). The take-home lesson is not to consider full mouth extraction to be a last resort but to pursue it early in the course of the condition so as to get the best possible results.
Cyclosporine, another immune modulating medication, is gaining popularity for the treatment of caudal stomatitis inflammation. This product is available as an oral liquid and has fewer associated side effects compared to the steroids. Rapid results are not seen as with the steroids but sometimes they are given together so that the cyclosporine has had time to reach its peak effect just as the steroid injection is waning.
Bacterial infection complicates plasma cell stomatitis so antibiotics such as clavamox or clindamycin are often prescribed, sometimes for long term use (at least 4 weeks). These antibiotics are especially good for oral infections as they especially target anaerobic bacteria that live in the mineralized plaque covering the teeth. Other antibiotics that might be recommended include: metronidazole, doxycycline, and azithromycin. A long-acting injectable antibiotic called "cefovecin" (Convenia®) is often used since no oral manipulation is needed and one injection lasts two weeks precluding manipulation of a very painful mouth.
During a particularly painful flare up sometimes a fentanyl patch is helpful for pain control. This is a small plastic patch that is generally applied to the back of a foot. It releases a continuous supply of pain relief for 5-7 days. Buprenorphine is another popular pain reliever for caudal stomatitis patients as it requires less oral manipulation; the liquid is simply squirted into the mouth and is absorbed directly with actual swallowing being unnecessary.
MISCELLANEOUS MEDICATIONS / TREATMENTS
Pentoxifylline is a medication which helps red blood cells become more flexible thus allowing oxygen to be carried deeper into damaged tissues to facilitate healing. It is emerging as an adjunctive treatment for caudal stomatitis.
Maropitant citrate (Cerenia®) was developed as a strong anti-nauseal but its unique mechanism of regulating the interaction of Substance P and the N-K Receptor has led to the discovery of numerous uses for this medication. It appears to have pain relieving properties and anti-inflammatory properties beyond its stomach settling ones.
Other therapies to try might include the use of interferon omega, an immune modulator that theoretically helps normalize immune reactions. This treatment has been effective for cats needing adjunctive therapy after extractions yield only partial improvement but it is not available in North America.
Bovine Lactoferrin is a natural compound that is similarly immunomodulating and antibacterial. It can be formulated by a compounding pharmacy into a palatable liquid. Bovine Lactoferrin is used to bathe the tissues of the mouth. Initial studies showed a large percentage of affected cats responded at least partially.
It is important to remember that medical management is not the first choice approach for most patients and that medications tend to get less and less effective over time. Extractions are best done early. Medication is helpful to get long-standing pain controlled quickly and as a supplement to patients who do not respond completely to extraction.
Hypoallergenic Diets are single protein source diets or even hydrolyzed protein source diets used in the diagnosis and management of food allergy. While plasma cell stomatitis is not a food allergy, there is theory that food antigens may be involved in generating oral inflammation. Using a hypoallergenic diet limits antigen exposure which may be helpful.
Page last updated: 10/28/2023