Cat Swollen Lip (Lower, Upper) – Causes and Remedies

Cat swollen lips
A cat's swollen lower or upper lips can mean any of the different reasons discussed here.

Unusual injuries and changes on your cat’s face can be worrying. Like me, you may be wondering what’s causing your cat’s lips to start swelling. So, I went digging for information and I found out common possible causes of this condition.

Swollen lips in cats are usually caused by a condition called eosinophilic granuloma complex. You can’t rule out other reasons such as allergic reactions, feline acne, injuries or even dental problems. Remedies and treatment options will depend on the root cause.

Why is my cat’s lip swollen?

When parts of the body become swollen it’s usually a sign of infection and inflammation. However, the reason for this issue is more difficult to ascertain. A few of the possible causes for a cat’s swollen lip include:

1. Eosinophilic Granuloma Complex

EGC may look a lot like an allergic reaction upon initial inspection, even to a trained veterinarian. That’s mostly because EGC is an umbrella term for a condition which some felines carry that makes them allergic to flea and tick bites. Sometimes EGC will be linked with a skin condition called ‘rodent ulcers’ which has nothing to do with rodents.

Although, it’s cause and occurrence is somewhat of a mystery, rodent ulcers are often to linked to an insufficient white blood cell count. Rodent ulcers may look a lot like an infection or acne, which is why it’s important to request the professional opinion of your vet.

You’ll know if this is what’s ailing your cat if:

  • The swelling is accompanied by an oozing, yellow abscess
  • They (or another household pet) recently contracted fleas or ticks
  • They are irritable and itching persistently at the area

2. Allergic reaction

Allergies can affect a cat in many ways, causing them to develop rashes and swelling in a number of places, sometimes not even in places where the product they are allergic to touched them.

It can even cause them to sneeze, just like us! In more serious cases, the entire facial area, not just a lip, could become swollen and be an early sign of anaphylactic shock. In which case, you should call or visit your cat’s veterinarian immediately. Their swollen lip is likely an allergic reaction if accompanied by:

  • The recent introduction of a new food or medication
  • Sneezing and/or a runny nose

3. Injury

There’ s a reason why videos of cats are some of the most popular on the Internet: they’re entertaining and unpredictable. While very graceful and elegant, cats can also be, oddly enough, clumsy and skittish, causing them to run into things and fall off furniture and ledges.
You’ll know if swelling is due to this if:

  • They recently took a fall or ran into something
  • The swollen limp is accompanied by limping, which could imply a tumble occurred

4. Feline acne

No, your cat isn’t going to start rebelling and listening to angsty music. Despite acne’s reputation as something exclusively for teens, both humans, and yes, cats can experience acne issues at any age. Acne is most commonly seen around a cat’s mouth and could be the result of bacteria from their food bowl. It’s likely acne causing lip swelling if:

  • The inflammation looks like pimples: multiple red bumps on or around the mouth
  • The inflammation looks like dirt (it’s likely these are blackheads)
  • The swollen lip is accompanied by loss of fur

5. Dental issues

Sometimes a swollen upper or lower lip could mean something is internally affecting them. In this case, it’s usually something to do with their teeth. This could be an infection from something stuck in their tooth or a rotting tooth, as well as many other dental problems, such as stomatitis, which is an extremely painful mouth ulcer.  You’ll know if this is what’s causing your cat’s swollen lip if:

  • Their breath smells worse than usual
  • They’re not interested in eating or eat slowly, cautiously
  • Their gums are red or potentially bleeding
  • They express irritation when you attempt to pet or scratch their chin

6. Lymphatic, skin, or oral cavity cancer

Oral masses affect all animals, of any age, breed, species. Sometimes the development of an abscess is completely benign, and other times, it’s an early sign of cancer.

Causes of feline oral masses are not predictable or known, which is why it’s important to gain the professional opinion of your cat’s veterinarian if you find suspicious swelling. You won’t know if the swollen lip is a tumor or not until you visit your vet’s office where they’ll likely perform a biopsy (testing of a removed sample of the skin from the swollen area).

Is it possible for only the lower lip to be swollen?

Yes, it’s possible for only the top lip, only the bottom lip, as well as both to be inflamed.

Any combination of these issues is either the result of where they were bitten, where their skin is interacting with something they’re allergic to or a kind of bacteria that’s upsetting the skin, or else a random protrusion with no rhyme or reason for its placement.

Treatment options

Different treatments will be implemented based on the source of your cat’s swollen lip. If you’re unable to discover the culprit for the facial swelling, with a few questions, medical history, and tests, your vet will be able to determine the underlying issue and thus suggest any of the following treatments.

Prescription steroid injections

Eosinophilic Granuloma Complex is often treated with steroid injections or prescription. It’s likely that a cat with EGC will be on medication or receive injections for their lifetime, although intermittently.

The only real danger to this condition is the possibility of infection which is avoided by keeping a close eye on the inflamed area to ensure further swelling, discoloration, open wound, or pus don’t occur.

Dietary adjustment

The best treatment for an allergy that’s causing swelling is to determine the source and then eradicate it. Skin testing (or intradermal allergy testing), although a relatively expensive and invasive, the procedure is not only the quickest but also highly efficient way to learn all your pet’s allergies.

The intradermal procedure usually costs around $200 to $300 and will involve lightly sedating your pet, the removal of a patch of their fur, and the injection of several possible irritants. Items they are not allergic to will leave the skin looking normal, otherwise, inflamed injection sites equate to an allergic reaction and are noted.

If your cat’s swollen upper or lower lip is proven to be linked to an allergy, then your vet may be more likely to recommend skin testing as swelling as an allergy symptom would constitute a severe allergy where possible throat swelling and closer could occur and be fatal.

If the allergies aren’t a cause of major worry to you or discomfort to your feline friend, you can ask your vet about the process of an elimination diet, which will involve slowly, through the process of elimination, determining what is causing the allergic reaction.

Anti-inflammatory medications

Treatment for this kind of facial swelling may include a closer look in order to form a concrete diagnosis. It’s likely your vet will want to take a close look at any facial swelling as the result of fall just to rule out any further or internal damage.

Swelling from injury is the body’s natural response to treating and healing itself, so the vet’s office is likely to prescribe something to help with inflammation and pain.

Use antibacterial soap

Feline acne isn’t typically a cause for worry for many pet-owners. Treating this non-threatening issue is as simple as introducing an antibacterial soap into your cat’s grooming routine. And while they may hate the water and suds, they certainly appreciate a new, glowing complexion.

Occasionally, bouts of acne can become infected. This is when treatment will call for a prescription from your pet’s veterinarian for an antibiotic, either in topical, suppository, or oral form.

You can also prevent many regular bacterial infections in felines by using a natural antibiotic in your regime.

Note: Your kitty’s food bowl can sometimes be the cause for their acne, especially if the acne tends to sprout where they may rest their chin when eating or drinking. If this is the case, try glass or metal bowls in place of plastic ones and wash them regularly to rid of lingering bacteria and germs.

Dental procedures

Animal dentistry may not be the most prominent business, but it does exist. A cat’s oral health is a major determining factor for the general health they’ll experience during their geriatric years.

Years of built-up plaque and tartar lead to decay which can affect the entire mouth leading to the removal of all teeth. The cost of the procedure will be quite the bill and that’s nothing compared to having to watch your pet go through a painful and long recovery after the surgery.

If the swollen lip is the result of oral issues, the best treatment will involve the x-rays (to find the problem fang) and possibly the excavation of a cavity or split tooth. Preventative treatment for these issues will be recommended once your cat is cavity-free, such as routine cleaning using chlorhexidine.

Your vet may also advise adding texture to your pet’s diet. As natural predators, cat’s are meant to chew and sift through the bones and tough meat of their prey which not only naturally cleans (flosses) the teeth but also strengthens them.

Chemotherapy and radiation for cancer

Diagnosis of cancer is the initial step before attempting to treat anything. This will usually involve ruling out any of other possible causes for the facial swelling in cats and then attempting to locate the tumor. It’s important to note that growths can be cancerous or benign.

Since your cat is already experiencing a swollen lip, it’s likely this will take a lot of guesswork out of the diagnosis for the veterinarian staff and they will perform a few x-rays to better locate the tumor.

Depending on whether lymphoma (one of the most common cancers to plague felines) or another form of cancer, whether it’s skin or oral, your veterinarian will utilize both or either chemotherapy as well as radiation.

While both of these terms are frightening to hear, especially in relation to your beloved pet, but these treatments are designed and personalized based on your pet’s need while limiting any disruption to their quality of life.

Treating cancer will involved settled visits to the vet in which you will drop them off and pick them back up; during their time with the veterinary staff, the animal will be given a physical to review how their dealing with the therapy, blood samples will be taken to ascertain their white blood cell count, and then medications will be administered. These drop off appointments, happening once to twice a week, will continue until the prognosis looks positive.

Home remedies

Home remedies should only be considered after you’ve visited the vet and received their professional opinion on the matter. Because a swollen lip could implicate a number of issues, you should never attempt to treat something yourself, especially since facial inflammation can interrupt your cat’s interest in food.

One home remedy that’s safe to do that may help ease your cat’s swollen lip is applying a cool compress. While most cats may not appreciate this, it’s worth a shot, and worthy of doing while you arrange to visit their veterinarian.

Another option is petting the swollen area in order to increase blood circulation, however, if the area is sore or sensitive (your cat is likely to let you know by letting out a loud yowl or hissing and biting your hand) it’s best to leave it be so you don’t cause further discomfort.

In the case of rodent ulcers, which can become chronic, but is not considered fatal or painful, you may treat it at home. Sometimes even just the introduction of a new nutrient to your cat’s diet may help clear up rodent ulcers and act as a prevention method, as well.

Fatty acids are known to help with inflammation, and while Omegas can be administered in pills or vitamins with pet-approved flavors, you can also give your pet a special treat by serving them fish instead of fish-flavored kibble.

When to see a veterinarian

Any swelling, especially if it occurs randomly and within the facial area, should be checked out by a veterinarian immediately. Because a swollen lip can indicate several different underlying medical conditions, all varying severity, it’s best to know what you’re up against.

If initial diagnosis reveals your cat isn’t suffering from anything life-threatening or especially painful, you may choose to not visit the vet again when/if swelling occurs again. However, it should be noted, that if the quality of your pet’s life at any point degrades as a result of chronic facial swelling, consider talking to their vet about options.

While some animals suffer seasonal allergies just as we do and are likely to experience moderate to mild discomfort but no pain, some may have specific allergies that are likely to cause swelling and discomfort.

Allergies that may affect your cat year-round are more important to treat as they could begin to alter their lifestyles negatively. The discomfort of an allergic reaction may cause them to become inactive and possibly depressed.

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