What are Rodent Ulcers and How to Heal Them?

Copy Rebecca Blankenship

When I adopted Oswald two years ago, he had a auto-immune disorder called eosinophilic granuloma. What on earth is that? In simple terms it is a rodent ulcer, and no it doesn’t actually comes from rodents.

They start as a yellow or pink shiny spot that becomes an open sore on the upper lip, it can develop on either side. Sometimes, rarely, it forms on the bottom lower lip or along the back of the jaw near the molars. It can spread to the tongue and the hard palate. Some cat’s show discomfort and pain while others don’t even seem to notice a difference. Oswald is the latter, his swollen lips don’t bother him at all, he still headbutts anything and rubs his cheeks onto everything.

The name rodent ulcer comes from times long ago where mouser cats would develop these ulcers, people thought they were from the rodents biting the cats. Which we know now is completely untrue, but the name has stuck all this time. The exact cause of rodent ulcer is unknown, however there are plenty of contributing factors into the development of the ulcers.

1. Allergies, such as an allergy to food, fleas, or pollens and other things in the environment.

2. There has been some research that seems to indicate that at least some cases may be genetic in origin.

3. There have been other studies that implicate an autoimmune reaction as the possible cause. Autoimmune diseases occur when the body sees some part of itself as foreign.

I have spent many many nights researching trying to find a ‘cure’ to Oswald’s ulcers, finding a cure is hard. As each case is different in each cat, some cats clear up after being given a shot of Depo-medrol, others clear up all on their own. Unfortunately Oswald’s don’t clear up ever, he has good days and then bad days.

When I adopted him, I was given a bottle of 5mg prednisone and told to give it to him twice daily on the bad days and slowly ween him off. I did this religiously every time he flared up, also when there was stressful situations in the house. (Stress can be a huge catalyst to having the lip swell badly). But still, the ulcer never went, always there, always swollen. So there had to be something else triggering the swelling, and in most cases there are underlying contributing factors in many rodent ulcer cases. My sleepless nights wanting to ‘cure’ Oswald led to these findings,

  1. He is SUPER allergic to chicken. When he got any sort of treats with chicken in it, he rips clumps of his fur out due to the itchiness. As well his lips swells so drastically it will split and start to bleed. So going chicken free household was a no brainer seeing as George was already allergic to chicken too.
  2. Playing with toys that involved, tugging, and or chewing on harder materials just tore up his lip. So everything was replace with soft plush toys.
  3. Flea medicine can cause a flair up as well. Seeing as Oswald is an inside cat, I stopped talking him to vet to get his advantage drops. This alone seemed to help clear up the lip a bit, I figured afterwards he must have been grooming where the drops were somehow and ingesting the drops.
  4. Always have a clean bowl for each meal time. This helped dramatically. I would clean his bowl about once a week, then I started to give him a clean bowl per day. That helped shrink the swelling, then I furthered it by a clean bowl each meal time. And oh my gosh did that improve his lip, such a simple thing helped so much. Also make sure you are either using a metal or porcelain bowl. Plastic is not good for animals period.
  5. Adding l-lysine to his pill time regime. He gets one 500mg pill in the morning, and another 500mg at night. L-lysine is an amino acid booster, and actually helps with humans who have cold sores virus too!
  6. Minimizing stress. I know controlling the houses environment isn’t always easy. If I know I’m not going to be at the house for a couple of days or if company is staying over, I up his prednisone dosage to 10mg per day.

My methods aren’t fool proof and me and Oswald are constantly learning how to maintain and manage his lip struggles, recently though he was yawning and I noticed a pink shiny spot on his hard palate. I instantly started freaking out, the ulcer had spread to the roof of his mouth.

Now rodent ulcer’s ARE NOT contagious and two cats can drink from the same water bowl no issues, however it can spread within the cat. We made an appointment with the vet to get this checked out to make sure it was the rodent ulcer and not something else happening. She confirmed it was the rodent ulcer on the hard palate, how long it has been there I am not sure nor did she know cause there were no previous notes. We talked about the different supplements I currently am including into Oswald’s diet and she was happy to hear how proactive I am trying to cure this ulcer.

She said in Oswald’s case there will be no ‘cure’ only healing and maintaining the already damaged tissue and preventing infections. Not quite the news I wanted to hear, as I searched for so long for a cure, but knowing that he is doing good and I am doing a good job at keeping him healthy is good news in itself.


2 thoughts on “What are Rodent Ulcers and How to Heal Them?”

  • I have a cat same problem. rodent ulcer will not subside. Can i ask how long is safe to have cat on pred with out becoming diabetic. My cat like oswald never heals. I keep researching. George

    • Hi George,

      From my research how long a cat stays on prednisone depends on the health/age of the cat. The rescue I got Oswald from had many cases where the cat was on the pred for their entire life and never developed diabetes.

      With prednisone you have to watch the food intake on the cat, the medicine makes the cats hungrier there for eating and crying for more food. Oswald can balloon up 4lbs in a week if we do not watch and maintain a strict feeding schedule.

      Always make sure you have fresh water down for the cat!

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