The oral health of our patients at the clinic has always been a priority as a lot of dental disease is picked up at routine health examinations without the owner being aware that anything was wrong. Cats being cats they do not like to let you know they are in any discomfort and a lot of cats we see have some major pathology yet are still eating and seeming to be behaving as normal. Cats try to hide everything!!
Cue Marmalade – our 17-year-old ginger DSH whom we have had since he was a 1 year old stray.
As an older cat, it was easy to put the fact that his coat becoming a bit matted was down to his underlying arthritis.
Also, he is the softest loveable creature when he’s being cuddled and stroked but the minute he thinks he is being examined or treated he turns into the demon tiger from hell… sound familiar?…
All of this goes into the mix as to why we haven’t been following our own advice, monthly checks, and toothbrushing his teeth daily.
He was eating normally with both dry and wet food however when we decided we really must practice what we preach and attempted to look at his teeth we were appalled that we had not noticed an obvious area of inflammation that looked like resorption – a condition cats get where the teeth become very fragile and can break leaving a sore exposed area in the mouth which is very painful.
The only way to treat this sort of dental disease is by extraction of the affected teeth under general anaesthetic.
It’s always a worry when any animal gets older and requires an anaesthetic but we attempted to minimise the risk by performing blood tests before the operation to assess his kidney and liver function, check his electrolytes were balanced and make sure he wasn’t anaemic or dehydrated. We also make sure as much as we can that there were no underlying disease processs that would need to be stabilised prior to a general anaesthetic like hyperthyroidism or diabetes.
To support his blood pressure during the anaesthetic he was put on fluids directly into his front leg vein which also allows for quick access for any drugs to be given by this route.
One of the major issues with any animal under anaesthetic is that they can become hypothermic ( too cold) so to avoid this we use a heat mat and special blanket to retain body heat and keep their body temperature above 37 degrees Celsius.
Wrapping one of the SimplyCats vet clinic patients in a special heat-retaining blanket.
Marmalade looking very warm and comfortable on the operating table at Simply Cats Clinic
Another issue in cats under anaesthetic is their blood pressure can fall so this is regularly checked along with heart rate, breathing rate and blood oxygen percentage.
The good news for Marmalade was that he was nicely stable as monitored by our excellent RVNs… Kelly then Tanya (dental procedures can be long …)
We perform dental radiography to assess all of the teeth as often the disease is present below the gum line and what can look normal on the outside is actually a very unhealthy painful tooth. But as always cats hide their pain very well.
However, just imagine the pain of toothache all the time!
This X-ray shows the badly diseased tooth, with the top fractured off and the black circle outlines the diseased root. This must be very painful to the cat.
Specialist Dental X-rays being taken at Simply Cats in Tyne and Wear.
Extractions are performed using a surgical technique to ensure all of the root is removed as leaving any remnants can cause further issues. A suture material that dissolves over time is used to stitch the gum across the extraction site.
Careful examination of Marmalades teeth.
Thankfully Marmalade only needed a few of his molar teeth removed so he still gets to keep his canines (which my hands can testify to when medicating him).
He recovered well and stayed on his drip until home time and has completed his course of pain relief.
We managed to comb the tats out of his coat before he woke up – not grooming properly can be a subtle sign of dental pain so will monitor him closely for this.
He has forgiven us for taking him to the clinic I think because he feels so much better. He’s playing with our other cat and seems much more energetic, probably because he is no longer in discomfort so although we thought he was “normal” the difference now shows he probably was compromised.
We hope our story gives you an insight into how cats can seem to be well but can be hiding things and also what we do to try to ensure the safety and comfort of all our patients, during what is often a very complex procedure.
SO TAKE HOME MESSAGE for all cat owners we all need to spot these cases EARLY!
The Healthy Cats KISS
1. With Cats keep everything AMAZINGLY simple.
2. Once a month check your cats’ weight (step on scales add cat, repeat and subtract first weight from second) Ideally send this to Simply Cats, with your name and the cat’s name to update your cats record.
3. Have a careful but quick look in your cat’s mouth and take two well-lit images of both sides of the mouth with the gum held back so we can see the molars ( 2 person task, video to follow NOTE a few cats will not let you do this easily)! Send pics to Simply Cats for our nurses to have a look for FREE.
4. Spend 30 seconds doing a quick physical exam see this video on our web site.
5. Your Cat is checked once or twice a year by a Vet who likes cats and sees lots of cats.
This is it, the Ultimate Keep It Simple Guide to having a Happy Healthy Cat, even if he or she hides everything!!
Bonus points if you get your cat insured and join the practice health plan, plus regular flea and worm control.
As always if you have any questions about any points raised in this story please contact the practice.
Please contact our friendly experienced team on 0191 385 9696