Today’s cats live a lot longer than their free-living ancestors not just because of advances in nutrition and medical care. Their people are getting educated and paying closer attention.
A research paper, recently published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, evaluated the link between feline dental disease and kidney failure. The steady release of inflammatory products from chronically inflamed gums inflicts long term damage on the kidneys. The risk increases with age.
Tartar buildup is a fact of life for anybody who eats. The chewing motion packs these deposits against the gums and, later, beneath the gum line. The resulting inflammation leads to red, swollen gums with infections and tooth loss right around the corner. These cats are painful. They groom less and lose weight as their kidneys spiral downhill. Dental cleaning, early in the process, makes a big difference in staying ahead of these train wrecks.
As America’s feline population ages veterinarians see more kitties with marginal kidneys, essential organs that become increasingly vulnerable to inflammation elsewhere in the body. Annual physical exams are important for all cats but if yours has an AARP card or gets senior discounts at movie theaters he needs special care. A thorough exam every 6 months and a yearly blood and urine profile can help us recognize problems early.
End-stage treatment isn’t fun for anybody. I wish cats could speak a human language but even if they did I doubt they would sit their people down for a proper discussion. Most prefer to suffer in silence. They like to look tough, being natural predators and all, but they are also a prey species. Being small creatures who could be someone else’s wild-caught dinner, kitties instinctively hide their disabilities. House cats and their feral brethren are genetically programmed to hunker down and try to power through illnesses and injuries on their own.
Your cat needs you to slowly and gently raise her lips for a good look at the sides of all of her teeth. Brown stuff near the gum line is not her friend. Go to facebook.com/drjeffnichol for photos comparing healthy kitty teeth with those needing treatment. Knowledge is power.
Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.