Thorough Dental Treatment is Essential

Question:
Our cat is 10 years of age and lately started to salivate a lot, having trouble eating and her tongue slightly protruding. Don’t know if she is in pain but sleeps a lot. My problem now is worrying if it is dangerous to give her anesthesia for dental scaling .Her veterinarian said her gums are severely infected and one tooth appeared to have broken off. Please help me in my dilemma .My daughter is so attached to her and worried.

Dr. Nichol:
I understand your concern for your cat’s anesthetic safety but there is a serious downside if you make the wrong choice. Without dental care her kidneys, heart, and immune system will suffer, ultimately shortening her life as her misery worsens by the day.

At age 10 this kitty would not be considered elderly, unless her medical history indicates organ damage. Modern anesthesia is reliable but an abundance of caution is always in order. A blood and urine profile should be checked first. Monitoring blood pressure, pulse oxygenation, and ECG and administering IV fluids during the procedure should give your beloved kitty a good margin of safety.

Dr. Kris Bannon is a board certified veterinary dental specialist practicing in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The good doctor was kind enough to weigh-in. “Having trouble eating and increasing salivation are often signs of chronic dental or oral pain. It is good that you noticed, however, some cats have severe, painful problems and show no obvious signs. If the gums are severely infected, it is very likely that there are problems with the teeth underneath the gums. The teeth should be cleaned and x-rayed. If the gums are the problem, cleaning the teeth and keeping up with the plaque buildup may resolve the problem. How do you “keep up with the plaque”? By brushing the teeth! Yep, in a cat! If the teeth are not healthy, removing them is often the best treatment. Some broken teeth can be saved by doing root canal therapy, allowing the cat to keep using the tooth without pain or infection.”

The upshot: If you want to keep this special cat you must have her infected mouth treated aggressively. Frankly, there is no other responsible choice.