Dental Hygiene at Fault

Fourth in a series

By day 2 of Gucci’s recovery her temperature had risen to a healthy 101.2 degrees. Her grumbling and complaining, as we gently syringed warm saline through her abdominal tubes, came as no surprise. We’d known this tortoise shell kitty from her previous bouts of barfing. Feline racism is never tolerated but, well, torties are often cranky.

I didn’t shoulder this task alone. Our veterinary nurse Hazen spoke gently to our patient as he offered her a veritable smorgasbord of gastronomic delights, which she delicately sampled one lick at a time. Gucci would never let on that she appreciated his kindness but she recovered nicely and went home in just a few days. Success in plucking her from the precipice was thanks enough.

Multiple intestinal tears in kitties most often result from a “linear foreign body.” If a cat is lucky, this stuff bunches-up and moves along uneventfully but if one end of the string gets caught in a loop of intestine, it doesn’t go anywhere. As the guts’ natural peristaltic movements attempt to push a length-wise string toward the rear end it stays in one place, sawing holes in the moving intestinal walls. Without surgery to repair the damage, leaked bacteria kill these unlucky pets.

Gucci’s family was committed to avoiding a repeat of this harrowing saga so they engaged their sleuthing skills in hunting down the culprit. No linear material was found lying around but a bathroom waste basket had been tossed just a few days earlier. And so I asked, “Jerri, does your family floss regularly?” With her healthy set of choppers I already knew. With its tiny bits of food attached, the used dental floss Gucci discovered was a toy she just couldn’t resist. It almost ended her life.

It was a few months later, with Gucci’s near death experience well behind us. The year was 1977, an era when many young people wore their hair long but mine just grew big. When another of our nurses returned from an appointment at Jerri’s hair salon she recounted how our client had expressed her gratitude for saving her cat but then went on to ask a rather personal question, “Why does Dr. Nichol wear that silly wig?”
For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website,

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.