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Open wide and say meow!

on October 29, 2012 - 10:18am


The grey skies and what I think of as ‘Dickensian’ foggy atmosphere makes me want to copy the cats in my life more than ever; snuggle up in a warm bed and snooze and just wake up long enough to eat or groom.  Bliss! 

Now that most of our feline companions have ventured indoors, and have us to wait on them hand and foot, it becomes difficult to imagine them hunting to survive or being the target of a larger predator.  Let me tell you, even the poshest persian or the most refined ragdoll still has the same instincts as their wild counterparts.  This is why they are so good at hiding signs of illness or pain. Being solitary hunters, who would benefit from a distress call?  Any outward indications of weakness would be life-threatening when faced with a predator.  As a result, the often asked question. ‘is my cat in pain?’  isn’t very easy to answer.

Owners are often taken by surprise when during a routine check up, I discover their cats have significant dental disease.  Often these cats are eating normally and do not appear to be in pain.  Nevertheless, during a full oral examination, under general anaesthesia, gently touching a tooth or an area of gum with a dental explorer, ellicits tooth chattering or a rapid elevation in heart rate, indicative of severe pain.  Moreover, a week or two after a cat has received dental treatment, owners report huge improvements in grooming and overall demeanor, suggesting that their cats were in discomfort.

Dental disease is extremely common in cats, and in most cases, by the time I identify issues, professional dentistry is required.  This is because the mouth is often too uncomfortable for us to be able to attempt home hygiene, and teeth may need to be extracted or  the teeth are coated in tartar (mineralised plaque) which needs to be carefully removed and the tooth surface polished, to eliminate microscopic fractures, which harbour plaque.

There is a tendency for owners to put off their cat’s dentistry, often due to lack of outward signs, as mentioned.  Concerns about subjecting older cats to anaesthesia are often raised.  A future blog post will be specifically  about our anaesthetic expertise, but rest assured, we wouldn’t advise dentistry in a patient that we felt wouldn’t benefit from the procedure.  I often make recommendations, such as pre-dentistry blood screens or urine sampling  to plan the anaesthetic as safely as possible.

The longer the teeth are left, the worse the dental disease is going to be, and therefore the work needing to be done to treat the cat will be more extensive, requiring a longer anaesthetic and greater cost to the owner.

Continuing October’s success, we have extended our offer of free dental checks to all our clients, during November.  Call reception to book your cat in to see Mini or Georgina.

Part 2 will discuss why we use dental x-rays at the clinic, and the skillful dental techniques that we use to treat tooth and gum problems.

Specific dental diseases in cats and more information can be found on the BVDA website, or this FAB article.