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Tough Talk About Teeth – Part 2

Feb 10, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

If you missed it: Tough Talk About Teeth – Part 1

Remember Rufus?  He’s the young cat who needed radical dental surgery to correct very diseased teeth and gums.  When he came into my practice, he had the 30 teeth most cats have, but when he left later that evening, not a single one remained.

I was confident he’d do very well, but no one likes to see their cat lose so many teeth.  Even though our typical pampered house pets don’t need to hunt for their meals, teeth still serve a function and this guy’s days of chewing on hard treats or crunchies were going to be a thing of the past.

Does anyone remember getting your wisdom teeth out?  If you had to get them removed by your dentist, you probably don’t have happy memories of the aftercare.  Extractions hurt!  So one of the prime considerations with Rufus was how were we going to control any pain or discomfort during the healing process?  Would he want to eat?  We certainly didn’t want his gums to be so sensitive that even watered down canned food would be too uncomfortable to lap up.

I think most of us tend to put ourselves in our cat’s shoes and imagine how we would feel if we’d had something similar done to us, but that’s not necessarily the best way to approach a problem.  Rufus had no idea that he was supposed to have teeth.  Before his surgery, he was a cat with a serious mouth problem and it affected his life.  What he knew is his mouth really hurt, and eating and grooming wasn’t a pleasure and he could only manage to chew just the minimum amount of food he needed to survive.  Licking his fur meant his tongue was going to move against those inflamed gums, and he knew that the pain and discomfort stopped if he stopped licking.  So that plush and wonderful coat grew matted and dull.  This was his reality.  Bad teeth hurt!

What else happens with bad teeth and infected mouths?  We know in people that mouth inflammation can actually ratchet up the body’s overall level of inflammation, which can result in systemic disturbances, including an increased risk of coronary artery disease.  Could something similar happen in cats?  Perhaps changes might happen in other organs like the sensitive kidneys?  It certainly makes sense.  Could vigilant dental care help protect our cats against other inflammatory diseases?

When we extracted all those diseased teeth and turned off the source of inflammation for those hot and angry gums, we stopped his mouth pain and took away his never-ending discomfort.  It completely eliminated that awful situation.  Unfortunately, though, surgery always creates another source of pain that occurs when any place on the body is cut or injured.  The nice thing is we now have healthy tissue and healing will happen.  All we need to do is make sure to control any mouth-associated discomfort until his gums are completely healed and he is able to eat comfortably.

Rufus took all his pain medications and was a very good patient, and once his parents realized that he didn’t care that he didn’t have any teeth, and that he could and did eat normally, and that he purred exactly the same as he’d always done, well, they were happy too.

I saw Rufus recently for his follow-up visit, and one look at him convinced me that sometimes you really do need to be radical to make progress.  He’d put on that one pound he’d lost before his mouth surgery, and his lovely coat was back to its fluffy and glorious self.  His eyes were bright and shiny, and his whole attitude was more relaxed and friendly.

He was eating normally—and even sneaking a crunchie or two—and much more social and engaging than he’d been for the past year.  In fact, the change was so remarkable that his parents thought that Rufus hadn’t been right for much longer than we’d suspected, and they said they were kicking themselves for not doing the dental work the first time it had been suggested.  It struck them as funny in a way because nothing he had done at home when his mouth was so diseased was obviously indicative of a problem—it was only when the problem was removed that the return of his normal, happy self showed us what an impact discomfort can have on the personality.

This time when I opened his mouth to peek inside, all I saw was pink healthy tissue without a sign of any inflammation.  His breath was fresh and sweet.  And our boy was purring so loudly that the biggest challenge was being able to hear his heart over the noise!

Dr Cathy Lund

Cathy Lund, DVM, owns and operates City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats, a cat practice located in Providence, RI. She is also the board president and founder of the Companion Animal Foundation, a statewide, veterinary-based nonprofit organization that helps low-income pet owners afford essential veterinary care. She lives in Providence, and serves on several architectural and preservation commissions in the city, and is on the board of directors of WRNI, RI’s own NPR station. But her favorite activity is to promote the countless virtues of the “purr-fect” pet, the cat!

City Kitty
18 Imperial Pl # 1B
Providence, RI 02903-4642

Phone: (401) 831-6369
Email: email@city-kitty.com

Website: http://www.city-kitty.com/
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