Pet Dentistry

Cat lower canine tooth with decayed root

I found this little present on my living room carpet Monday morning, prompting me to find out more about pet dentistry. I have raised many cats throughout different phases of my life and consider myself an OK pet owner.  I bring my cats to the veterinarian for neutering, vaccinations and emergency treatment but never thought about cat dentistry. I never had a cat lose a tooth until this week.  I currently have two cats Spike who is 7 years old and Lee who is 6.  Lee was an afterthought, a stray that I took in when he was just a few months old living under a shed in the apartment complex I used to live in. He was infested with ear mites and a little undernourished but with a couple of trips to the vet and some good food, he evolved into the 16 1/2 lb butterball he is today.

In fact Lee is first to remind me when it’s feeding time and I have to feed Spike separately or Lee will eat his food too. Lee has shorter legs and is more solidly build than Spike who is longer, leaner and has a totally different personality. Lee will run and hide when company comes while Spike is more social. When there are no strangers in the house Lee rules the roost, demanding all the attention.

Lee (captured in the two above images), has always had bad breath, not just fishy cat breath but stinky breath. His teeth have always had a yellowish color. I never worried too much about this thinking it was just another genetic difference as the shorter stature and different personality traits.

Lee on the left, Spike on the right

I began to do some research about feline dental problems and found out that cats get gingivitis just like people do but their teeth do not decay the same. Tooth decay in cats is in the root of the tooth and most often goes unnoticed until it is too late.

Tuesday evening, Lee and I paid a visit to the Country Valley Veterinary Clinic at 5877 Route 30 on Amsterdam’s South Side where Dr. Crystal Murray did a full exam.  Not only did the cat have severe gingivitis but also an exposed nerve in an upper tooth where the enamel was worn away, a heart murmur and ear polyps in the right ear that will require surgical removal. The ear polyps are uncommon but are seen mostly in strays with severe ear mite infestations. The symptoms mimic an ear mite infestations with frequent ear scratching and head shaking. The polyp can also have a brownish discharge that mimics ear mite exudate. I  always wondered why I could never get rid of this cat’s ear mites despite what brand of over the counter medication I tried.

I was really impressed with the service I received from the Country Valley Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Murray and her staff took time to explain procedures and answer any questions asked. Country Valley Veterinary Clinic is a welcomed addition to our area giving pet owners the freedom of choice.

An appointment was made for Lee to have both the ear polyps removed and the necessary extraction of decayed teeth. This would have to be done under general anesthesia which could pose a risk to cats with a mild heart murmur. In addition to the pre-operative blood test and mouth x-rays, Dr. Murray asked if I wanted an electrocardiogram done to see if it was safe to put the cat under. At this point I had to ask for an estimate because it began to sound expensive. I had the choice to do nothing and hope for the best, pay for an electrocardiogram that could rule out doing any of the procedures or just do the procedures and hope for the best. I chose the third option. Lee goes in for the procedures mid April.

The question of whether not preventative dentistry would have helped remains a mystery. I’m sure it wouldn’t have done any harm, had I known about it. There are cat teeth cleaning kits that can be purchased with pet safe toothpaste and a mini brush but have you ever tried to brush a cats teeth? I have trouble just getting pills down their throats without getting shred to pieces from their claws. A professional tooth cleaning from a veterinarian or a veterinary dentist (yes they exist), requires general anesthesia and can cost about $100. I get my teeth professionally cleaned for less!

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3 thoughts on “Pet Dentistry

  1. Rob

    You might want to look into pet insurance. I currently use VPI but I think the one offered through the ASPCA is better.

    • According to the vet, most pet insurance will not pay for pre-existing conditions and only cover partial costs.

  2. Alayne

    I agree Jerry, Dr. Murray is the best. Award winning bedside manner! We lover her! It is obvious she has a true passion for animals!

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