Fluffy is a 19 year old, 5 pound female cat. Her appetite has been very poor and she has been losing weight over the last year. She has had repeated cycles of antibiotics for her periodontal disease (receded gum lines and infection). On physical exam the only abnormalities are a heart murmur and being underweight. Her senior blood and urine profile looks amazing for a 19 year old cat. She has not had a corrective dental cleaning because her owner is terrified of putting a geriatric cat under anesthesia.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this and it breaks my heart. I can’t stand to think about this little cat spending every day in pain because of her oral disease that is so easily treated. I know dental procedures can be very expensive and I am not discounting that at all but if you are making the decision not to treat your cats oral disease because of fear of anesthesia please read the following and reconsider.
Dental care is such an important part of wellness for aging cats. Oral disease is an often overlooked cause of significant morbidity in the older cat and can contribute to a general decline in attitude and overall health. A complete oral exam, plus the owner’s observation of eating behavior can help clarify dental problems. Cats with oral pain may be thin, drop their food, chew on one side, eat more slowly, eat less, or show less interest in food. And sometimes there is significant dental disease and there are no sign other than the cat sleeps a lot.
Age or the presence of other chronic conditions should not exclude the treatment of dental. Avoiding treatment of painful dental conditions diminishes quality and length of life.
Although increasing age, poor health status, and extremes of weight are identified risk factors during anesthesia, mature and older cats can be successfully anesthetized. Precautions to help ensure a safe recovery include but are not limited to the following.
1. Tailor pre-anesthetic testing and preparation to the individual cat’s clinical condition
2. Treat any medical conditions prior to anesthesia if possible
3. Use IV fluids appropriately
4. Monitor blood pressure throughout the anesthetic procedure.
5. Monitor body temperature. All pets are prone to low temperatures during anesthesia but especially those with low body fat. Use of hot air blankets, circulating water pads, and booties are very important to maintain other vital signs as well (heart rate, blood pressure).
6. Pain management. Giving pain control before the painful procedure helps lower the amount of anesthetic drugs needed
7. Gentle handling is very important for older cats with sore joints and exposed pressure points.
At Chico Hospital for Cats we take all these things into consideration and develop the appropriate anesthetic plan for each individual patient. I hope this information will help make you more aware of your cat’s oral health and put you at ease about the need for anesthesia. I have seen miraculous improvements in quality of life in geriatric cats after resolving their periodontal disease and pain. A frequent response from my clients is “He/she is acting like a kitten again! I can’t believe what a difference this has made”.