Emphasizing the importance of keeping our pets’ teeth and gums healthy, the American Veterinary Medical Association, along with several veterinary groups sponsor the month of February as National Pet Dental Health Month.
Regular dental checkups are essential in order to maintain our cats’ optimum oral health. While periodontal disease is almost completely preventable, it continues to be one of the most common medical conditions in cats. Thus routine annual veterinary dental checkups and cleaning can prevent a host of serious feline dental problems and also helps to maintain our cats’ robust physical health.
Poor oral health can have a serious impact on our kitties’ overall vitality; therefore monitoring our cats for signs of dental disease is a pivotal part of prudent cat care. Common symptoms of feline dental disease that requires prompt veterinary attention are:
Bleeding from the mouth.
- Drooling or dropping food from the mouth.
- Loss of appetite or loss of weight- which can also be the result of multi-system organ disease- requiring prompt veterinary examination.
- The cat shies away when being touched in the mouth area.
- Loose or discolored teeth or teeth covered in tartar.
- Bad breath- which may also be symptomatic of organ disease.
Demonstrating the cost-effectiveness of routine veterinary dental care, a 2013 study conducted by VPI Pet Insurance revealed that the average cost of preventing dental disease in pets was $171.82, but the cost of treating dental disease was $531.71. So why do many kitty guardians either fail or refuse to have their veterinarian provide dental care? Many kitty guardians worry about the possible risks entailed in having their cat put under general anesthesia.
However, to ensure that essential veterinary dental procedures are correctly performed, general anesthesia is necessary. Nevertheless, according to The American Veterinary Dental College, the risk of an anesthetic complication is much lower than the high risk of chronic oral infection. When general anesthesia is administered properly, the risk is extremely low.
Helping to further reduce anesthesia risk, prior to it being administered, a pre-anesthetic assessment is performed which includes blood tests and other necessary tests to help ensure the cat’s safety. The use of modern anesthetic drugs combined with local anesthetic blocks helps to minimize the depth of the required general anesthesia.
Additionally the cat’s response to anesthesia is carefully monitored during any procedures. Many cats recover quickly and within 15-20 minutes following the completion of these procedures are awake and moving about. Most cats are ready to go home within several hours.
Among some of the more innovative dental treatments available today is Root Canal Therapy and reconstructive surgery. These treatments are now being performed routinely by veterinary practitioners who have been trained and certified.
For example: The canine teeth (fangs) of cats can often develop fractures at the tip of the tooth exposing the sensitive pulp tissue. This generally leads to pain, infection and the death of the pulp tissue. Depending on the results of x-rays taken under sedation to thoroughly examine the tooth, this condition can be treated with root canal therapy or, extracted.
To save cats’ teeth, Root Canal Therapy is now routinely performed by certified veterinary dentists. This treatment can be extremely helpful for both cats and dogs who are appropriate candidates for the procedure. Following the procedure a crown may be recommended to strengthen the tooth.
While the cost of the procedure is often a consideration, depending on the tooth involved the cost may not differ that greatly from an extraction, especially in the case of the larger teeth or those teeth with complicated root structures. In fact, Root Canal therapy may, in the long run be the wiser option since saving the cat’s tooth may prevent further costs related to future bone loos or periodontal disease.
Although certain pet health insurance programs may cover the cost of these therapies, an alternative option is Credit Care for Pets for kitty guardians who are considering having this surgery performed.
I find the growing strides in excellent dental care for cats quite exciting. But to prevent serious (and expensive) feline dental disease, there is nothing more important than giving our cats their regular routine veterinary dental examinations and prophylaxis.
How often do you think that cats should receive routine dental care? Share your opinions with a comment.
Photo credit: Flickr user: Emma Paperclip
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