Of course we do, but not blindly. Here is why. Your vet might well recommend that your cat has his teeth cleaned. They will probably need cleaning. He may recommend routine vaccinations. There are other routine procedures that your vet might come up with. Routine procedures are bread and butter to a vet. I am not saying vets’ are unethical in prioritising money over health but they are private businesses not charitable organisations.
What would you think if you had to go to hospital and be generally anesthetized to have your teeth cleaned? Sounds mad, yet people routinely allow their cat companion, who means a lot to them, to go through exactly that. The professional cleaning of a cat’s teeth is a balance of risks exercise. The upside is obvious: healthy teeth and oral hygiene. The downside is less obvious. Here are some examples:
Some cats die under anesthetic. What is the percentage? We don’t know. Probably between one percent and .1%. I’d say near one percent or one in 100. Question: does your vet have proper monitoring equipment? Monitoring equipment checks blood pressure, oxygenation etc. during the procedure under anesthetic. This allows your vet to take steps if a problem arises. This should prevent a high percentage of unforeseen deaths and injuries during anesthetic.
Injuries can occur to the brain leaving the cat blind and with cognitive deficiencies. We won’t necessarily know if our cat has suffered some sort of brain damage. We might have a sense that something is wrong but not be sure. The operation may change the cat’s character if the brain is damaged.
I have read that anesthetic can bring on kidney failure. I don’t about this. I have just heard about it. Kidney failure and lower urinary tract problems are common illnesses in cats. Perhaps the drugs that anesthetize the cat, damages the kidneys. The drugs can certainly damage the brain.
Anethetising through the application of gas requires that a tube is placed down the cat’s throat (endotracheal tube). You have probably seen the photographs on the internet. This can damage the trachea. There is a comment on this page of this site which provides a graphic example. “How good is your vet?” is the question that comes to my mind. I have recently changed vets and am pleased I did. I’d recommend changing vets until you feel comfortable.
Modern flat faced and round headed Persian cats are more at risk under anesthetic apparently. I don’t know if this is true. Please check. American Burmese have round heads too.
Pulling a cat’s teeth under anesthetic can cause secondary health issues such as damaging the saliva glands and breaking the cat’s jaw. How delicate and accurate is your vet? Is he or she brutal or precise? We don’t know. We do know that these procedures require precision and care. Some people are naturally good with their hands and some are not. Some people are precise and some are not. The best veterinary surgeon is precise and careful with natural dexterity.
Blood tests are routinely done before a cat is put under anaesthetic but these blood tests are not all encompassing. Apparently undiagnosed heart valve issues are not spotted, for example. So if a vet says they do blood test etc. that is not a total reassurance.
Dry cat food might, to a small degree, assist in keeping teeth clean but there are downsides to dry food such as urinary tract health issues. Wet cat food might, to a small degree, promote gum disease but there are upsides to wet cat food that make it the recommended cat food. Wet cat food is a much better substitute to a natural cat diet (a mouse) than dry cat food.
A vet who likes cats and who specialises in cat health will obviously be better than one who does not. Any vet who declaws a cat is not suitable to treat a cat in my view as it demonstrates a disregard for the cat’s health over the owner’s preferences and the vet’s profit.
These are a compromise, a balancing act between prevention of disease and the dangers of the vaccination such as cancer associated with the vaccination. The whole process of vaccination, except where it is obligatory (rabies) should be seen as a balancing act between health benefits and detriments. Don’t automatically do it. For example if you live in an affluent area where cats are likely to be routinely vaccinated this produces a bubble of protection for cats in the area that are not vaccinated.
Find a good vet and even then don’t accept his or her recommendations blindly. Regarding anesthetic, does he have monitoring equipment and ask him about the risk/reward balance.
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