Veterinarians have been talking to cat caretakers about the importance of cat dental health and encouraging regular dental care for probably at least a decade, and with good reason. The trouble is, cat teeth cleanings are pretty expensive because cats require general anesthesia for the procedure, and people are reluctant to shell out the bucks for a procedure that may not seem necessary. Yes, cat dental cleanings are on the pricey side, but I think they’re totally worth the cost, and here’s why.
Let me start off by busting one of the ever-so-common feline myths: Even if a cat eats tuna every day, his breath should not smell bad. If your cat’s breath smells like something is rotting in his mouth, the odds are that he has an infection or tooth decay.
2. Cat dental disease is very painful
Have you ever had an abscessed tooth or serious gum disease? If so, you know it hurts! It hurts cats too, but our cats are masters at hiding their pain. It’s an ingrained and instinctive survival technique. The only indication you may have of your cat’s pain is a change in temperament. Even with sore teeth and gums, a cat will still eat because hunger trumps pain — until the pain gets too severe, that is.
3. Dental disease doesn’t just stay in your cat’s mouth
An infection that begins as gingivitis can progress to the point where your cat develops infections in the bones, lungs, and even the bloodstream itself. The cost of treating a life-threatening systemic infection is a lot higher than the cost of those annual cat teeth cleanings.
4. Cat dental disease can complicate other illnesses
Diabetic cats with dental disease, for example, suffer more than others because chronic oral infections make it difficult to keep blood sugar levels under control.
5. Cat dental disease can lead to other illnesses
Research has shown that dental disease increases the risk of diabetes, infections of the heart and lungs, kidney disease, autoimmune diseases, arthritis, heart failure, and even cancer.
Some final thoughts on cat teeth cleanings and cat dental diseases
This isn’t hyperbole or hysteria. I personally know several people who have become seriously ill and almost died due to untreated dental disease. As I think back on the cats with whom I’ve shared my life — like the cat who “lost a fang” and probably was in excruciating pain due to root exposure, although I didn’t know it at the time; and my FIV-positive cat, Castor, who developed severe mouth infections as his disease progressed — I’m almost certain dental problems contributed to or exacerbated their other health problems.
While I’m on the subject of cat dental cleanings, I’m going to offer my two cents on anesthesia-free dentistry. Although we humans understand why our mouths are being poked, prodded and scraped with pointy things, this is not true for cats. I can’t even imagine how anesthesia-free dental cleaning can effectively remove plaque and tartar from a writhing, clawing, freaked-out feline’s mouth, and the process of being restrained while all this stuff is going on must be incredibly traumatic.
Yes, anesthesia has risks. Yes, a cat dental cleaning done under general anesthesia is more expensive than an anesthesia-free one. But in the long run, I believe the benefits of effective cat dental cleanings outweigh the risk of anesthesia.
February is Dental Month at Parkgate Animal Hospital! Book your appointment to be seen at Parkgate Animal Hospital by calling 604 9291863. Happy Dental Month!