Feline Oral Health and Dentistry

All of our veterinary patients require careful attention to their oral health. Oral health and managing dental disease are integral to a patient’s general well being. Poor oral health can have serious consequences such as oral and facial pain, cardiac and renal damage and digestive problems. Research in human medicine, has shown that more than 90% of all systemic disease has oral manifestations such as  renal disease, diabetes, infectious diseases and immune mediated diseases. This means that a careful oral exam can provide a great deal more information about a patient’s well being than just their oral health. We find that this observation holds true for our veterinary patients and underscores the importance of regular oral examinations for both well and sick patients.
Just as in people, our feline patients benefit from oral examinations being performed with every physical examination. However, oral examinations are limited since many of our veterinary patients are not tolerant of complete oral exams. For this reason, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)  in conjunction with the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC), have recommended dental  cleanings should take place annually starting at one year for cats.
Routine dental exams, cleaning and polishing include the following: 
  1. Pre-anesthetic exam–Your veterinarian should examine your pet to ensure it is healthy enough to go under general anesthesia. This examination may include:
    1. Blood tests- chemistry panel and CBC for all patients
    2. Urinalysis and Thoracic radiographs are included for all patients over 6 years of age or any patient who has pre-existing health issues that warrant these tests.
  2. Anesthesia monitoring–When your pet is under anesthesia, its vital signs (such as body temperature, heart rate, and respiration) should be monitored and recorded. This helps ensure your pet’s safety while under anesthesia.
  3. Dental radiographs–X-rays of your pet’s teeth are needed periodically to evaluate your pet’s oral health. X-rays also help veterinarians detect abnormalities that cannot be seen through physical examination alone. They can also confirm the need for tooth extraction when teeth are loose or badly infected.
  4. Pre-Post- and Intra-operative analgesia for all patients. This includes nerve blocks to help diminish intra-operative and post operative pain when oral procedures such as extractions are performed and analgesia for patients upon discharge
  5. Scaling and polishing–Using instruments much like human dentists, veterinarians remove plaque and calculus from your pet’s teeth. Polishing with a special paste smooths out scratches to the tooth enamel.
  6. Fluoride/sealants–By applying an anti-plaque substance, such as a fluoride treatment and/or a barrier sealant, the veterinarian helps strengthen and desensitize teeth and discourage the development of future plaque.
The leading oral health issue in veterinary patients is periodontal disease. Periodontal disease develops as a result of bacteria forming plaque on the surface of the teeth. The plaque then leads to inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and loss of bone and the other connective tissue around the teeth (periodontitis). These conditions can not only result in tooth loss, oral and facial pain, behavioral changes and weight loss, but can also lead to renal infection, cardiac infection and subsequent failures of these organ systems. Even though your pet may have advanced periodontal disease it is never too late to intervene and allow them the comfort and other benefits of oral health. The doctors at VCS Pets First are prepared to help feline patients with all stages of periodontal disease.
Cats also suffer from dental and oral conditions very different from our canine patients. Cats can develop very painful conditions such as resorptive dental lesions and stomatitis. Feline Oral Resorptive Lesions occur when cells called, odontoclasts, which typically function in normal tooth remodeling, begin to destroy teeth. The lesions may begin on any aspect of the tooth, radiographs may be necessary to appreciate these lesions. As the tooth is destroyed, these tiny defects are incredibly painful. We can appreciate this clinically, even when patients are under general anesthesia, they can exhibit signs of pain when we touch the resorptive lesions! Although we have not discovered the cause of this disease process, we can intervene by extracting the teeth and alleviating their intense discomfort. Feline Stomatitis is another condition that we have yet to discover the cause. Although there are known infections like viruses (calici, FeLV, FIV and herpes) and the bacteria that causes plaque may all contribute to the development of this condition.  Feline stomatitis can cause a severe, painful inflammation of the gingiva and all of the soft tissues within the mouth. We know that Feline Stomatitis is an immune mediated inflammatory response appears to be alleviated with extraction of teeth and removal of the stimulus for the disease.
Cats also can have damage to teeth and the surrounding structures subsequent to trauma. These patients may be referred to our veterinary surgeon or to a veterinary dentist for continued care.
Oral tumors may also occur and require extraction and submission to veterinary pathologist for histopathology ( a microscopic evaluation of the mass).
Have you ever wondered what type of chews or treats you might give your cat to prevent periodontal disease and tooth loss? The Veterinary Oral Health Council provides a comprehensive list of products that have been carefully evaluated.
Please visit:  http://vohc.org/accepted_products.htm
to read about the oral and dental health products that  have been reviewed and tested and are recommended for your cat by this veterinary organization.

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Veterinary Care Specialists

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205 Rowe Rd Milford, MI 48380
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Fax: 248.685.8122
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