Earlier this week, Trigg had a cat dental cleaning. We have had a lot of discussions about cat dentals on our Facebook page recently - some really believe in them and some find them too scary (because the cat has to be put under anesthesia for the cleaning). I have previously covered another one of Trigg's Dentals.
When my Rags (founder of this website) was 14 years old, I took him to the vet for a routine checkup. It was the first time that my mom let me take him by myself to the vet (I was 24-years old) - and at that time, my mom was bringing her animals to a cat/dog vet that my mom had gone to for years. I watched that vet open Rags' mouth and use his thumbnail to pop off a chunk of tartar from his mouth. I was pretty surprised you could do that! And he quickly examined him and told me he looked good. I started crying and said, "This cat means the world to me, are you sure he is OK?" And then that vet proceeded to re-do the entire exam! I was horrified. I didn't understand why he wouldn't have done the exam thoroughly the first time. (I later discovered that using your fingernail to pop off tartar is really wrong!).
...so I decided to start taking Rags to a different vet from that day on. I can't recall how I found out about KC Cat Clinic - but it was a recommendation from someone. I am so glad I did. The first time I took Rags to KC Cat Clinic (and all cat vet with vets and vet tech dedicated to cats), I saw Dr. Sarah Wasmer, and she immediately told me how beautiful Rags was. I beamed with pride (that's when I used to my cat's beauty was because of me! Ha!). Dr. Wasmer was pretty horrified by his mouth's condition and immediately recommended a dental. I never knew any of it was necessary or important and to this day feel bad that Rags didn't get better dental care during his life. He suffered from problems in his mouth until the day he passed - here is a video of him when he was older with a mouth problem that I never did figure out:
Is cat dental cleaning necessary? Do cats need dental work?
Tartar built up and plaque in your cat’s mouth can cause many dental complications. One of the most common complications is periodontal disease. If left untreated the attachment structures holding your cat’s teeth in can be destroyed and your pet can lose its teeth. I was also warned that anything left untreated in the mouth would lead to kidney disease and other potential forms of organ failure.
In fact, dental care for felines is just as important as it is for us. There’s no wonder why American Veterinary Dental College exists!
After Rags passed, as most of you know, I got Charlie and Trigg - and I think they needed their first dental when they were a few years old.
I wanted to share my latest experience with Trigg's dental, so that it might help another reader considering the procedure.
IMPORTANT - Cat Dental Surgery - Is cat dental cleaning safe?
For anyone reading this post that is considering getting a dental for their cat (only because a vet you trust recommends it), please know there are several ways to put a cat under anesthesia. Some are much safer than others. Be sure to ask your vet about the safest options available. Also, many cities have dedicated pet dentists - all they do are dental procedures on cats or dogs. Most dentals are done at a regular vet, but if you don't feel comfortable with that, you can always look for a veterinarian that specializes in dental procedures on animals.
My all cat vet has a very specific drug (anesthesia) protocol when it comes to cleaning cat teeth. Being the one-woman show behind this site, I have heard cat dental horror stories - from death to infection and more. So I asked my vet during a recent visit, "If I was moving out of state, what would I want to look for in a vet who would potentially do dentals on my cats?" She replied that I should make sure they are the following:
- A cat-friendly practice
- A Board Certified Feline Practitioner -AAFP
She also mentioned the importance of doing preliminary blood work before they do the dental. And the importance of x-rays before and after the dental if extractions are being done.
Our vet, KC Cat Clinic, likes to do pre-anesthetic blood work to make sure all organs are functioning properly; especially the kidneys. And a physical exam before sedation is really important. Doctors listen to the heart and lungs because if there's a heart murmur or something sounds abnormal, they might change what sedative they use, they may want further diagnostics, or they may forego the dental or any anesthesia altogether.
Cat Dental Surgery Problems
Dentals can be very scary because a cat is put under sedation to have it's teeth cleaned...so you basically sign this form at the vet saying you understand things can happen and there's a possibility that the cat will die under anesthesia. For that reason, I am a nervous wreck the days leading up to a dental and the day of...until the doctor calls to tell me he is awake.
Also, sometimes it is not a lot of fun bringing home a kitty after they have had a dental. They are usually pretty druggy and out of it still - and a cat like Trigg can take up to 48 hours to be himself (there are things that the vet can do to help the drugs process through their system faster - like giving them fluids - but how long it takes to process through their system depends on each cat, as it depends on each human). I posted a number of photos after Trigg's dental on our Facebook page, so I have gone ahead and included them here by embedding those posts.
If you have a multiple pet or cat household - there can also be some arguments when you bring back the kitty that has been at the vet. The kitty that has been at the vet (Trigg) all day doesn't smell right and acts weird (drugs) to the cat (Charlie) that didn't go. I had, of course, experienced Caymus and Murphy together - but my mom always had them done on the same day - so they could be in their drugged state together. However, sometimes both cats don't need dentals at the same time, or you need to space them out due to the cost of a cat dental (below). So, one is always druggy and the other is always normal. Normally, Charlie hisses, growls and squats at Trigg - it's terrible. The vet recommends you keep the drugged cat confined until they smell like your house again - to keep the peace. However, Trigg does not like being locked up. Luckily, as they have aged, this doesn't happen that frequently. This time, Chiggy was hissing at Charlie. So I knew to remove Charlie from his desire to smell Chiggy all over.
A cat who is getting a dental also has their leg shaved , so that they can insert a IV catheter - so if you're particular about how your kitty looks (for a cat show or something) - that can take awhile for it to grow back.
How much does it cost to get your cat's teeth cleaned?
In Kansas City, the cost for a cat teeth cleaning is usually around $500 - this is when no tooth extractions are needed. Trigg had 3 extractions this time, so it was definitely more - $989.37 to be exact. Of course, where you live and the cost of living there is going to affect the cost of a cat dental.
You can see that the biggest costs are the Anesthetic Isoflurane and the oral radiographs. X-rays are essential before a cleaning and if extractions are done, they are entirely necessary afterwards as well to make sure no broken pieces of tooth, etc. were left that can cause infection.
You can also see that there is a Propofol induction for $15.80, IV fluids for $20.80, a Dexdomitor, torbugesic, ketaset injection for $58, an IV catheterization for $37, among others.
I have cat health insurance for Trigg and have already submitted all of this to Nationwide (we have the Whole Pet Wellness plan).
Both of my cats are on Nationwide's Whole Pet With Wellness Plan. Trigg's Dental, under our plan that I pay $110.37 (more than doubled in the last year from $51/month) a month for, will be 90% covered minus the biohazard fees (which insurance doesn't cover) and after my deductible of $100 has been met. I met our deductible earlier this year, so I should get a check from Nationwide for about $890.43 (they don't pay for biohazard fees) for his dental.
How often should I get my cat's teeth cleaned?
Because of the photos I posted of Trigg before and after his dental on our Facebook and Instagram pages, many readers asked how often he gets dentals - there is not a set schedule to dentals. A trusted vet determines whether or not it is time for a dental - Trigg went about 1.5 years between dentals this time. I used to brush both of my cats' teeth regularly, but I didn't keep up with it and they needed dentals anyway. So I just gave up on that. Even though it is scary to have them put under, I do like that they can get a full mouth exam - it's a way for my vet to monitor for mouth tumors (which scare the holy livin' daylight out of me) too.
Do cats need antibiotics after teeth cleaning?
Yes, if they have extractions or if the vet deems it necessary - that's why you really have to trust your vet.
Because Trigg had 3 extractions, he was given Clavamox, an antiobiotic for 7 days, 2x a day. He was also given an injectable anti-inflammatory Onsior as well as 2 tablets to give him - one the day after and one the following day. Although these are the chewable sort, sometimes you have to pill them if they don't willing eat them. Chiggy does eat the Onsior willingly, but I have to pill the Clavamox.
Cat Dental Cleaning Procedure Photos
I asked for before and after photos from the vet - I used to ask for videos too (but don't any more because I think they got annoyed). Luckily, they oblige with photos!
Before Photos with Tartar
X-Ray Photos Showing His Cavities
After Photos with Tartar Gone
On the first one below, you can see where his teeth that had cavities were removed and stitches (that will dissolve) are there now.
The Days After
Chiggy the day after LIVE video on Facebook:
As my sister and I discussed the day of the dental - it's usually a 48-72 hour recovery until Trigg is back to normal. He stays pretty drugged - dilated pupils for the first 24 hours. It's a long recovery.
Cat Dental Procedure Videos
I went ahead and put together a playlist of cat dental videos on our YouTube channel, in case you are wondering how it is done.
Ragdoll Cat Charlie Getting a Dental
Ragdoll Cat Caymus Getting a Dental
Ragdoll Cat Rags Getting a Dental and Tooth Extraction
How to Prevent Cat Dentals
Dental disease in cats can be genetic but can also be because of what they are eating. Of course, we see more dental disease today because of dry and wet food diets. The majority of cats are no longer ripping and pulling muscles and organs off of bone, which helped them keep their teeth in tip top shape.
To avoid periodontal disease, feed your cat a healthy diet, have appropriate chew toys and brush your cat’s teeth daily. Appropriate chew toys are those that are soft such as rope or rubber toys. Do not let your cat chew on hard objects, like rocks because that gesture could cause breakage in the teeth.
If you’re confident with your cat’s healthy diet, and you know you have appropriate chew toys, then you might first want to start out with How to Brush Cat Teeth. You’ll want a soft bristled toothbrush that is suitable for a cat’s mouth and some veterinarian toothpaste (like, C.E.T. Toothpaste Poultry Flavor 2.5 Oz.). If you do not have a veterinarian tooth brush, brush with no paste. Do not use human toothpaste on your cat’s teeth – cats do not have the ability to spit out their toothpaste, so they have to swallow it. Human toothpaste has too many fluorides and what not, that are not meant to be swallowed.
Do you get dentals for your kitties? Why or why not?