Guest post by Andrea Tasi, VMD

This post was first published in September 2015 and has been updated.

Andrea Tasi, VMD owns and operates Just Cats, Naturally, a housecall based, feline-exclusive practice dedicated to the holistic, individualized approach to each cat. Dr. Tasi uses classical homeopathy, nutritional therapy, and behavior and environment-related techniques to help healthy cats stay well and help ill cats regain their health. Whenever one of Dr. Tasi’s feline clients needs any kind of dental work, even just a routine cleaning, she makes sure that her clients as these questions before scheduling a procedure.

1. Is the veterinarian who will perform the procedure experienced in cat dentistry, including anesthesia, dental extractions, and dental x-rays?

Obviously, the more experience the doctor has, the more likely that s/he has better dentistry skills. Cats are NOT small dogs!!

2. What pre-dental lab work, if any, is required in a younger cat?

For cats under 7 years of age, a CBC (complete blood count) and “mini” serum chemistry is a reasonable data base. FeLV/FIV testing, if status is unknown or if the cat goes outside, may also be required.

3. What lab work is required in older cats?

I strongly suggest, and most veterinarians agree, with running more complete screening on older cats, especially those over 10-12 years of age. I suggest a CBC, serum chemistry panel, T4 (thyroid level), and a urinalysis. I do not use or recommend a type of test called a “Free T4” as it has very little diagnostic value in most cats, although some clinicians feel otherwise. FeLV/FIV testing, if status is unknown, or if the cat goes outside, may also be required.

4. Does the clinic have the ability to take dental radiographs (x-rays)?

I am convinced that the availability of dental x-rays is an important component of high quality dental work in cats. Cats frequently develop a type of tooth decay called “tooth resorptive disease of felines” (TRDF) that often begins below the gumline. The cause of these lesions is not completely understood. Without x-rays these can be missed, resulting in leaving teeth in the mouth that will often “go bad” very soon and require another procedure to extract. One cannot fill these cavity-like lesions; once they have advanced to a certain stage the tooth needs to be extracted. X-rays also help to document whether an extraction is complete or not: leaving fragments behind may sometimes (but not always) cause problems. If any of the canine (fang) teeth need extracting, it is especially important that no root be left behind. Lastly, dental x-rays are useful to evaluate structural integrity of the jawbones, especially important to rule out cancers and prevent injury (breakage) of the jaw during extractions.

5. What type of dental equipment does the clinic have?

“High speed” dental equipment is essential for dental work that involves extractions.

6. What type of anesthesia will be used?

The safest anesthetic protocols involve “induction” (getting the patient “to sleep” initially) with some injectable form of anesthetic drug(s) and then “maintenance” with an inhaled gas form of anesthesia, typically isoflorane. Some veterinarians routinely “gas down” cats, in other words administer only gas anesthesia, via a mask or chamber, as they feel it is “safer”. I strongly object to doing this, as it is very stressful for the cat and, more importantly, gas anesthesia is much more likely to cause low blood pressure than correct use of injectable induction drugs. I suggest avoiding the following anesthetic drugs whenever possible, as safer alternatives are available: xylazine, domitor, telazol. I am also not so fond of ketamine, but if used in low doses in an appropriate combination with other drugs it can be used safely.

7. Will my cat be intubated during dental work?

Placement of a properly sized endotracheal tube is essential for protecting the cat’s airway and lungs from aspiration and for delivery of anesthetic gas.

8. How will my cat be kept warm during and after the procedure?

Small animals lose body heat quickly, especially under anesthesia. Cats should be kept warm by circulating warm water or warm air beds, NEVER BY ELECTRIC HEATING PADS WHICH CAN CAUSE SEVERE BURNS. The cat should also be protected from getting wet during the dental procedure by some sort of water-resistant covering.

9. How will the cat be monitored during anesthesia and who will be doing the monitoring?

The key to minimizing risks during general anesthesia is careful monitoring of the patient. The veterinarian should work with a veterinary technician experienced in monitoring patients under anesthesia. MONITORING BLOOD PRESSURE (preferably with an instrument called a Doppler) IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL. There is no way I would ever anesthetize any of my own cats without monitoring their blood pressure accurately, and there is no way to assess blood pressure without a blood pressure monitor. If blood pressure drops below 60mm Hg, blood flow to the kidneys is compromised and can cause death of kidney cells. The cat may “wake up” and “look fine” but will have permanent damage to the most age-sensitive part of their body. In addition to monitoring blood pressure, it is also important to monitor body temperature, heart rate and rhythm, and ideally blood oxygen levels (pulse oximetry and/ or capnography).

10. Will my cat have an intravenous catheter placed?

Any cat under anesthesia should have an IV catheter in place to administer IV fluids or any drugs necessary should there be a drop in blood pressure or other problem. If there is no IV catheter in place, valuable time will be lost trying to “find a vein” to give an injection if an emergency arises. The cat should receive IV fluids during the procedure.

11. If my cat needs extractions, or anything else that may cause pain, what type of pain management will be used?

There have been great advances in veterinary pain management in recent years; however, I think some pain drugs are potentially dangerous to cats, especially older cats. I suggest avoiding all NSAID’s (non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory drugs) in cats over 7-8 years of age, because of the potential for kidney damage. If NSAID drugs are used, they should not be administered while the cat is under anesthesia as this increases the risk of kidney damage. Buprenorphine (Buprenex) is my favorite pain drug for cats. Local anesthetic injected into the areas of extractions (before the extraction is performed) is very helpful in minimizing pain on recovery from anesthesia.

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12. How long will my cat have to stay at the clinic?

Cats become stressed away from home, so every effort should be made to minimize time in the clinic, but not to the degree that patient safety is compromised. Once a cat is up and awake from anesthesia (coordinated enough to move about without falling), they should be discharged as soon as possible, unless there is some other problem that they are being monitored for.

13. What follow up care will be necessary?

Sometimes, antibiotics are prescribed after dental work, but not always. When extractions are performed it is never a bad idea to recheck the mouth in 2-3 weeks to make sure healing is complete. We cannot rely on the cats to show us if there are problems in their mouths. Home care for cats can be tough, as they do not generally “like” having their teeth brushed. With patience, some cats will tolerate home brushing.

Unless a cat is completely unable to tolerate being handled safely at the vet clinic, a cat should never be vaccinated the same day it undergoes an anesthetic procedure, such as a dental cleaning. Asking a cat’s immune system to handle the challenges of anesthesia, teeth cleaning, and immunization all at the same time is asking too much, in my opinion. Vaccination should be separated from anesthesia by at least 3 weeks.

61 Comments on Ask These 13 Questions Before You Schedule Your Cat’s Dental Procedure

  1. Hi, I just came across this while searching for an experienced cat dentist, but the problem I’m coming across is how do you find one who is experienced in feline dentistry, extractions, etc.?

  2. I found out that my rescue cat, about 6 years old, has really bad teeth and needs several extractions. I’ve had her for about 3 years now. I’m scared to death because several years ago, my black Lab dog died from dental extractions. I’m pretty sure it was caused from the extensive dental work. What should I do? I can tell my cat is in pain sometimes and she refuses to eat anything but soft food and some days, she won’t eat at all because of her teeth. She has bad breath, drools and licks her lips a lot. I don’t know what to do, it feels like an impossible dilemma. Is it safe for a cat to have a cleaning and extractions done at the same time?

    • I understand how difficult this decision is, given your experience with your dog, but from what you’re describing, it sounds like your cat is in a lot of pain, which means you need to get this addressed as soon as possible. Find a veterinary dentist and share your concerns with them.

    • Did you ever figure it out? I’m having a similar problem with my older cat and I still don’t know what to do with her and any advice would be great.

      • No, I never really knew why my dog died as there was no autopsy done. As for now, I’m still very torn as to what to do about my cat’s bad teeth.

  3. Such a helpful column. Took Buddy Zen for annual exam and left with $500-$800+ estimate for Dental Feline Extractions etc. Not something I can handle right now while figuring out how to … are there over the counter remedies for at least improving his condition. Would Greenies Dental treats be ok for replacement of treats I not as generously as he wanted gave him in past never thinking about his teeth. Interesting how I mirrored my own past behavior for years.

  4. I had my Siamese female’s teeth cleaned in Jan.2021. She just turned 13 on April 15th. They did blood work before the procedure and said everything with the teeth looked good-no extractions, etc. Now 3 months later she looks like she is losing weight and her behavior is a little different. Usually crawls in bed with me at night but now she is sitting in the basement or on the front porch. Seems to be eating okay. She has had a history of peeing outside the box but now it has gotten worse in the past months. Could the dental procedure have caused any kind of blood infection, kidneys, etc.? Years ago I had my 17yr old’s teeth cleaned and I think she died a few months later.

    • It’s highly unlikely that there’s a connection between the dental procedure and the behavior you’re seeing in your cat now. I’m assuming you’ve had her checked by your vet since these symptoms appeared? If not, I’d get her to a vet as soon as possible.

  5. My sister recently passed away so I now have her 2 cats Sasha & Jasper. At Sasha’s last yearly checkup, the vet recommended having her teeth cleaned. I was hesitant as she is about 13 years old, but I had them cleaned on 1/19/21. Receipt shows Anesthesia Sevoflurance, lactated ringers solution .58ml and Convenia was used. When she returned home from the cleaning, her left eye was watering and only slightly open. My husband noticed she really didn’t eat or drink too much that night and next morning, so he called the vet. He was told a decrease in appetite was normal but it should pick up and to keep watch of the eye. By the next day (1/21/21), her eye was really bad…watering, much smaller than the right one and something white was covering her eyeball from below. He took her back to vet on 1/22/21 and was prescribed Mirataz Transdermal Ointment. He used for 3 days with no improvement. Returned to vet on 1/25/21 and was then prescribed steroid eye drops and we are on the 2nd bottle. Her eye has improved but still watering, smaller than other eye and sometimes white covering lower eye ball. In addition to this, she was not eating much and he had been advising vet office of this. Finally on 2/2/21, vet took blood tests and we were told she was in kidney failure. In an attempt to lower her numbers, we are taking her 3x week for 2 weeks for fluid put under skin. This Friday 2/8/21, we will see if there is any improvement in numbers.

    As far as the eye problem, could they have hit a nerve during cleaning which could have caused this? Can you provide any insight on what may have caused the kidney failure?

  6. My MIL’s vet extracted multiple teeth from her 5 year old cat. He is now missing the top two canines. Since the surgery he seems to keep part of his mouth open at all times. Occasionally if you touch his mouth he will lick his mouth and close fully. I feel like something was done incorrectly. Is this common? It’s been several weeks, he now even has a little cut/bruise where his bottom canine is digging into his mouth.

    • This is not unusual after canine teeth are removed, it can take cats a while to get used to the new feel of their mouth. I would have your MIL contact her vet just to be safe.

  7. I have a 17 year old cat who is in need of a dental. He has never had any health issues other then some bumps that formed on his paw joints in the front legs ( i was told this was likely from arthritis). I am getting his blood work done and if cleared he will have dental surgery but I am honestly so nervous and don’t want to lose my cat in the process

    • Age is not a disease. Old cats can get anesthesia safely as long as they are otherwise healthy. Trust your vet, they know what they’re doing.

  8. Hi. I found this article as I was searching for some answers for my 20 year old cat having a ruptured tooth abscess several times already and was told she needs extractions. I’m terrified of and so stressed out at the thought of having to put her under anesthesia at her age and am truly beside myself. She takes medicine for hyperthyroidism and her recent CBC showed she is slightly anemic and thankfully her kidney and liver functions are good. They also heard a heart murmur at her last visit and I am now taking her to get an echocardiogram to see if her heart is ok to tolerate the dental procedure/anesthesia as I was instructed by my veterinarian. I was also told by her veterinarian who has been a vet for 5 years that age is not a contradiction if she is otherwise “Healthy.” I’m not so confident in that statement and am struggling with this whole situation. Should I be taking her to a dental specialist to perform this if I have to do it, or do I have the vet perform the procedure that she has only been seeing for the past year since my veterinarian of the past 10 years recently retired. I could never forgive myself if something were to go wrong during the dental procedure and am in need of some guidance. Please advise. Much appreciated

    • I know it’s daunting to consider anesthesia for a 20-year-old cat. While it’s true that “age is not a condition,” I would never allow a general practice vet to perform a dental procedure on an older cat with other health conditions. I actually recommend dental specialists even for routine procedures. Many general practices perform dentistries, but unless a practice is equipped to take and properly interpret dental radiographs, and unless a veterinarian is very experienced with complex dental procedures, a veterinarian who is board certified in veterinary dentistry is a better choice.

  9. Very good post that we read in its entirety. We have an elder (almost 20) who luckily has pretty good teeth and 4 others from 9 to 13. We are lucky to have a good vet who checks all the boxes.

  10. My Siamese is now 20 years and seven months old. I know she has dental issues.She sometimes paws at her mouth. She eats plenty of dry treats each day and plenty of wet can food and some butter and liver I give her weekly.
    I feel at her age,and the fact her 2 lifelong cat buddies just both recently passed away,she may be bet suited to just let her be as is.Any advice and possible outcomes ?

    • That is a difficult decision, Bob. If she paws at her mouth, she is most likely in some amount of pain or at least discomfort. I would discuss this with your vet. There’s always a risk with anesthesia, and you’re going to have to weigh that against the possibility that she is experiencing pain. If she is otherwise in good health, a veterinary dentist can tailor anesthesia specifically for a senior lady like her. It depends on the degree of visible dental disease, which, of course, is usually only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, since they won’t be able to see what’s going on underneath the gum line without anesthesia and dental x-rays.

  11. I just realized, I have another question.

    The FIV+ kitty in question is one I rescued off the streets and that I am fostering until I find her a forever home.

    When I initially took her to get spayed, she received the rabies vaccine and the RCP vaccine.

    One of the practices I called requires the Leukemia vaccine for any procedures. But their protocol is to give same day as the dental procedure.

    I am concerned that this may be too much for her system with her FIV (or maybe for any cat), and that if anything goes wrong with the vaccine we won’t be able to separate that from anything with the dental procedure.

    Do I have reason to be concerned or is this something that is done all the time. I know sometimes things don’t need to be 100% “by the book” to be safe but as a patient/consumer it’s hard to know what’s OK and not OK to do.

    Thanks again.

  12. Hi Ingrid, hi Dr. Tasi, thank you for putting together such a comprehensive list.

    I know this post is old but I am hoping you’ll still be able to help me.

    1. I have an FIV+ kitty that needs dental work and possibly a few extractions – do I need to take any precautions because of her FIV.

    2. You mention Telazol as not being safe – would you mind expanding a little bit on why it’s not safe. And could you recommend one or two types that you do consider safe.

    3. Under bullet #6 where you explain the safest anesthetic protocols I can’t quite confirm if it matches what I read here:

    “Use well-monitored, inhalation anesthesia with cuffed intubation
    when performing dental cleanings. Such techniques increase safety,
    reduce stress, decrease the chances of adverse sequelae (e.g., inhalation
    pneumonia), and are essential for thorough and efficient evaluation
    and treatment of the patient. Attempting to perform procedures on
    an awake patient that is struggling, under sedation, or injectable
    anesthesia reduces the ability to make an accurate diagnosis, does not
    allow adequate treatment, and increases stress and risks to the patient.”

    Can you confirm whether it’s the same protocol you mentioned and if not how it’s different?

    4. And finally – I am calling around to see which practices I might be interested in pursuing further. Is it reasonable to expect that a veterinary practice should be able to and want to answer all these questions over the phone (without making an appointment)? Or is that unrealistic? I’d like to avoid paying a visit fee only to find out they don’t meet the requirements – and I’d also like to avoid stressing the cat with vet visits unnecessarily, epecially because ideally I’d like to find 2 or 3 potential practices. I do NOT mind paying for a vet visit once I know a practice meets all the requirements and i think I want to use them. And I guess if it’s not too realistic, and you could ask only say 5 questions that you would want a definitive answer to, which 5 would you pick.

    Thank you so much again for this very thorough article.

    • I can answer some of these questions for you, Geanna, others are best discussed with your vet, or with a vet you’re considering. I applaud you for being so thorough and doing your homework for your foster kitty!

      I’ve never heard of a practice requiring the FeLV vaccine for anesthetic procedures, and I don’t believe vaccines should EVER be given at the same time as an anesthetic procedure. Anesthesia already stresses the immune system, and it makes no sense to further challenge it with vaccinations.

      As for your question about asking practices you might be interested in pursuing further any of these and other questions, I recommend making an appointment without your cat, and offering to pay the office visit fee. Some practices may charge you, others may not, and I don’t think that’s a measure of the quality of the practice. When I was looking for a new vet for my cats several years ago, I always offered to pay the consultation fee, and only one out of the four practices I considered actually charged me. I believe offering to pay for the consultation shows respect for the veterinarian’s time, and sets the right tone for a potential future doctor-client relationship.

      • OK Ingrid, I will do that (make the appointment without the cat). That sounds reasonable to me.

        Re: the FeLV vaccine – yes this practice does. I don’t know so much for anesthetic procedures but any time the cat needs to stay with them for any reason. Glad I asked though – if I end up choosing to go with them I will make sure to get her vaccinated at least 2-3 weeks prior.

        Will you be able to answer any of the other questions – #6 in particular.

        If not it’s OK, I ask again only because I’m a little confused. Sounds like in one sentence the AAHA is saying NOT to use sedation or injectable anesthesia (which if I’m understand correctly you do recommend) because of the stress and being able to make accurate diagnosis – but then in another paragraph they say general anesthesia should always be used. :/ So I thought it’s probably my lack of knowledge that is making it confusing when it might be really clear to you (and in essence may be be saying exactly what you said in point #6.)

        Thanks again for your help and prompt response.

      • A number of years ago my healthy young Siamese was given his standard vaccines including annual rabies on the same day as his dental with anesthesia. By the next day he still could not stay on his feet and ended up at the emergency vet for 2 days until he was stabilized. My regular vet subsequently required that there be a two week interval between vaccines & anesthesia, and that is the policy of my current cat vet.

        • Patty, that must have been scary. :/ Glad your boy came out OK.

          UPDATE: I had a consultation with a local vet today (and they did charge me, a full office visit). They were clean, the vet answered my questions (although not as patiently as I would have liked) and I liked the answers she gave me for the most part. BUT. Just like the other vet I went to see, they also vaccinate the same day. :/ She said often they’ll vaccinate after though. Since she was starting to lose a little patience with my questions I felt rushed at the end so I don’t know if she would be willing to skip the vaccination (the only one this cat has not had is the leukemia vaccine but she no longer goes outdoors and is indoor only, so I don’t understand why the requirement. If it’s because of OTHER cats at their office, then vaccinating the same day ALSO doesn’t offer any protection. So I am very conflicted and confused by this requirement. And now that I have the extra concern of not taxing the immune system on the same day it bothers me that these vets are doing it this way, and had I not asked I would not have known any different.)

          Part of me thinks I am looking way too hard into this and that everyone just goes ahead and does these procedures and everything goes OK. So I don’t know what to do.

          I guess I can ask if she’s willing to skip the leukemia vaccination – that may be the difference between the one vet and the other (the other already told me they will not).


          • Vaccinating at the same time that an anesthetic procedure is being performed would be a deal breaker for me. And in all my years in vet med, I’ve never heard of a practice requiring a leukemia vaccine.

            Do you have a veterinary dental specialty practice in your area? If so, I’d consult with them.

          • Thanks Ingrid. And thank you for putting it so clearly for me. Makes me feel better about being uncomfortable, both about the vaccinating on the same day as a matter of course without even giving me the option and warning, and about the leukemia vaccine itself. I’m going to ask again why it’s needed when the cat is over 5 years old and tested negative for it, she doesn’t go outdoors and isn’t in contact with any other cats.

            A dental specialist was the other thought I had. What I’m afraid of is that they’ll be even more expensive than the $600-$1200 these two vets are quoting me, which I’m sure we won’t end up in the low end because she will need extractions, I just don’t know how many.

            To add to all this, this is a cat I rescued and that I’m fostering. :/ But of course, we don’t want her uncomfortable while we try to find her a home. :/ Neither vet was willing to offer a discount, and the low cost vets are around $200-300, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable without the xrays and the other procedures in place, I couldn’t forgive myself if something happened and I knew that we could have gone a safer route, even if she’s “only a rescue.” 🙁

            Anyway, again, thank you for putting together such a thorough article and for answering my questions.

  13. This was a great read and perfect timing! Thank you 🙂

    Our little (3.5kg) 3 year old tortoiseshell Alice has had a rough time with her digestion since we adopted her from Cats Protection.

    She is on probiotics at the moment but this last weeks vet visit has revealed some really red areas on her gums with build up of plaque .
    The vet told us that once her tummy is better she needs to undergo this treatment.
    We are happy for her to go under if this is going to help her, but my question is” how do we find the underlying reason and start prevention ?”
    She is on wet only diet now as kibble made her eat tunnes of grass and be sick each time.
    Do you think the acid from the stomach could be affecting her oral Heath ? Due to vomiting so much in the past ?

    What can one do , other than home brushing , to keep their cats tooth decay and gum disease free?

    Thank you,

    • Brushing is the best way to prevent dental disease. A wet canned or raw diet should help with her GI issues. Of course, genetics also play a part.

  14. Great advice Dr Ingrid! That’s exactly what we do at my practice in Michigan. I cringe when I hear of details being done without digital x-ray

    Dr Patti

    • I’m not a doctor, Dr. Patti, this advice comes from Dr. Tasi. I really wish that one of the major veterinary organizations would put out a statement that performing dental care without the availability of dental x-rays is considered sub-standard care.

      • Ingrid,

        You may be pleased to know that the “2013 AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats” lists “Intraoral digital system or radiographic film” as a “necessary material” for veterinary dentistry. They discuss how it is impossible to make an accurate treatment plan without these x-rays and further say that “all extractions need to have postextraction, intraoral radiographs.”

        While not explicitly saying that their absence is evidence of sub-standard care, one can infer that without dental x-rays, the standard of care is not being met.

        Just wanted to share that reference! Thanks for the great site, by the way.

        • Jordan, thanks, and yes, I was aware that AAHA’s guidelines include a reference to radiographs. I do wish the language was a bit stronger, but it’s a good start! And I’m glad you’re enjoying our site.

  15. Thanks so much for this list! Before I spend the $1K+ on dental cleaning & extractions on my 11 year old former rescue, I want to make sure that my current vet has the most up to date equipment & protocol. The question in one of the Comments about a pre-op thoracic X-ray struck a nerve with me. If another vet had done that for my poor 8-year old rescue a number of years ago, they would have discovered the massive lymphoma that killed her 3 months later.

  16. I have two 8 year old cats who are biological siblings. They both had a dental cleaning last week and my vet sent me home with an antibiotic for both of them. My girl had moderate plaque buildup and did well with her cleaning, but my boy’s teeth had much more buildup and ended up needing a single tooth extraction. I’m not 100% sure which tooth it was but I saw it afterwards and it was really small. Both cats got an antibiotic injection at the vet before I took them home, and I’ve now given them 3 days of their at home antibiotic, but the liquid tastes horrible and I’m having one hell of a time trying to get them to sit still and take it. First day I did ok, second day was more challenging, and today (third day) they knew what was coming and really fought me over it. When it comes time to give their antibiotic tomorrow, I know this is going to be even harder. Is 3 days enough? I was hoping to try to mix it into some food, but my vet said since it tastes so bad they probably won’t eat the food with it in there. I don’t want any infections, but I also don’t want to stress out my cats if it’s not necessary. They’re both still having some re-introduction issues as it is and I’ve had to keep them separated since they’ve forgotten they used to live each other, so the added trauma of forcing this dropper full of aweful liquid is probably not helping on the stress front, at least it isn’t for me! Would the antibiotics be effective with only a 3 day dose? Any advice would be appreciated.

    • That’s a lot of stress you’re dealing with, between the non-recognition issues and trying to medicate them, Karen! It’s usually not a good idea to stop a course of antibiotics before its completion, but check with your vet. It really depends on the type of drug your cats got by injection, and the type of drug they were sent home with. It’s also possible to get the medication compounded into a tuna or meat flavored liquid.

  17. Thank you for this helpful article. What do you think about elderly cats with dental disease? My cat is 18 years old and my parents never got her teeth cleaned, it certainly wasn’t the done thing as I was growing up. She has been in my care only 2 years and now that I am aware of how bad dental disease effects them I want to do something about it. She is 18 with kidney disease so I am highly concerned about putting her under and if she will wake up at all, not to mention if she will recover from tooth extractions. She also vomits from pain medication.
    She still eats plenty, her food is wet and soft or I mix water with her kibble so it’s soft aswell.
    I know over the counter teeth cleaners do pretty much nothing but I still put some in her water.
    Could keeping her on antibiotics be a viable option instead of putting her under or do I really have no choice?

    • I would discuss this with your vet, or ideally, a veterinary dentist, Scarlett. Anesthesia can be tailored to be safe even for elderly cats wit health issues, but even if it’s not an option for Scarlett, a specialist should be able to advise you about whether antibiotics and perhaps a different pain medication may help her.

  18. you say avoid telazol which I know has ketamine in it , I asked my vet not to use it but he said it was safe? I have a 10-year-old Manx & a 6-year-old jungle-bob ( that’s jungle cat & pixie bob,and also an a 4-year-old f1 savannah , what I’m asking is if they where your cats what would you use on them? you can e-mail private if you like. how long should it take to wake up? the last time he used the telazol on the f1 savannah ( they call the f1 a serval ) it was out for a good 20 hours i know because they are afraid of her so they send her home still a sleep. thank you

    • I would not use it for my cats. I would also consider finding a vet who is comfortable working with F1 Savannahs. Sending a cat who has not woken up from anesthesia home is asking for trouble.

  19. Very important article. We adopted Mom’s 2 cats, siblings, and they had very bad teeth/gums. They did undergo this procedure and we noticed a marked change in their playfulness. Yes, cats rarely “admit” to being in pain, I suppose a survival instinct. It is certainly not an inexpensive procedure, but if the kitties have bad teeth and gums, it can absolutely affect their overall health, just like in humans.

  20. Great info, thanks. Do you think older cats also require a thoracic xray to screen for anesthesia vulnerabilities? Does this screening make a big difference predicting problems? Thanks.

  21. I want to make sure that my cat’s teeth get taken care of. It makes sense that I would want to understand what the doctor plans to do! It’s interesting that they often use anesthesia. It makes sense that they would have a hard time getting them to cooperate otherwise!

  22. Very helpful information
    You never think of all the right questions to ask then presented with the your cat’s need for dental extraction. I am very happy with my vet and will ask these questions so I can be very comfortable with my decisions.
    Thank You

  23. Thank you so much for this post. At his recent check up, I was told my cat had a tooth resorption and needed an extraction. Rather than schedule something immediately, I started doing research. I called several other vets and asked all the questions you have here (plus a few others). Turns out everyone’s prices are about the same ($1300!!) for the full procedure. I’m going to stay with my original vet because they have the best equipment and are willing to accommodate all my requests like not wanting to use Convenia. Our appointment is scheduled for next week. I’m still nervous about it but feel I’ve done all I can do to prepare. Thanks again for your info, it’s been a big help.

  24. Excellent & important post. I adopted a 5-year old retired Ragdoll queen a few years ago. I had a dental cleaning done with her first visit to my cats’ only vet. Initially she appeared to have some pocketing and the normal accumulation of tartar. X-rays revealed extensive bone loss and infection under her lower molars & pre-molars & she ended up having them removed. The procedure included a 2-week follow-up to check for proper healing & revealed that she had such an unusually close bite that her top teeth were now digging into her lower gums. We waited another two weeks and there was no improvement. She was so uncomfortable she started to become nippy with me.

    When the vet held her mouth open for me I almost cried because it looked so raw. I proceeded to have her upper molars & pre-molars removed. As a pre-cautionary measure we decided to remove her canines to eliminate the need for any further surgery, leaving only her little upper & lower incisors.

    I received pre & post x-rays from the vet. Her pain protocols included an extended release buprenorphine injection & a 3-day course of Onsior tablets which I crushed into her food. She did really well after the surgeries & it has not changed her eating habits or appearance at all. The best part, though, is I now have a different cat! The nipping stopped and she transformed from the rather edgy diva with a short fuse I had adopted into a calm and loving sweetheart. I now believe that she was already suffering from some dental pain when she came to me. A vet tech told me she had an identical experience with her Persian rescue who had to have all her teeth removed for a different issue.

    Moral of the story: Use a vet experienced with cat dentistry who uses pre & post x-rays as part of the dentistry protocol and includes a follow-up visit to verify proper healing after surgery. Ask what anesthesia & pain protocols will
    be followed. And never rule out dental disease & pain as a cause of negative behavior changes.

  25. Thank you so much for sharing this guest post , Ingrid. I will definitely be asking more questions the next time one of my kitties needs a dental procedure. I do know that our vet takes x-rays and that she uses bupenorphine for after-surgery pain, but I’m unsure of what type of anesthesia she uses, and I would definitely like to know that! I’ll bookmark this so I can refer to it later.

  26. As a feline specialist, I am always relieved to read a comprehensive explanation of what every cat owner (and veterinarian) should know. I would add that digital radiographs are preferable as they are more detailed and faster to perform, shortening anesthesia time.

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