Do my cats need teeth cleanings?


Dr. Barchas,
I have two Siamese-mix cats, brother and sister. They are wonderfully
affectionate, loving, loud, soft, shiny kitties. They are nine years old.

My question is about teeth cleaning. I think they need it. Their teeth
look brown, and their gums are red. It must hurt, although we can’t
tell as they are happy, playful cats. I am worried about putting them
under anesthesia. What is your recommendation? How do I find a vet I can trust?

Thank you,

Southeast Portland, OR

It sounds like your cats need dental work. The thing you said that most caught my attention is that their gums are red. That is a sign of gingivitis, or an infection in the gums. Gingivitis is a serious medical problem.

Gingivitis is the most common health issue I see in cats and dogs. Because pets don’t brush their teeth, food sticks to the teeth after meals. Bacteria grow on the food, and then spread into the gums, causing an infection known as gingivitis.

Gingivitis is painful. It also contributes to a myriad of other serious problems, including diabetes, autoimmune disease, heart disease, kidney disease, decreased lifespan, and cancer.

Treating gingivitis involves physically removing the infection from the gums. This must be done under anesthesia. Pets can have their teeth cleaned without anesthesia, but such procedures are mainly cosmetic and do not address gingivitis. Although many people are nervous about anesthetizing their pets, please be aware that the anesthetic agents used by most veterinarians today have extremely low rates of complications. In most pets, the risks of anesthesia are insignificant when compared to the risks of untreated gingivitis.

The most reliable way to find a good vet is to ask your pet owning friends or colleagues for a recommendation. A good veterinarian should be happy to look at your cats and discuss the risks and benefits of dental work. He or she also will be able to explain what safety precautions will be taken to help ensure the procedure goes smoothly.

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