Article at a Glance
Many cats will require dental cleans and tooth extractions at some point in their lifetime. While it may seem like a scary prospect, a cat having a tooth removed is a relatively straightforward procedure.
- A tooth will be extracted when it is diseased or damaged. As the affected tooth is usually a source of pain and infection, your cat should feel relief after the procedure.
- Ensure you assist your cat in their recovery. Offer soft and nutritious food. They should have a quiet and warm place to sleep off the anaesthetic.
- Even cats with no teeth can lead normal lives and don’t generally need special diets.
When is Cat Tooth Extraction Necessary?
Take it from me, your vet will only advise your cat to have a tooth extracted when it is necessary. Removing cat teeth is not an easy thing to do. In fact, for many vets, it is one of their least favourite procedures. This is because it can be tricky, tiring and time consuming. Therefore, when a vet informs you that your cat needs a tooth extraction, you can trust them!
We will remove teeth when they are diseased and have gone past the stage where they may respond to conservative treatment such as tooth cleaning and anti-inflammatories. They will usually be causing localised gingivitis and discomfort. The tooth will typically have a gap (of at least 1mm) between itself and the gum. This can be detected with a dental probe and lets the vet know that the tooth is not healthy.
We will always remove teeth that have Feline Oral Resorptive Lesions (FORLs). These teeth cause significant pain and cannot be conservatively managed. Ideally, the tooth roots would be x-rayed to determine which type of FORL is present and what is the best approach to take when it comes to the extraction.
How to Recover after Tooth Extraction?
In the initial 24 hours after your cat’s surgery, they may be out of sorts. Some will want to hide away and may be a little wobbly on their feet. This is an expected effect of the anaesthetic and we need to keep them indoors and comfortable. Ensure they have a quiet, warm, safe space where they can rest comfortably. Keep other pets and young children away while they recuperate.
Sleep is important and your cat will likely sleep a lot for the first day. It is important that they take all of their prescribed medicine and that we encourage them to eat and drink, even if only a little.
It is possible that your kitty will have mild diarrhoea and a slight cough. The cough is due to irritation caused by the endotracheal (breathing) tube. You may also notice that they drool and that the saliva may be blood-tinged. These signs may be worrying but are to be expected. It will take a few days for your cat to feel more like themselves again.
If your cat seems very unwell and is not taking its medicine, please let your vet know. Some kitties may require a short stay in the clinic where they can receive intravenous fluids and injectable medicine. Oftentimes, if a cat has had multiple teeth out, this aftercare will be recommended as standard.
Most vets ask that you bring Felix back for a check-up two to three days after the procedure so they can examine the mouth. If there have been any sutures placed, they will want to ensure these remain in place. They will be assessing for any signs of infection and ensuring your cat is free from pain. Remember, any sutures placed will be dissolvable so we won’t need to take them out.
The Role of Nutrition
It is only recently that vets have started to really consider the nutrition of a pet when they are recovering. This includes recovery from an illness or a surgical procedure. We now understand that we need to support their immune system as well as their gut cells (enterocytes) while they get over an anaesthetic and surgical procedure. We should offer food early in the recovery process. This stimulates the mucosa and activate hormones which assist in GI motility.
Cats should be fed a nutritious and calorific diet while they recover from their tooth extraction. Initially, many will have a reduced appetite. This will be due to the after-effects of the anaesthesia, side effects of pain relief and oral discomfort. Ensure they are taking their medicine and that they are being offered appropriate food. Soft and tempting food such as mashed chicken or white fish with rice is a good choice. Your vet can also discuss the option of a prescription diet. Hills A/D is a good example of one. This tinned food is ideal for the recovery period. It is high in calories and extra palatable.
Remember, cat tooth extraction aftercare should always take nutrition into consideration.
How to Care for a Toothless Cat?
While most cats who have dental extractions leave the vet clinic with plenty of teeth left in their mouth, this is not always the case. Adult cats have 30 teeth so, even when several teeth are removed due to dental disease, there are plenty of spares left over. In some cases though, cats suffer from severe periodontal disease or a condition known as stomatitis. In these cases, your cat may be left with few or no teeth.
Thankfully, even toothless cats can live normal lives. There are few changes we need to make, even when it comes to their diet. Amazingly, these cats can eat dry kibble. Most, however, will be fed on a diet of canned wet food.
Dr. Linda Simon, BVMS, MRCVSVeterinary surgeon,
Dr. Linda Simon MVB MRCVS is a locum veterinary surgeon who has worked in London for the past 8 years. She graduated top of her class in small animal medicine from UCD, Dublin. She is currently a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.