Elderly Cat With Dental Issues


Ask A Vet: Jo Lewis BSc BVMS (Hons) MRCVS 

Elderly Cat With A Hear Condition and Dental Issues

I have a 17 yo kitty who has dental issues and the vet said bc of her 'galloping' heart rate along with her age it would not be good to put her under to do surgery as this might be too much for her heart. While I agree with him I believe she may be suffering and is showing more problems. What can I do to alleviate her pain without invasive surgery?

I am very concerned about her. She also appears to have hyperthyroid issues. She displays all the 'classic' symptoms but again what to do without invasive procedures. 

Thanking you in advance for your advice.



Hi, It's always tricky when they get older as teeth tend to get worse at a time when the rest of the body is showing signs of age too. My own cat and I went through the exact same thing last year when she was 17 and it was a tough decision to make. In her case, I knew if I didn't get her teeth sorted she was going to have to be put down as I couldn't leave her in pain. We had already tried pain relief and antibiotics I should add and even then she was still struggling to eat her food. This is quite an important point as most cats with mouth pain want to eat but struggled to grasp/chew the food and even drop it first. They often eat little and often but are still keen to actually eat. A lot of older cats have diseases that reduce their appetite and sure they also have dental problems but we need to be careful that we don't assume the teeth are the cause of the reduced appetite as there is usually something else causing that.

So back to my cat - long story short, I chose to get her teeth sorted even though she had had arthritis and mild kidney disease for some years. We did everything very carefully (low doses of drugs, heat pads, drip etc) and I was fully aware of the risks that she could die during the procedure. As it was she actually needed two separate procedures (but this is rare). Seven months on and she is still doing really well and I'm hoping she'll get to reach her 18th birthday in May! It's not the same for all cats as sometimes they just don't cope well at all but my point is that if you have reached the stage where her teeth are affecting her quality of life then your decision might be more black and white than you think. It would be very helpful for you and your vet to have some facts to hand to help guide your decision - a blood sample can help assess how your cat's major organs are ageing on the inside. Thyroid disease in cats can cause a racing heart rate and other signs but can be readily treated with medication and get her in a much better position to handle an anaesthetic later on. If her liver and kidneys are coping ok then perhaps she would tolerate antibiotics and pain relief in the short term till she is ready for an anaesthetic. Bacteria from tooth disease can get into the bloodstream and cause heart, liver and kidney disease too so this is worth bearing in mind as addressing this alone may actually make her feel much better and also put her in a safer position to handle an anaesthetic later down the line.

Ultimately it comes down to what you think she would cope with and what you can afford to do, but just to reassure you that it would not be unheard of to do dentistry on an elderly cat with other diseases as long as we bear this in mind when making the decision and do the best we can to optimize the outcome. Good luck!

Best wishes

Jo Lewis BSc BVMS (Hons) MRCVS 

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