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19 Year-old Cat Needs Emergency Dental Surgery

2009 September 30
Old Cat Needs Syringe Feeding

Cleo was a skinny orange tabby cat who had not eaten for 3 days.  Normally, I’d perform the physical examination, make my testing and treatment recommendations, and that would be that.  In Cleo’s case, emotionally-charged decisions abounded because Cleo was born before my new kennel assistant.  She was 19 years old!

“I don’t know if we should put her through blood tests.  She’s so old,” her mom ventured.

“Old age is not a disease,” I countered.

“But I know she’s needed dental care for years, how could she survive anesthesia?”

“First of all, we’re talking about her mouth.  This is central to her every waking thought.  Can she eat without pain?  Cleo deserves to be happy and comfortable.”

“But I heard that old pets die under anesthesia.”

(Here’s the deal–and I’m talking to you– yes, the statistical odds of an “adverse anesthetic event” go up with age.  But, with proper, thorough patient selection: meaning bloodwork, stable underlying conditions like thyroid or kidney disease, heart screening, and careful delicate use of anesthesia.  And with fastidious nursing care and monitoring meaning: a dedicated anesthetist, body temperature and blood pressure regulation, and all the rest of the usual monitoring, with an experienced and practiced anesthesia team, your pet has every expectation of a wonderful outcome.)

Cleo underwent dental surgery.  She needed 11 rotten teeth removed.  She woke up from her anesthesia within 20 minutes and actually ate right away!  At her 2 week post-op check-up, she had already gained a pound!  She could potentially live for years longer, and now she is comfortable to do so.

6 Responses leave one →
  1. October 19, 2009

    Congratulations on a successful operation, and you are so lucky to have your old friend with you after 19 years! A good diagnostic procedure before anesthetic or other treatments is key to getting the balance right and avoiding any post op complications.

    • October 20, 2009

      Hi Samantha! I hope more people will realize their 19, 20, or even 25-year-old pets can have the operations they need without undue fear of dying. Our older pets are even more precious (if possible) than the hope-filled day when we found them! And you are absolutely correct, proper patient identification before surgery helps tremendously to set up a good outcome!

  2. Janie permalink
    April 16, 2010

    Have just read this having left my 19year old boy at the vets today for a dental. I’ve had him since he was 6 weeks so he’s very precious. I am nervous but his comofort and wellbeing are my priorities so I feel I have to take the risk. Here’s hoping I have my baby home tomorrow and he’s tucking into something lovely to eat.

    • April 18, 2010

      Dear Janie and Steve,
      How did your boy do? Is he back to eating and feeling happier?
      Doc Truli

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