If your cat finds themself with a damaged or infected tooth, their veterinarian may insist on extracting the tooth to protect their health. In this post, our Johns Creek vets discuss what you can expect from your cat's tooth extraction surgery, and what you should look out for following the procedure.
Feline Tooth Extractions
A tooth extraction is when your cat's tooth is surgically removed by their veterinarian. A more severe extraction can go as deep as the roots, in which the entirety of the tooth will need to be removed. In other instances, just removing the crown of the tooth (the part that is visible above the gum line) will suffice.
Why an Extraction May Be Necessary
When a cat's tooth is damaged beyond repair, removing it will prevent infection and pain caused by the dead tooth. In most situations, this decay is caused by periodontal (gum) disease due to a lack of oral hygiene.
Gum disease is caused by a build-up of plaque on your cat's teeth that eventually hardens into a substance called calculus or tartar. When not removed, the hardened tartar will cause pockets of infection between the gum line and the teeth, leading to gum erosion and tooth decay.
Gum disease can successfully be prevented with a consistent at-home dental care routine and regularly scheduled professional dental appointments. These appointments are just like taking your pet to the cat dentist and they let your vet keep an eye on your cat's oral health.
Cats are also susceptible to a condition called feline tooth resorption. Feline tooth resorption is when painful erosions develop on a cat's tooth or teeth and begin breaking down the structures that form the tooth. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent feline tooth resorption. Teeth experiencing resorption almost always require an extraction.
The Process for Cat Tooth Extractions
When you bring your cat in for an extraction, they will be given general anesthesia to ensure your cat's safety and comfort throughout the procedure. Before the procedure takes place, your vet will likely recommend the appropriate diagnostic tests to ensure they are healthy enough to undergo anesthesia. These tests may include bloodwork, X-rays, or an EKG.
During surgery, your cat will be continuously monitored by a veterinary technician who will make sure that your pet's vital signs stay stable and administer pain medication.
There is a variety of techniques that your vet may use depending on the teeth that are being extracted, including their size and location.
Your Cat's Recovery
After tooth extraction surgery, it is normal for your cat to feel some sensitivity for one to two weeks. For more complex procedures, pain relief medication may be prescribed by your vet for a few days following the surgery. If you notice your cat is not sleeping after their dental surgery, it may be a sign they are in pain, and you should seek veterinary assistance.
Cats typically don't "chew" their food the same way humans do. Their teeth are mainly for ripping apart pieces of meat and when it comes to kibble, it's not unusual for them to swallow pieces whole. So while you don't need to worry about your cat eating in the long run, you should still soften their kibble with warm water or switch to canned, wet food for a few days after the procedure. After a day or two, if you notice your cat not eating after their dental surgery, contact a vet to have them examined.
Complications are rare after cat dental surgery, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't monitor your kitty's mouth. Keep an eye out for any signs of excess bleeding, swelling, or infection. Infection may be characterized by redness, pus, or a bad odor.
Your vet will likely want to schedule a follow-up appointment with you to ensure everything is healing as it should. Talk to your vet about any other special care requirements your cat may need.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.