Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fat Cat Lips and Other Calamities

So we got home from Colorado Springs to find one of our cats, Seamus O'Leary, with a big fat lip. (Pictures at the end of the last post). Now, I'm a huge weenie when it comes to my own pets. Not to mention that when it comes to my animals, my imaginoscope goes all wonky. A scrape that on a client's pet looks like a scrape will, on one of my critters, transmogrify in my mind to something horrendously malignant. I once looked at a weird, irregular lump on the gums of our eldery German Shepherd and within seconds jumped to a diagnosis of mouth cancer. I bent closer to get a really good look, caught a whiff...and realized the lump was actually kitty poop from him raiding the litterbox. I've learned my lesson. So the next day, off Seamus went to work, where one of my colleagues could examine him with proper objectivity.

Tentative diagnosis: An abscessed lower tooth.

Treatment: Examine under anesthesia, and if confirmed, then yank that sucker out of there.

You can probably guess that if I don't do well examining my own animals, I'm sure not going to do surgery on them. Fortunately, the practice where I work has a top-notch surgical team. Amber, one of our superb certified veterinary technicians, did the work while I held Seamus's little paddy-paw. Once Seamus was under anesthesia, an ultrasonic cleaning (to remove the tartar) and dental X-rays revealed not just an abscessed incisor, but also two teeth with resorptive lesions. Resorptive lesions are roughly the cat version of cavities. We have no idea what causes them, but we know what they do: eat away at the tooth from the outside in. When the lesion gets deep enough, the cat is in a great deal of pain. Seamus's lesions weren't terribly deep--yet--but there's no way to stop a resorptive lesion once it starts, and filling them (like human cavities) doesn't cure them. When we see them, we usually extract the tooth (with the owner's permission, of course). Many owners tell us that afterward, their cats are running around like youngsters again. Anybody who's had bad tooth pain knows what I'm talking about!

We couldn't tell by looking which tooth was infected and causing the lip swelling; on the surface, everything looked hunky-dory. But a dental X-ray fingered the culprit: the root of a teeny little incisor. At this point, Seamus isn't feeling a thing. He's under anesthesia, breathing through the tube at the right of the photo. The gray tube that looks like the end of a ShopVac is the dental X-ray machine; the white gauze in his mouth is holding the X-ray film in place.

Here, Amber is cleaning Seamus's teeth. Removing the tartar revealed one of the two resorptive lesions. That green thing over him is a heating pad; he has another one underneath him. Without heating pads, little animals get very cold under anesthesia.

I didn't take photos of the extractions. I figure we're flirting with TMI already. Suffice to say all went smoothly.

Five minutes after the anesthesia is turned off, the breathing tube is out and he's already trying to lift his head (and get his tongue back in his mouth). Poor kitty!

Don't feel sorry for him too long, though. The next day, the swelling is already going down, he's bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and indulging in all his usual shenanigans:

Cuddling with his favorite dog, Inja, in front of
a heater vent...

...helping himself to my lunch...

...and skedaddling like the wind when he gets caught.

So let's see: Wordstock...a trip out of teeth...and...ah, yes. The new, as yet untitled book. And some lovely news about Ten Cents a Dance!

Next time...


Walter Rowntree said...

Wow! So many posts! Fletcher-fans SCORE!
You realize that when you post a case you are taking a great risk that I will jump on board with the TMI competition. But I will restrain myself (This time).
"We have no idea what causes them" - The latest crackpot theory is oversupplementation of commercial cat foods with vitamin D
"helping himself to my lunch." What the heck kind of cheese is that? I figure it has to be cheese 'cuz apple slices with sliced luncheon meats would be just icky and any of the other possibilities wouldn't be attractive enough to a cat for the 'ol snatch 'n run.

Melissa Marsh said...

Wow. I had no idea that cats could get cavities. Heck, I never even thought about it before.

I'm glad it was nothing serious and that the little guy is up to his old tricks. :-)

And I'm looking forward to your news about Ten Cents!

Anonymous said...

I'm quite familiar with that old raiding-the-litterbox trick. Our scotty used to do it. We called his snacks "kitty almond roca".

You're poor little guy looks so sad with his tongue hanging out. Glad to hear he's feeling better. And it's good to know that even professionals get emotional when it comes to their own pets. :)

Christine Fletcher said...

Walter--Correct, it's cheese! Gjetost cheese, to be precise...some kind of Scandinavian goat cheese. Tastes a teeny bit like caramel and goes great with Fuji apples.

Melissa--We wish we knew for sure what causes these things. In veterinary dentistry, we don't worry about how pretty the teeth are...we only worry about health and comfort. If we could prevent these lesions, we could save a lot of cats from pain.

Lisa--I almost didn't post that picture of Seamus waking up, he looked so pitiful. And yeah, veterinary types are terribly emotional with our own pets. I know folks who can't even watch their own critters under anesthesia, it's too upsetting.

We use the "kitty roca" phrase, cracks me up.

Seamus thanks you all, and wants you to know he's back in full force pestering everyone in the house!

Walter Rowntree said...

Gjetost!! I'd'a' guessed gjetost except I didn't think that anyone else besides me even knew about it! That's exactly what it looks like, but gjetost doesn't exaclty look like cheese...
I discovered it, umm, let's see, OMG twenty-seven years ago. It is a whey cheese, which is whey it's so strange. It takes gallons and gallons of whey, boiled for dheys and dheys to make a little cube of the stuff. The honest to God authentic Scandawheyvian types start with a mix of goat and cow's whey, but the Nortwhey Americano type mhey be just from cow's whey.
Gjetost is WHEY tasty!

Walter said...

I suppose I owe everyone an apology for the above post.
I am deeply sowhwhey

Christine Fletcher said...

No wheyries, Walter! :)

And my gjetost says it's made from goat's milk...which is why, I'm sure, it costs what it does. I'm generally a frugal sort, but not when it comes to cheese.

Cheese, Grommit, cheese!