Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Brushing cat's teeth

Last week I had President's Day off, and the vet was open, so I took Lucy, my cat, to the vet to have her right eye checked out. It used to produce a yellowish weep, like the sleep you get in your eyes, but lately it looks to be irritated and producing a black dried and crusty weep. It didn't seem to be bothering her, but after a couple of months I decided it should be looked at anyway.

The short car ride over to the vet's was quite traumatic. For Lucy because she doesn't like to be in a car, and for me because her constant meowing meant a constant stream of bad, bad cat breath that had me wishing for a gas mask (or that the car was warmed up enough so that I could roll down a window).

I told the vet about the eye and the incredible bad breath. The eye was brushed aside as not an issue if it didn't appear to be causing her pain, but the breath issue was traced to a rather bad case of gingivitis and receding gums.

Lucy is scheduled to go in for some sedation dentistry next week, and I got a mini toothbrush that fits over a finger and some cat approved toothpaste to attack the problem in the mean time. I'm hoping that if I brush her teeth every night for the two weeks before the dentist that I can improve things to the point where they won't have to remove any of her teeth.

Apparently cats have a hard pallet that allows them to eat dry cat food even if they have no teeth, and Lucy appears to only be at risk of losing one molar, but all told, I'd like to try to help her keep all of her teeth.

So, every night Sara holds Lucy while I open her mouth and attempt to brush Lucy's teeth. It's not easy. First, Lucy doesn't enjoy the operation and tries to lick the toothbrush (I don't know why I even bother to put the toothpaste on it since she pretty much licks it off the second I get the brush near her mouth), then there is the fact that cat's teeth are small. With all the wriggling, the tongue action, and having my other hand in the way trying to hold open her mouth and spread apart her cheeks, I barely hit any teeth, getting mostly gums and the inside of her cheeks. I know when I've hit the sensitive gums because that's when Lucy starts to squirm and howl, and the toothbrush comes back bloody. Poor thing.

Afterwards, a handful of tarter treats, as they've come to be known, seems to make everything OK. She's back sitting in our laps within minutes of the ordeal so that gives me a little comfort.

Her breath has improved a fair amount, so I'm holding out hope that her teeth can be saved, but I'm thinking that Lucy would trade a few lost teeth for a few less teeth cleaning episodes in a heartbeat.


Blogger Pete said...

...or maybe you're just getting used to her breath.

How do you keep from getting bitten?

1:56 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

It's actually quite easy to keep from being bitten, at least with Lucy; you just keep your finger in her mouth. She's so intent on getting your finger out of her mouth, she never thinks to actually bite down on it.

8:43 AM  

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