A special updated post from our archives from the original feline muse, Merlin.
It’s Mondays With Merlin, here to tell you about a cat vet trip. Not just any vet trip but my trip to a veterinary dental specialist. It’s Pet Dental Month (click for good tips). Updated 2019.
When you get to my age, 21, I’ve seen just about every kind of vet there is. For a good chunk of my life, I’ve had mobile vets or home visits with visits to clinics in between. Most specialists don’t make house calls unless you’re a famous movie star. Even Grumpy Cat sees her local vet clinic. That means traveling in a car or other vehicle. It’s noisy and bumpy and discombobulating especially if you’re blind like me. My sight gradually vanished (no pun intended) and I don’t mind a short car ride on quiet streets but not the HIGHWAY on the COLDEST day of the year.
I have zero, maybe sub-zero body fat and sure, they heated the car and wrapped me in a blankie but someone couldn’t find the plug for the heating pad of my SleepyPod. And I hate being in enclosed spaces so Layla removed the carrier top. I like to watch the blurry movement but it’s NOT safe. Normally we sit in the back seat all buckled up.
The unsafest thing is to hold a pet on your lap on the front seat.
No matter how tightly your human thinks they’re holding on, they will let go in an emergency. If we had to come to a sudden stop, I’d smash through the window. Well, I’m too light to break the window so the window would probably break me. A heavy cat like Domino or a big dog would smash a windshield easily. Not a pretty picture. We suggest using a pet safety harness or using a carrier which can employ a safety belt.
So after an endless journey (20 odd minutes) and the annoying voice of Miss GPS we arrived at our destination. A nondescript building of the renowned Dr. Thoulton Surgeon, a veterinary dentistry pioneer. He’s as old school as it gets with 50+ years of experience under his belt. The place isn’t fancy but you just know you’re in good hands. I was glad Dr. Surgeon (yes, it’s his real name) arranged to see us at a quiet time with no other pets around.
They don’t even have a website but Dr. Surgeon is semi-retired and busy as he wants to be. He still lectures but you won’t find him on a reality show any time soon. I kind of wish he would be more out there. Wisdom needs to be shared. Note: Dr. Surgeon has retired and there has been a deluge of vet pet shows on TV.
I didn’t have to wait more than two minutes before being whisked into the examining room. Good thing I’m blind because the sight of a counter full of skulls may have scared me. It turns out Dr. S. is also a specialist in veterinary dental orthodontics. I used to think pets just got dental cleanings and extractions but he does root canal, laser surgery, implants just like human dentistry. Who knew?
There were weirdly fascinating examples of teeth with silver dental crowns and what not. Mostly dogs and I confess to being happy to be spared surgery.
The doc thankfully was not scary but super laid back. He did something I’ve never seen a vet do. After being placed on the examining table, he stood back a good ten feet away, chatted with Layla and Joe about me while observing me. Usually examining rooms are small but this one was huge. I wasn’t about to leave the security of my carrier but I guess he wanted to see what I’d do. He also used no restraint to open my mouth. It was as if I was butter in his hands. That’s a real pro.
He gently examined me and listened to my heart. The heart is one the most important factors in determining whether a cat is a good candidate for anesthesia and surgery. Oh, and the funniest thing is the vet is allergic to cats!
The sad truth is periodontal disease contributed to my kidney disease. By the time I was diagnosed with CKD, our vet felt it was too risky to administer anesthesia for any dental procedures. That was five years ago when my sister died of CKD. No one expected me to live this long. And by the time we saw another vet who disagreed with the first vet, we thought it was too risky at that point. Needless to say, Dr. S. agreed. We were there for a second opinion about dentistry in general.
Our current vet, Dr. P. (she has since retired as well) is so gung ho and positive, Layla feels she’s too encouraging. She said I have a very strong heart but Dr. S. thought otherwise. Mind you, it was speedy from the stress of the car ride. I felt fine in my carrier and did not like being examined on the hard nubby surface of the examining table. It’s a fancy hydraulic contraption suitable for large dogs. No wonder my heart was racing.
The bad news is Dr. S. confirmed I am in hospice care and he was not happy both of my other vets prescribed a low-dose of baby Aspirin for pain management. He does not suggest opioids like morphine but suggested Gabapentin.
For more info on feline pain relief, the dear doctor wrote an article on the topic.
I must say, the gabapentin did something for my arthritis because I’m walking more spritely. It’s all about the remaining quality of life and Dr. S. was frank about what direction I’m heading in. We didn’t expect any miraculous news but having a second or third opinion is useful when there are doubts and a consensus is needed.
Pet parents aren’t always on the same page about cat care, treatment or end-of-life decisions like euthanasia. When in doubt or if a spouse is not in agreement, consult a veterinarian or two.
Also, strip away denial and observe your pet as they really are and not wishful thinking. Tune in and keep asking, talking, COMMUNICATING with your cat. We don’t always talk back but we hear every word.
I will continue to let you know about my latest adventures and please consider taking your cat to a dental specialist. How are your cats’ teeth? If you’ve been to dental specialist one, let me know what happened.
To find a board certified veterinary dental specialist in the U.S. near you click on the AVDC interactive map