Friday, October 15, 2010

Case of the Week: Bianca

Bianca is a seven and a half year old medium haired cat. Her owners brought her to the clinic because she was having trouble eating and her bottom jaw was shaking. She would also hold her mouth open as if she was having difficulty closing it.

On her exam, she was very sensitive to touch around her mouth and pulled her head away when I tried to open it. I could see tartar build-up on her teeth and gingivitis. There was gum recession at her upper right canine tooth and swelling of the gum there. We ran a blood panel and it was normal except for a mild increase in the protein levels due to inflammation or infection. Bianca also tested negative for Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.

Bianca's problems could have been due to a neurologic disease or a problem with her jaw. However, I thought the most likely cause of Bianca's problems was pain in her teeth and started her on antibiotics and pain medication. She started feeling better and was eating normally again with a couple of days. We anesthetized her to clean her teeth and exam them more thoroughly. Her upper canine tooth had a large resportive lesion and moved in the socket. The dental radiographs showed the root of the tooth was still present. By careful probing of the teeth, I also found resorptive lesions in three other teeth and a large periodontal pocket around the other upper canine tooth. Almost all of her incisors and one of the lower canine teeth were already missing.

I extracted both upper canine teeth and the three teeth with resorptive lesions. I sutured the gums closed with absorbable stitches and did a thorough cleaning of the teeth, polished them and applied a sealant. I gave her an anti-inflammatory medication to control the inflammation and discomfort and sent her home with more antibiotics and pain medications.

While Bianca was under anesthesia we found another hidden problem. Jill, our veterinary assistant, found a tapeworm segment near Bianca's anus. Bianca is an indoor cat and therefore likely to have had the tapeworm for years. Even indoor cats can carry intestinal parasites and often show no symptoms. Fecal tests can help us find many intestinal parasites but tapeworms usually do not shed eggs that would be found in those tests. The tapeworm didn't appear to be causing any problems at the time for Bianca, and it was just a lucky find while she was here. I gave her an injection to clear the tapeworms from her body.

At Bianca's progress exam a week later, she was doing very well. Her owners said that she was more active and playing, and eating well. She was not showing any more signs of pain.

Dental disease is very common in cats and can cause varying levels of pain depending on the severity of the disease. Many cats can suffer a good deal of pain but do not show any signs. Bianca likely had discomfort long before she showed signs. This is why it is important for cats to have regular semi-annual exams and dental cleanings when recommended by your veterinarian. Cat's won't tell us what's wrong and they often hide symptoms. Your veterinarian and technicians can spot trouble before it becomes severe.

Dr. Judy Karnia

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