Many clients when facing a medical decision with their cat will ask me what I would do if it were my cat. Most of the time, that question is asked when an owner is facing difficult decisions. But you may want to know what I do for my cat to keep her from developing severe medical problems.
So this case study is about Kristina, the cat I adopted a little over a year ago. She was about five years old and in good health when I took her home from a local shelter. At that time she had some dental disease and we performed a dental cleaning and radiographs. We also extracted four lower teeth that had problems. She did well with her recovery and was right back to eating her dental dry food and ProPlan canned food.
Last summer, we discovered she has a food allergy. She had developed chin acne, which resolved only when we fed her a hypoallergenic food exclusively. Unfortunately, this meant she could not continue her regular dry food - a dental kibble. As you will see, this led to some other problems.
You might be surprised to know that even though I see Kristina every day, I still schedule a semi-annual exam for her. She gets swept up and whisked into an exam room, where she gets the exact same exam your cat gets when it visits. I do this so I am sure to give her a thorough examination, running through the same checklist and comparing data from her last exam.
At her most recent six-month wellness exam, I found she had mild tartar and her gingivitis had returned. Some of this is attributable to her switch from her dental diet to a different food. A few days later, I performed a dental cleaning to treat those issues. I did not find any lesions during the oral exam or on the radiographs, which meant she did not need any extractions. We gave her teeth a thorough cleaning, polishing and applied a sealant. I'll be watching her teeth closer now, knowing that she is susceptible to tartar buildup.
Her blood panel before the anesthesia did show a mild increase in one of her liver enzymes so I will recheck that in the next month. This progress check will let me know if that increase is worrisome or if it was a reaction to her gum disease. If the enzyme is still high, I will run more tests to look for a cause. Tests like these are crucial because there is no way to observe a liver enzyme increase by looking at a cat. The blood panel on Kristina may have caught an issue early. We hope not, but if there is an issue, catching it now is far, far better than later.
If you have met Kristina at our front desk, you will see that she has developed into a very affectionate and outgoing cat. Even though she lives here and is very comfortable with all of us, she still gets nervous when we need to trim her nails and give her vaccines or other care. We handle her gently and reassure her the way we do all our patients so that we can be sure she receives all the medical care she needs. She is up-to-date on her FVRCP and Rabies vaccines, stays indoors exclusively, receives Heartgard once a month, and has her semi-annual examinations.
My goal as a veterinarian is to focus on preventing problems so your cat lives a long and healthy life. Kristina is a healthy cat with a few minor health concerns. Yet because we provide her with regular care, check-ups and dental work, those problems stay minor. It is important to provide regular preventative care to keep our cats in good health as long as possible. Dental health especially can be difficult to notice easily in cats but it can impact their health greatly.
So if you've ever wondered what your veterinarian would do, here was a glimpse into how I take care of my cat.
Dr. Judy Karnia