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Oral Surgery in Cats

By Lorraine Hiscox DVM FAVD Dip. AVDC; Jan Bellows, DVM, Dipl. AVDC, ABVP

Dental, Pet Services

Why does my cat need oral surgery?

There are many reasons why your cat might need oral surgery. For example, they may need oral surgery to remove growths, repair oral defects, repair jaw fractures, and in many cases, to remove teeth to relieve pain.

One condition that may require surgery is when a cat is acutely sensitive to plaque that accumulates on their teeth. This sensitivity shows as swollen gums and inflammation. In cases that have been going on for a while and those that are not responsive to daily brushing, oral surgery to extract the teeth may result in a significant improvement. With extraction, approximately 60% of the cases will be considered cured. In 80% of cases, medication after extraction may result in cure. The specific medical protocol varies and the advice of a board-certified veterinary dentist should be sought to help with these complex cases.

Oral tumors also require surgery. Some oral tumors have no known cause. If oral tumors are detected early, surgical removal may be an option and result in a cure. Depending on the tumor type, size, and location, referral to a veterinary oncologist (cancer specialist) may be recommended. For more information on oral tumors, see specific handouts.

Oral mass under the tongue

Above: Oral mass under the tongue; Below: After surgery.

Post-surgery

 

Does the surgery need to be done by an oral surgeon?

Board-certified veterinary dentists (avdc.org) and veterinary surgeons (acvs.org) are trained in advanced oral surgical procedures. Your veterinarian will let you know if the surgery that your cat needs requires a referral to a board-certified dentist, surgeon, or oncologist.

 

Is oral surgery safe for my cat?

Anesthesia is necessary for oral surgery and carries some level of risk, as in human medicine. A board-certified veterinary anesthesiologist may also be part of the team caring for your cat. Before anesthesia is delivered, blood tests are performed to aid in selecting the safest protocol for your cat. Your cat will also be closely monitored during and after the procedure.

Will my cat be in pain?

Both local and general anesthesia will be used to decrease discomfort and control pain. The same narcotic medications used in people may be used in your cat. Anti-inflammatory medication may also be administered to decrease swelling and inflammation after surgery, provided your cat is a candidate to receive such medications.

 

How will my cat eat after surgery?

Given the attention paid to delivery of balanced anesthesia tailored specifically to each individual patient, most cats do extremely well under general anesthesia and recover with minimal discomfort in the post-operative period. In fact, most cats will eat the very day of surgery before they are discharged or will do so soon after returning home. Feeding soft food is recommended until healing is complete. Recheck visits will be required to ensure healing is progressing as it should.

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