Dear Readers, I am a dog person, as you know. After I received this very serious question about feline health care , I called upon Guest Blogger Diane "Macho Man" Gasperin for help in answering this reader's cat-related woes. Read on.
Dear Nicole -
About 3 years ago during a routine vet visit, I learned that one of my two orange tabbies has the gum disease stomatitis. Stomatitiis is essentially when your body is allergic to your teeth (?!?!?!), and at age 3, my now 5 year old Oliver, already had advanced gingivitis. The vet who assisted me that day happened to be a DOUCHEBAG 2 THE X-TREME and was incredibly condescending when informing me that Oliver would have to have all of his teeth pulled eventually. He also told me that feeding him a dental diet was futile and I could do that if it made me feel better. (he said the same thing about having his teeth cleaned periodically) This before saying that he will get really sick at some point, so would I like to start him on a course of steroid treatments that may or may not work and would last his entire life? Oh and that after finding a treatment that did work, it would only work temporarily and then the whole process would have to start over again. (This particular vet also mentioned that before becoming a veterinarian, he worked in a lab testing things on animals!!!!!)
I have since taken him to separate vet clinics, both of whom confirmed this condition. I have learned that once cats have their teeth removed they can lead a very happy life, usually happier than before because they have no more pain. And I have also learned that having cat teeth removed is INSANELY expensive. I can't remember how much exactly, but it would be over a thousand, and that's a lot. (Also I hate the idea of him going under for surgery because cats are more sensitive to anaesthesia)
The last clinic I went to with my other orange tabby Cornelious, is a University Veterinary hospital near where I live. While there, I ended up talking to the vet student mostly about Oliver. She seemed to actually understand my hesitation towards putting my cat through the extreme anxiety of repeated vet trips, putting different types of harsh (and expensive) steroids in his body all before inevitably having all his teeth pulled. She even mentioned that there's a Holistic Health club in the veterinary school which made me trust this place all the more.
I am hugely into alternative medicine; but it's hard to cure something that is already a major health issue using these methods because they are more for prevention. I am already giving him a daily kitty sized dosage of coq10, and I hope that it's doing some good. Oliver acts healthy and happy, but his gums always look inflamed and I notice that he barely chews dry food so I mostly give him wet food. (Also nasty side effects of stomatitis include drooling, and CRAZY bad breath that smells like dirty butt crack!!)
I guess what I am asking is, should I just take him in and get an estimate for how much the teeth removal will cost? I DREAD taking either cat to the vet for any reason because they get soooo upset and think I am rejecting and abandoning them. I am also worried they might force me to get his yearly vaccinations. (I am very opposed to getting indoor cats vaccinated for the same diseases every year!!) As much as I am concerned for my cats' health and safety, I guess I'm also scared what they might say because Oliver hasn't seen a vet in probably 2 years. And even though I am nervous and apprehensive to get his teeth removed, even if I did fork over the cash, I have been advised by multiple vets not to remove his teeth until trying to fix it with treatments first!!
I wanted to get a fellow doting animal mother's perspective on the matter.
SHIT IS STRESSFUL!
- Wishing Cats had Health Insurance in Philly
Dear Cat owner in a Quandary,
First of all, here are my credentials: I am an ex-vet tech, I currently work in human health care and miss my animal friends. I am close friends with a veterinarian with whom I used to work, and I have a friend who has a cat who had to have her teeth removed due to stomatitis.
And, before I tell you my thoughts on this immune-system-gone-wacky disease, I'd like to let you know that there is really no reason for cats who are entirely indoors to get vaccinated. That's just bullshit.
But as for the more difficult issue of the stomatitis, it's really true that once this problem has occurred, the cat's teeth will eventually need to be pulled. It's an immune response, and once the immune system has decided that something needs to go (even if it's not true), it's pretty much not up for discussion.
Treating your cat with expensive, and potentially side-effect-producing medications is just buying time, and keeping your cat uncomfortable. That one day under anaesthaesia will be stressful, but it will solve the problem for good.
I should mention that I am also very into alternative, natural remedies for pets and people, and I have a very dear 12 year old cat who was diagnosed with diabetes about three months ago. Scout was put on insulin and a special diet was recommended, but I had a hunch that the pet food industry was to blame here. So I said a big F U to the traditional over-processed cooked pellet formulas that people have come to think are essential to feed their felines, and I tried the raw food diet. My vet thought I was a kook, but when I called him to tell him "In your Face! It worked!" he was all ears!
It took a month and a half (and yes, this doesn't always happen), but Scout actually went into remission from diabetes, and currently remains healthy and non-insulin dependent. Her coat is shinier than ever, she runs and plays again, and she is at a "perfect weight" according to my vet.
This digression brings light to two very true facts about feline nutrition and health:
1) While we humans don't need to eat this way (go veggie!), our cat friends are obligate carnivores. This means that feeding them anything else besides raw protein is essentially unhealthy for them, and causes health problems like diabetes, etc.
2) the pet food industry sells food to humans who want convenience and who don't necessarily know all about cat nutrition.
With your cat Oliver's advanced health problems, it may be too late to reverse his problems with the raw food diet; but it's never too late to start him on it, which (although more expensive than dry or canned food) will help improve overall health from a preventative perspective.
Once his teeth are pulled, he can go back to a healthier way of life with the diet that nature intended. It may be a bigger investment now; but improved health could mean big savings in the long run.
So, I guess it's time to organize a benefit show for Oliver!
Also, there are many vets...if your vet is a condescending a-hole, fire them and find a new one!
And finally, if you don't believe me, here's a book about holistic pet nutrition that I have found very valuable:
Dr.Pitcairn's complete guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats
by Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM, PhD
Pet nutrition nerd
here's the name of that book...
P.s. I also wanted to add that my friend who had the same problem got all her teeth removed and she's now happy and healthy once more. Also, she's all gums so no worries about being bitten.