DEAR DR. FOX: One of my adopted cats has developed tartar on her back teeth. My vet recommends a dental cleaning, which, of course, involves general anesthesia. What are your experiences or thoughts on the need and safety of the procedure? -- L.A., Springfield, Missouri
DEAR L.A.: There are veterinarians who try to avoid having to anesthetize dogs and cats for dental work because of the risk. Others feel the risk is justified to do a really thorough cleaning of the teeth -- especially just under the gums, in the gingival margin. A through examination of a lightly sedated animal is an intermediary step to determine if any teeth may need to be extracted, and in many instances, X-rays are needed to check for root abscesses and jaw infection, especially in cats. Cats often have kidney problems associated with serious dental disease.
If your cat is young and otherwise healthy, I fear he may be subjected to one of those veterinary practices that makes general anesthesia an unquestioned routine for even minor dental scaling on an annual basis. Such practices also routinely declaw cats at the time of neutering without question.
Dry cat foods (kibble) do not help keep cats' teeth clean. Chewing on a scalded raw chicken wing tip (mainly cartilage and tendons) with plenty of skin attached, or a thin strip of raw scalded beef once a week will help. Scalding is advised to kill surface bacteria. One of my cats regularly develops tartar (scale) on his back teeth, and I apply PetzLife's oral gel for cats for a few days; the inflammation of the gum subsides and the scale either dissolves or can be removed with a fingernail!
One of the first signs of such problems is excessive drooling and halitosis; more serious dental problems can make it painful for cats to eat. Infection and inflammation from the oral cavity spreads to internal organs, causing other health issues.
DEAR DR. FOX: One week ago, I adopted a stray cat and took him to the vet for a checkup.
He is approximately 7 years old, weighs 12 pounds and is in good health -- except for excessive fleas, which I am treating. He is obviously litter-box trained, and he usually uses it to defecate -- though he sometimes defecates on the floor about 10 inches from the litter box. He continually urinates in various places in my home. I would really appreciate any advice you can offer to correct this behavior. -- C.S., St. Louis
You should keep the cat in one room for the litter box training for seven to 10 days, and let him out only under strict supervision for playtime and exploration. Then put him back in a room with food, water, a bed and two litter boxes with different kinds of litter, say one of corn or newspaper pellets and another of soil or dirt, about 3 inches deep.
Some cats prefer having the litter pushed into a pile so that when they step into the box, the front part is clear of litter. Your cat may have an aversion to cat litter texture and artificial scents in the product. I advise against covered litter boxes. Clean all soiled surfaces elsewhere with an enzyme cleaner.
Clone Puppies From Your Dead Dog
Laura Jacques and Richard Remde of Yorkshire, England, welcomed their new puppies, Chance and Shadow, who were cloned using their dog Dylan's DNA. Dylan died in June, and the couple paid roughly $100,000 to have him cloned at the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in South Korea. In 2004, a researcher at the facility claimed to have cloned human embryos, but the report was later discredited. This commercialized biotechnology is absurd and a misguided exploitation of owners. It's also potential animal cruelty. For details, read my article "Don't Clone Your Dog" on my website, DrFoxVet.net.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)