Cat Dental Cleaning Procedure

Brushing Truman's teeth - Photo by John Morton
Unfortunately, cat dental cleaning procedure requires a general anesthetic. There are therefore cat dental cleaning risks because general anesthesia of cats carries risk of injury and possible death.

A general anesthetic is essential for the veterinarian to fully assess all the teeth and to clean below the gum line.

Before a general anesthetic cats should be evaluated to minimize the risk. This includes a physical examination and basic blood and urine analyses.

What is the risk of injury or worse for a cat when under a general anesthetic? The risk is surprisingly high. I was in a veterinarians the other day and a fellow customer was having his cat's teeth cleaned. He was anxious as he had been told that the risk of death was 1 in 100 (1%). 

Gaynor J.S.; Dunlop C.I. Wagner A.E. et al. (1 January 1995). Complications and mortality associated with anesthesia in dogs and cats, concluded in their study that there was a 1 in 9 chance of "complications" and a 1 in 233 chance of death. 

In this study: Brodbelt DC, Blissitt KJ, Hammond RA, et al. (September 2008). The risk of death: the confidential enquiry into perioperative small animal fatalities, the risk of death was put at:
  • for sick cats 1 in 71 (1.4%)
  • for cats generally 1 in 895
Well, there you have it. For the sake of clean teeth you have quite a real risk of death. Like all these things it is a balancing act of risk versus benefit. See also feline gum disease.

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