I have an older cat with a "bad mouth". She has two fangs and no other real teeth. Her gums are somewhat inflamed (the vet showed me that when he opened her mouth). At the time he suggested removing tooth remnants that may be inflaming her gums.

I felt very leery because she is an older cat (say 18-20 years old or so). She has had a horrible mouth for most of her life (her previous owner remarked on that). So I'm not sure this procedure is essential. It would be nice to give her some relief and help her gums but then I'm not sure it would work at that and I feel frightened about having her put under sedation.

I'm about 95% decided not to do the dental procedure (given her age and the fact that she's gone this long without it). I want her to feel her best but at the same time don't want to risk loosing her on something that isn't dire.

Any thoughts?

  • Does she have a history of other health problems? How is her health otherwise? Have you tried getting a second opinion? How long has this vet (or this vet's office) seen her? (If you have any of that info, that may help others give better answers.)
    – user2505
    Jul 16, 2014 at 2:36
  • She acts like a kitten and seems very robust and energetic. On the other hand she has some old cat issues like mats galore as well as the bad mouth. If she has arthritis she doesn't show it. I've used this vet office for about 14 years (before I even got the cat I'm mentioning here). The main vet who I like to deal with suggested the procedure when I brought her in, but then when I called in later seemed to suggest against it.
    – Dan S
    Jul 16, 2014 at 2:49
  • I would probably say no unless the cat's quality of life is obviously being affected by the inflamed gums. As you said, sedation is riskier in older animals, it doesn't even sound like the teeth remnants are definitely the cause of the inflamed gums, and surely the procedure will involve some amount of pain. Meanwhile it is not expected for a cat that old to live more than a few years longer.
    – Kai
    Jul 16, 2014 at 16:07

2 Answers 2


I would be worried, as you are, about anesthesia for a cat this elderly. Consider that such an activity for humans at a comparable age is considered significantly risky, it's not going to be any different here. The question then is: do you think it will succeed and make her life better in the process. If you're iffy on either, then I would suggest it's a no-go.

So, you might want to consider pain management instead. We opted for that with a 15 year old cat with very bad teeth who nearly died under anesthesia. Now we give her a topical pain medication via, of all places, her ear (it's a gel) and she seems to be in good spirits and is eating well since we started this. It's also really, really, easy to administer meds this way, pills are a real pain, and so I can highly recommend it. Oddly enough, at this age, this route will probably cost us more in the long run but it's not risking her dying on the operating table.

I would suggest broaching that with your vet as well.


Based on your question and the additional information you provided (thanks for that - it helps me get some context and give you a perhaps more useful answer) I would:

  • make another appointment to deal with some of these other issues, if the vet's office has a groomer's attached that can deal with the mats
  • ask specifically about the dental procedure, bring up your reservations about her age vs current health vs safety under anesthesia, and listen to what they have to say

Asking further questions is never a bad thing. I do the same thing at my vets' office, for my cats...and at my doctors' office for me, for what it's worth. If I don't understand something, I ask questions; and if it's a decision about yes or no on treatment/medication levels/what have you, I take my time and think it over. I don't know if I'm their dream patient or their nightmare scenario for doing so, but it's my family's health, dang it.

There's a dental gel - "kitty toothpaste," I've forgotten its name now - that I started giving to all of my cats after one of my boys had to have near-TME (all but four of his teeth removed.) It wasn't the cheapest thing in the world, but to them it was another form of "treat" and it let the boy keep his remaining four teeth and not have any further mouth problems until his death. Ask about that - that might be a nonsurgical way to help with your lady's gum inflamation.

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