What happens during your cat’s dental procedure day at CCC?

Some of you like lots of information, some of you like less. For those of you who like lots, this blog is for you! (and we’re always happy to give you even more, just ask)

You drop off your cat in the morning and pick them up in the evening looking pretty much the same. What happened to them while they were at Cat Care Clinic for their dental procedure?

{{{insert love, respectful handling, and tlc in our feline-obsessed environment between bullet points below}}}

Cats get admitted to the hospital after they’ve been checked-in, typically early in the morning between 7 and 8am.

At check-in, one of our Certified Veterinary Technicians will:

*review the plan for your cat that was likely discussed at their last exam

*cover any additional things your cat may be due for or need, which can be done while they are in the clinic

*Review the estimate for the treatment plan. We know people don’t like surprises, and we try to be as comprehensive as possible to forewarn you of potential additions (especially for cats with advanced dental disease)

*Review any risks of the procedure or anesthesia

*Collect your contact information for the day so we can keep you posted or contact you if questions come up

Next, the doctor who is in charge of procedures for the day will do a pre-surgical exam of your cat. It’s important to have a current exam to make sure there are no new changes with their overall health that may dictate any modifications to the plan for the day. The doctor then calculates medications appropriate for your cat to relax them and give preemptive pain relief if needed.

Two Certified Veterinary Technicians will be assigned to your cat along with the doctor, to tend to their care for the day. They will work together to begin preparing your cat for the dental procedure. After your cat has received his/her premedications, next steps involve:

*Placing an intravenous catheter and beginning a continuous fluid infusion. This maintains your cat’s blood pressure during their anesthetic procedure, assures appropriate kidney perfusion, and is a route that medications can be given intravenously if needed in a pinch.

*Your cat is then given an injection of a medication into the catheter that makes them temporarily sleep, at which point an endotracheal tube is carefully inserted into their airway. Immediately, oxygen is administered via this tube, along with safe anesthetic gas to keep them maintained under anesthesia.

*Anesthetic monitoring devices are connected. This includes leads and devices for monitoring heart rate, EKG, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, respiratory rate, end tidal carbon dioxide, and temperature. A circulating warm water blanket keeps your cat warm. All of these parameters are continually monitored throughout the procedure by the Certified Veterinary Technician designated for anesthetic monitoring, until they are awake. They document vital statistics every 5 minutes and watch for any trends upwards or downwards in numbers, so they can be proactive in your cat’s safety before they ever have problems rather than reactive to drops (example in blood pressure) or spikes (example in heart rate).

*The second Certified Veterinary Technician begins the dental charting. Each tooth is assessed for level of gingivitis, tarter build up, gingival recession, enamel defects, fractures, and more. The entire oral cavity, throat, and under the tongue are inspected for abnormalities including oral cancers. Every cat’s dental chart is recorded in their medical record and compared to their prior chart to assess progression of disease.

*A full series of dental x-rays are taken, similar to those done in a human dental office. Our technicians are EXPERTS in taking these films. They take high quality films very efficiently, which reduces the length of anesthesia time for the cat and allows the doctor to evaluate each tooth precisely. These are digital films, so no time is wasted developing them.

*Once dental radiographs are complete, as the anesthesia technician continues to monitor the cat’s anesthesia, the other technician begins the dental prophylaxis and cleaning procedure. This involves using special instruments for ultrasonic scaling of the teeth both below and above the gum line. Only skilled technicians perform this, as improper technique can damage the tooth both externally and internally.

*As the technician cleans the teeth, the doctor reviews the x-rays and determines if any disease is present in the teeth or roots, or the jaw itself. Early or advanced evidence of bone cancers in the mandible or maxilla are sometimes discovered at this time.

*The doctor also reviews the charting that was completed and inspects the oral cavity thoroughly once again for gingival disease, oral cancers, ulcers, or other abnormalities.

*The doctor determines if there is any further treatment aside from the routine dental prophylaxis needed, or anything beyond what was already expected prior to the procedure. (sometimes from the physical exam, we know that certain teeth will need to be removed before the procedure). If there is anything unexpected, the owner is called and the recommendations and/or changes to the estimate are discussed.

*Next, if further procedures such as tooth removal are needed and agreed on, the cat will likely receive a local anesthetic, similar to that given by a human dentist before dental work in a specific part of the mouth. This allows the cat to feel no pain and will keep the amount of general anesthesia needed lower.

*Following the doctor’s inspection or treatments, the cat’s teeth are cleaned once more and a fluoride polish is applied. In many cases, a sealant is also applied to aid in tooth and gingival protection.

*We always add in one more form of pain and inflammatory relief, Class IV Soft Tissue laser therapy. This is completed at the end of the procedure on the gingival tissue. It takes a few minutes and it’s anti-inflammatory benefits are one more means to keep your cat comfortable.

*When all procedures are complete, the gas anesthesia is discontinued but your cat is allowed to continue breathing oxygen until they start to become alert. At this time, the breathing tube is removed and they are relocated to a cozy recovery unit, where warm towels keep them comfortable while the technician monitors them until they are fully awake and alert.

*The doctor or technician then contacts the cat’s owner to inform them the procedure is complete and arranges a time for discharge later in the afternoon.

*At discharge, the technician or doctor reviews printed out copies of the x-rays and the oral charting to explain what was found and done during their procedure.

*Your cat may go home with pain medication, depending on what procedures they had that day. If extractions were performed, a follow up visit to assess healing will be done in about 2 weeks.

*As always with cats, we tailor things as we go. Some treatments and home care routines work better for one cat than another, so we always continue to monitor and re-assess your cat at future visits.

We love questions and we are obsessed with being thorough and doing our job with the highest standard of excellence. Our goal is to provide you with the BEST recommendations for your cat’s health, but also be completely open to discussing every option that suits your cat and your lifestyle the best.

February is National Pet Dental Health Month. We’re spreading the love through April! Call (608) 833-9750 to schedule your cat’s dental treatment procedure in February, March, or April, and we’ll enter you to win. We’ll draw and announce the lucky winners at the end of each month.

Happy Dental Month!




Madison East Side

Cat Care Clinic - East

1006 E. Washington Ave.

Madison, WI 53703

Directions to East Clinic

Madison West Side

Cat Care Clinic - West

6722 Odana Road

Madison, WI 53719

Directions to West Clinic
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COVID-19 Care Updates • Modified April 29, 2022