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Cats With Oral Problems - How I Won The Battle

The Story of Josh and Sapphi and Their Life Threatening Oral Problems

If you are experiencing severe oral problems with your cat then it is my hope that this story will prove enlightening and beneficial. It could even mean the difference between life and death for your cat…

Josh and Sapphi were brother and sister. I had them from a farm at just three weeks old. I already had two cats at the time and so they made four. They were so tiny I remember fretting when watching them climbing the scratching post, which to them, must have been like climbing a tree, I worried they might fall off! They have left this earthly plain now, but I feel it’s important to tell their story in the hope it helps other cat owners who may be battling with the same oral problem as Josh and Sapphi.

Sapphi was eight years old when she first showed signs of oral problems.

Sapphi was a petite, happy-go-lucky tortoiseshell cat and always one of the first in line for food. On this particular day though she took one mouthful of food and ran off making a terrible screeching sound. She was obviously in pain. Not being the easiest of cats to handle, I could not get close enough to take a look inside her mouth to see what was wrong. So the following day I took Sapphi to the vet who opened her mouth to reveal very painful looking gums. They were swollen and inflamed and she also had ulcers. The vet said she needed some dental work to remove some of her teeth due to tartar build up. Quite a common problem with cats I thought and assumed sorting her teeth would be the answer. I took Sapphi back to the vet the following day for the dental operation. At first all seemed fine and I really thought her problem was caused by the teeth that needed extracting. However, a fortnight later the problem returned, Sapphi was back where she started and so it was another trip to the vet again.

You can imagine how I felt when this time the vet said she had an incurable virus. I asked if it would help if he were to take out the rest of her teeth but he insisted it wouldn’t make any difference because the virus affects the jaw bone and not the gums. He added that the only way to alleviate her condition was with a drug which, at that time, he informed me, was a steroid type drug and fairly new to the market. The drug had to be injected not given by mouth. Given what he told me I didn’t really have much option and so I agreed to the drug treatment.

I can’t remember the name of the drug but I do know it was a very powerful drug because the vet told me the effects initially last for six months. I noted the word “initially”. So I asked him what happens after that and he replied saying the effects of the drug gradually decrease until it lasts as little as one month or less. So ultimately, in a subtle way, he was telling me Sapphi was on borrowed time. Anyway…Sapphi had the injection and I left for home. Just as the vet said, it eventually stopped working and Sapphi got taken back to the vet for a second injection.

Then another crisis!

Her brother Josh developed issues with his mouth. So now I had to take him to the vet and very sadly he got diagnosed with exactly the same problem, but unlike Sapphi, Josh was in a terrible state, his gums were swollen, crimson in colour and the back of his mouth was severely ulcerated. It was quite a trying time to say the least.

Once again, I suggested removing all Josh’s teeth, but the vet just repeated what he said on my previous visit with Sapphi, that removing his teeth would make no difference because the virus attacks the jawbone and not the gums. So needless to say he gave Josh the same steroid injection as Sapphi. Josh seemed fine for a while but, as with Sapphi, the effects of the drug eventually wore off. I took him back for another injection, but this one was not so effective and within a couple of weeks, every time Josh attempted to eat, he would run upstairs squealing in pain, totally distressed. It was pitiful to watch and I felt so helpless. By now Sapphi was on her third injection. This too did not seem to be as effective as the first and second one.

I now realised if I didn’t seek other avenues Josh and Sapphi were doomed to an early death, so I decided to get a second opinion with another vet. I explained the problem over the phone and this vet mentioned stomatitis, which, he went on to say, is a flu related virus and that it attacks the gums causing them to become red and painful. I then decided to contact the vet I had visited in the past when working for the local animal rescue and ended up booking an appointment for both Josh and Sapphi.

Oh my God! What this vet suggested was worse than what I could ever have imagined!

If being told they had a virus attacking their jawbone was not enough, this vet suspected Josh and Sapphi might have cat aids or the leukaemia virus. He wanted to test all cats and euthanise any that tested positive. Due to animal rescue work, I had eight cats at the time.

The vet did nothing during the consultation to alleviate the pain Josh and Sapphi were in, particularly Josh who was clearly suffering badly. He just handed me a bottle of pink coloured, liquid antibiotics. I explained to him there was no way I would be able to get near either of them long enough to enable me to administer it. They were in so much pain, they would run away when I attempted to get anywhere near their mouths. Next thing I knew, the vet grabbed Sapphi by the scruff and squirted the liquid into her mouth saying, “that’s how you do it.” I was horrified! She instantly started to froth at the mouth and was clearly very distressed. As soon as I arrived home Sapphi vomited the liquid. By then I wasn’t sure who was the most distraught, me or her!

By now I was at the end of my tether and fretting over what I was going to do next. The next morning I decided to call the first vet again and tell him what the second vet had said. He totally disagreed and said there was no point in testing all cats when they had lived together for so long. In any case, even if they did have either of the infectious diseases mentioned, they were no threat to other cats because I had my garden completely enclosed.

That afternoon, feeling exhausted and not knowing what to do or where to go from here, in a desperate bid to help Josh and Sapphi, I turned my attention to a more natural approach. The next few months turned out to be a nightmare! I literally had to feed Josh minute morsels of food because of his difficulty eating. Despite all the coaxing, he still ran off on on most occasions. The amount he was eating was bearly enough to sustain him. The pain was just too much for him to bear. Sapphi still had the problem but no where near as bad as Josh.

I ended up trying many alternatives: homeopathic remedies, nutritional supplements, herbal supplements, and even forms of healing, including radionic therapy. Nothing seemed to help alleviate their pain.

So the next question I asked myself is…what now?

I didn’t want to give up though – not yet anyway.

I had got to the stage I simply couldn’t stand seeing Josh suffer any longer and so I was reluctantly considering a one-way-trip to the vet, all us cat lovers know it’s the hardest decision a cat owner has to make, but I had to think of him not me and his constant suffering. Then all of a sudden I remembered an article given to me by a friend. It was an article about the effects of conventional medicine on animals. it had the name of a company who sold natural herbal medicine for pets. In desperation I telephoned them and they kindly put me in touch with a lady vet who lived about thirty miles from my home. She was the Founding President of The British Veterinary Dental Association and specialised in small animals and dentistry. I telephoned her and began to explain my plight and what the vets had said. She commented saying she had never come across a virus which attacks the jawbone. She suggested the only alternative if all else fails is to remove all teeth, which of course is exactly what I asked the other vets to do.

I thanked her for the advice and sat deliberating over it at length because Josh and Sapphi hated travelling and this vet being thirty miles away would mean a long journey for them. Nonetheless, I had no alternative, they had no alternative, I had exhausted all avenues and this was their last chance of survival. Besides, I had lost faith in the other vets who refused to take out their teeth.

So I was about to call this vet to book them in when a strange thing happened. I became compelled to look through the telephone directory. For whatever reason, I went through the list of local vets and chose one at complete random. I don’t know what possessed me to do it, call it intuition, serendipity or whatever. Little did I know this phone call was destined to be be the best one I ever made and the turning point for Josh and Sapphi.

When I called, I spoke with very nice vet, a German lady, and to my sheer astonishment she told me she had been involved in a lot of dental work in her own country. I explained everything to her and thank God her opinion matched the vet thirty miles away and she agreed to remove all Josh’s teeth. It was such a relief because now Josh not only had one last chance to get relief from his terrible pain, but hope of staying alive. I knew if this didn’t work, it would inevitably be the end of the road for him. So with hope in my heart, I took Josh to the vet the following morning, praying it would be the answer to his problem. I gave him a big hug before I left him in the caring hands of the vet.

All I could do now was sit tight and wait for the call later that afternoon. It was a tense time and I waited in anticipation of good news. Then finally I got the long awaited call and to my relief Josh had come through the operation with no issues. However, the vet wanted to keep him in overnight for observation. So now I had to wait until the following morning to collect him. It was the longest night ever and I hardly slept with thinking about him, but the next morning arrived and it was time to collect Josh and bring him back home – I couldn’t wait to see him.

As soon as he saw me he got really excited, expressing himself vocally, he was definitely glad to see me. The vet said he had been very talkative with her and all the staff loved him. I wasn’t surprised in the least because Josh was a very sensitive tabby cat with a lovely nature. He was always friendly with other cats and never showed any aggression towards them. He was almost like a guardian angel to them all.

After a brief chat with the vet, I thanked her immensely for what she had done for Josh and then we headed home. Josh was so pleased to be back home and soon settled in a comfy bed in front of the fireplace and fell fast asleep. His ordeal had no doubt taken its toll on him.

A Complete Transformation…

Amazingly, within days of the operation, Josh made a full recovery and was back to normal, albeit minus his teeth! I could hardly believe the transformation in him. That day I telephoned the vet to break the good news to her, expressing to her how eternally grateful I was for saving Josh’s life.. She was truly delighted the operation worked and that he was back to normal.

However, I wasn’t out of the mire yet because now it was Sapphi’s turn…

About six weeks after Josh had his teeth removed, the effects of Sapphi’s injection had yet again wore off and now she was in a lot of pain. This time though, I had a solution, I didn’t need to take her back to the first vet for another steroid injection that would eventually have claimed her life. I would get her teeth removed just like Josh. So I booked her in to have the same operation, as Josh and have all her remaining teeth extracted. To my sheer relief Sapphi’s results were exactly the same as Josh. Within days she too was back to her normal, happy-go-lucky self, all thanks to finding a vet that specialised in dental work and agreed to remove their teeth.

So the first vet I visited said it was an incurable virus that attacks the jawbone and treated them with a new steroid type drug, which would eventually prove ineffective

The second vet I visited said they might have cat aids or the leukaemia virus, suggested having all my cats tested and euthanise those who tested positive. I was given a horrible pink liquid that made Sapphi froth at the mouth and throw up. It is beyond me why this vet prescribed an antibiotic because they are not usually prescribed for viruses, they are only usually prescribed for infections.

The third vet I called, but didn’t actually visit, said it was stomatitis and agreed to remove their teeth. I would have travelled the thirty miles to get there had I not found the fourth specialist vet, the German lady, who also agreed to remove all Josh and Sapphi’s teeth, which thankfully resulted in a complete cure

To think had I not pursued other alternatives and accepted the diagnosis given by the first vet then Josh and Sapphi, once the drug stopped working, would inevitably have had to be euthanised. To think all the months of pain they endured could have been avoided if the first vet agreed to remove their teeth. Instead, he insisted it was incurable and gave them a drug, new to the market, he knew would eventually have no effect.

Additionally, steroids given long term would no doubt have exacerbated their condition, contributed to weakening their immune system and effected their liver. I am just thankful I took it upon myself to investigate the problem further and seek other avenues.

I sincerely hope this story may one day save the life of your cat. I have no doubt that there must be and indeed have been many other cats who have developed the same problem, some even put to an early death unnecessarily. I wouldn’t accept Josh and Sapphi’s problem was incurable and this is why they lived for many years more. You can read theirs and other cats tributes on the page dedicated to tributes.

If you are unfortunate enough to have a cat with the same problem and your vet has diagnosed it as an incurable virus within the jawbone, just refer back to this story because remember it was the third opinion that saved the life of Josh and Sapphi. However, please realise this operation is not the same as having a routine teeth cleaning and removal of a few bad teeth. As such, I would strongly advise finding a vet who specialises in small animal dentistry because of having to remove all teeth, including the deep rooted canines. So it is vitally important the vet not only specialises in dentistry, but is also experienced at performing such operations.

This story is based on my own personal experience and so I cannot say if the outcome will be the same for everyone. Nonetheless, if telling this story helps one suffering cat then it will have been worth it. Having said that, I truly hope that you never have a cat that develops the same, life threatening oral problem as Josh and Sapphi.

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