Dear Dr. Fox:

I have three cats that are 1, 2 and 3 years old. They have never had their teeth cleaned. I took my previous cats to a veterinarian who would clean their teeth while he gave them their annual shots, without putting them under.

I no longer have that veterinarian. I am concerned that the new vet wants to put my cats under general anesthesia, and I’m worried about the cost and the danger.

What do you think about cats and teeth cleaning?

S.F., St. Louis

DF: I am receiving more letters like yours, and it does concern me that veterinarians are putting cats and dogs through the risks of general anesthesia.

In many instances, putting the cat under is not warranted when the teeth cleaning needed is minor, and the animal is amenable to gentle and effective restraint in a blanket wrap. In some instances, a mild sedative must be administered.

It is true that older veterinarians did not routinely put cats and dogs under for minor dental work. With new equipment, rising practice costs and a new generation of graduates more aware of the high incidence of dental diseases in cats and dogs — in part because of the manufactured pet foods the animals eat — giving a general anesthetic for any and all dental procedures is becoming a standard practice. But it needs to be questioned, especially when animals die as a result.

Very often, only some tartar and scale on the back molars need to be removed, and this can be done with a fingernail.

Applying PetzLife Oral Care spray or gel formulated for cats can help loosen scale, fight any gum inflammation and reduce infection (oral dysbiosis). It should be used for three to five days, closely following the manufacturer’s instructions, before any dental procedure is done on cats or dogs. This might help reduce post-anesthetic complications associated with oral dysbiosis by reducing the inflammation and bacterial infection before dental surgery.

Such products can also be used on a routine, short-period basis as a way to prevent dental problems in pets. Try it along with safe chewy things that cats and dogs enjoy, such as scalded raw chicken wing tips and thin strips of beef shank meat for cats, and organic rawhide strips (processed in the United States) and scalded raw chicken or turkey necks for dogs.

The wisdom of cats

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have two littermate cats that I adopted as kittens in 1997. One has chronic renal failure, which was diagnosed in March when he stopped eating dry cat food.

He didn’t eat much at all through April, until I gave him Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Frozen Diet chicken. He ate one to two medallions per day, along with some Temptations treats and a little milk. He tried to eat high-quality canned food by licking the liquid but he always went back to the raw. Now my other cat also prefers frozen raw.

Are my cats showing that frozen raw is a better cat food, especially for the cat with chronic renal failure? Is it better for the kidneys?

D.L., Maryland Heights, Mo.

DF: You can thank your cat for showing you what will help improve his health. He is exercising what I call his “innate nutritional wisdom,” which is so often thrown off when cats become addicted to certain manufactured cat foods, especially dry kibble.

Dry food has been implicated in some kinds of chronic renal failure and lower urinary tract problems. For details, see the new paperback edition of my book “Not Fit for a Dog.”

I have long advocated whole foods for cats and dogs, and that includes frozen raw and freeze-dried raw foods. Always give your pet probiotics, and change his or her diet slowly over seven to 10 days from conventional diets to the better ones, such as those on my Web site,

Some people think that because of its close ties with some of the big pet-food manufacturers that see the raw food movement as a threat, the American Veterinary Medical Association, of which I am an Honor Roll member, has come out in opposition to raw food diets, citing alleged public health concerns over bacterial contamination. But the fact is that cooking does not kill all these potential pathogens, and most pet food recalls because of salmonella and other bacterial contamination are with dry foods and treats, and rarely with the frozen raw foods.

Michael W. Fox, author of a newsletter and books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.

2012 United Feature Syndicate