The real-life Muesli might be very different to the fictional version in my Oxford Tearoom Mysteries but the one thing they both share is a healthy appetite!
Muesli seems to spend most of her waking hours demanding her next meal, and so it was odd when we noticed in recent months that she was leaving large portions of food in her bowl untouched. In fact, she was eating so little that she was starting to lose weight, despite – like most cats! – spending most of her days sleeping.
So, after trying various things like changing her diet, her food bowl, the place and time she was fed (and checking that she wasn’t being fed alternative meals by a well-meaning neighbour!)… we finally took her to the vet.
At first, it seemed a complete mystery as her general check-up was fine: there were no sinister lumps, no worrying blood test results, no unusual heart rhythms or any other sign of problems with vital organs. She was alert and playful, and she wasn’t sleeping any more than normal.
She just wasn’t eating much and was definitely losing weight. Then the vet took a closer look in her mouth and did some X-rays, and he found something interesting…
It turned out that Muesli had a condition called Feline Tooth Resorption, a horribly painful dental disease whereupon the cat’s own body starts breaking down and re-absorbing the structures that form a tooth. Eventually, the entire tooth disappears, leaving only a bump in the gumline.
The disease actually affects about 40% of cats and yet is often unrecognised by owners. This is partly because cats are adept at hiding pain – it’s a natural instinct that evolved in the wild, to prevent them showing weakness and being targeted by predators. (Apparently, most cats usually won’t cry out in pain until they’re seriously ill or dying!)
So the only way Muesli was showing her discomfort was by avoiding eating altogether. Actually, we had noticed her dropping food out of the side of her mouth (we just thought she was becoming a messy eater! 😝) and chewing quite slowly – but until the vet mentioned these as common symptoms of the condition, we hadn’t really given it much thought. She didn’t display any behavioural changes (like becoming less friendly or playful) or show bleeding in the mouth, which are also common with the disease.
Luckily, our vet is quite experienced with the condition and diagnosed it immediately. He recommended that the affected teeth be extracted, which had to be done under general anaesthetic. So Muesli was duly booked in for a day surgery and delivered into the caring hands of one of the vet nurses…
The whole procedure went very smoothly – she didn’t even have to stay overnight at the vet clinic – although she did return home that evening very groggy!
The poor thing took quite a while to shake off the anaesthetic – she had weird “googly eyes” for hours and kept suddenly stopping and staring into space, as well as weaving drunkenly around the house…
We tried to keep her indoors, but she kept asking to go out in the garden and became so distressed that we relented. We did accompany her out to supervise her for a bit but it seemed that all she wanted to do was head for her favourite hidey-hole under the giant Pennisetum fountain grass.
So we left her to sleep it off and I’m pleased to report that she strolled back into the house several hours later, looking much more like her normal self and loudly demanding her dinner!
Muesli was kept on soft, wet food for a week (she normally eats a raw diet combined with grain-free dry cat food) – and then slowly transitioned back to her usual food. Thankfully, the whole procedure seems to have been a success: she’s back to eating her food with gusto, is not showing any signs of pain or discomfort anymore, and is licking her bowl clean at each meal!
She has lost three of her four fangs (the canine teeth) but it doesn’t seem to bother her or stop her crunching her way through raw chicken wings like she used to…
Muesli is now 11 years old and the vet says her teeth are in very good condition for her age, due to her raw diet. So hopefully, as long as she doesn’t have more teeth affected by Feline Tooth Resorption (scientists & vets still haven’t been able to determine the cause of the disease, despite it being so common in cats), we won’t have any more “googly-eye” episodes!
(* If you’d like to read more about Feline Tooth Resorption, you can find some info here: https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/tooth-resorption)
ps. By the way, fans of my Paws by the Beach series might enjoy knowing that our lovely vet, David, (seen in the photo with Muesli above) was my “professional consultant” on that series. He very kindly took the time to read all the scenes involving veterinary practice & procedures, to check that the details described were authentic & accurate (well, okay, maybe not the bit about the vet being a sexy beach hunk or the rescued koala joey wrapped in an Armani linen jacket… David said the reality of life in an animal hospital isn’t quite so glamorous! 😉 )