When Charlie was diagnosed with Stomatitis he had to have surgery to remove all his back teeth. Following the surgery, he went through a recovery period of about 3 weeks. He got through it all fine but unfortunately, it was quite a difficult time for us and I am not going to hold back on the details in case it helps reassure someone else in the same position as us one day. If you are looking for something light-hearted to read, this is possibly not the post for you! I suggest coming back next week for some more fun stuff. If you’re interested though, please do read on!
After the diagnosis I spent the weekend googling stomatitis, trying to figure out what it is. If I had a pound for every time I have come across the words ‘needs further research’ when I try to learn more about cats, I would be a very wealthy cat lover. The best description of Stomatitis I could find is that it is a painful inflammation all around the mouth. It is possibly stimulated by plaque and can negatively affect the immune system if left untreated. Apparently cats that are carriers of viruses are more likely to be affected by Stomatitis and extraction of the teeth is the most effective treatment for Stomatitis.
Our instructions from the vet were to make sure Charlie had no water on the morning of the operation. This was easy enough. However, we were also told he was not allowed any food from 7pm the night before. This would be a major blow for Charlie. I could already hear the howls of injustice in my head. Weirdly though, Charlie was very quiet that evening and wasn’t too fussed when Socks had her midnight snack without him. It was another sign that he wasn’t 100% well.
I tried not to think about the operation at all before it happened and told Charlie he was off to Disneyland. The vet had given us some steroid tablets for him to take until the operation and these had had a really positive effect on him. He seemed much happier and not clicking his mouth any more. He trustingly stepped into his carrier and my boyfriend whisked him back off to the vet for another handover in the car park. Apparently when the nurse took the cage, she looked like she wished someone else had come out with her to help carry Charlie inside.
The vet told us they wouldn’t phone until the operation had finished and he had woken up. Charlie kept us waiting until about 3pm that day. We were told the operation had been much bigger than previously thought and he had needed many more teeth out than expected. He was now awake and he wasn’t eating but was licking the gravy off things. Because of the large number of teeth he had had out, they suggested that he should stay in overnight so they could give him adequate pain relief. We reluctantly agreed even though we were desperate to see him. We then had another call at 9pm to tell us that he still wasn’t really eating so they were going to try warming things up and mashing them for him. I told them that he wouldn’t want to come home after that sort of treatment!
When my boyfriend collected Charlie the next morning, he seemed very dazed but ok overall. Socks had hardly noticed that he had gone or come back and just welcomed him with a big sniffing session. Charlie’s face was quite swollen. He had lost all his teeth apart from the ones forward from his canines. He seemed incredibly grateful to be home and purred like mad. This lasted until we started giving him medication. We didn’t hear him purr again until this was finished a week later.
Charlie was sent home with one week of antibiotics and 5 days of very strong pain relief fluid, both to be taken twice per day. Turns out that even in pain, hell hath no fury like a Charlie being forced to take medication. He was seriously displeased about it. We ended up having to be quite strategic in the way we gave it to him. The painkiller fluid would make him very drowsy, so we would give him that first. Then, one hour later, we gave him the antibiotic tablet. My boyfriend would pull his head back and jaws open and I had about half a second to throw the pill to the back of his mouth, trying to miss his tongue as he got very good at spitting it out again. Every time we managed it, I felt like I had scored a goal.
When Charlie first came home, he started sleeping in really strange places. He would hide behind beds and under desks. It wasn’t like him at all! I can only think that he must have felt quite vulnerable and in pain. He would leave a patch of dribble where he slept with a tiny bit of blood too. He wouldn’t jump up anywhere at all, as if he was too unsteady on his feet to go higher. He didn’t meow or purr. He also didn’t interact with Socks at all despite her attempts to get close to him. We found that he gagged on his food quite often at first but I later realised that he absolutely despised the convalescence-aiding food the vet had given us. He was just eating it because there was nothing else! As soon as we put his normal food down, the gagging stopped, although he was sick a few times as he got used to not chewing his food as much.
For the first 4 or 5 days he would spend all day sleeping on a towel we (or should I say, I) had put on the floor for him. He drooled a lot on the towel. He hardly used his litter tray and the vet did warn us that it would take about 4 days to get back to normal after being on a general anaesthetic. He seemed very down and was not grooming himself at all. His eyes kept getting very gunky because he wasn’t grooming so we had to wipe them clean for him.
After the first couple of days, I took him outside to help lift his spirits. Even though he only had the energy to lie in the grass, I could tell he really enjoyed it. We tried to go out the front once for a walk but we bumped straight into Tabby, his nemesis. Tabby raced off pretty quickly when he saw us and I picked Charlie up before he could give chase. Charlie just flopped in my arms though, no fight in him at all. In the meantime, Socks decided that now was the right time to bring her first dead bird into the house. She really was going above and beyond to win our attention, sometimes lying next to Charlie on his towel as if she was also ill!
I bought Charlie plenty of special cat mousse to help him eat. I had tried softening his biscuits but I could tell he really wasn’t a fan of the soggy tasteless mush I was putting down for him. I knew that he was going to be ok when he ate a whole bowl of cat mousse. It was as if this was the turning point. He then started making encouraging murmurs whenever the food cupboard was opened. He also stopped sleeping for as long during the day and started to make an effort to groom. Then, on a family video call, while I was telling my family how terribly ill Charlie was, he decided to jump on the back of my chair without warning and intently stare me down until I surrendered my chair to him. He was finally getting his cattitude back!
From there on in, he started jumping on his favourite sleeping spots again (barrel and our bed) and meowing loudly to make his demands clear. He is now waking us up for breakfasts with the old, loud purry vigour he used to display. If anything, we are concerned he is new and improved and morning lie-ins will never be the same.
This was Charlie’s recovery story from Stomatitis and follows on from a previous post. While he is now well progressed in his recovery, I am still expecting further complications or medication required in the future and will update you further on whatever this ends up being. All in all, the treatment has cost £750 so far. Fortunately our insurance paid back £500 to us and it really does make pet insurance seem worth it to me! You just never know what’s around the corner. I hope that by sharing our experience, it helps other people in a similar situation to us. Please like or follow Charlie’s blog if this has been useful for you. 🙂
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