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Rare Complication After Cat Dental Surgery

June 2, 2013
Silhouette of quiet, alert, peaceful cat sitting on the windowsill surveying the squirrels n the yard.

Peaceful Cat

Salivary Mucocele Causes Cat Discomfort

You want your cats to be comfortable and happy. Painful, diseased teeth interfere with happiness in 75% of our pet cats. Your veterinarian provides professional dental services, sometimes including oral surgery, extractions of hopeless teeth, or other advanced procedures.

Let me tell you about one kitty who experienced a rare but possible side-effect of molar extraction.

Signs of Problems After Cat Mouth Surgery

“Doc, Reina is not eating well. She seems to be dropping food out of the side of her mouth and she’s only eating about half of her normal food,” said the 12-year-old red persian cat’s mom, Darla. Dressed in head-to-toe Gucci work-out gear, long hair perfectly highlighted for the summer, nails long, painted and chip-free, Darla worked hard to make everything beautiful and perfectly maintained in her life. Reina’s stinky breathe brought Darla to Doc Truli. The pretty little cat’s dental disease kept her at the animal hospital for a day of dental cleaning, charting, radiographs (x-rays) and unfortunately, removal of a diseased back molar on the left bottom jaw.

Now, 2 days after surgery, the worried phone call was unexpected and troubling. “Bring her right in for an evaluation,” said Doc Truli.

Rare Complication Causes Discomfort

Here’s what Doc Truli saw in Reina’s mouth:

In the back of a cat's mouth, one side has a pink swollen bump filled with saliva after oral surgery

Swelling on the right is abnormal

Do you see it? You are looking at the tongue and the back of the mouth. On the left side of the picture, you see a normal cat mouth. On the right side of the picture, there’s a pink smooth glistening swelling. What is that?

The swelling is a salivary mucocele. Basically, the salivary duct that runs under the tongue on the floor of the mouth can get punctures by a suture, a needle, or irritated and leak during a dental procedure.

Doc Truli’s nurse said,”Oh! That happened to me once after a dental cleaning. It’s no big deal!”

Well, for Reina and her mom Darla, it most certainly was a big deal!

“Does it need surgery? When will it go away? Will it kill her? How could this happen? and How much more is this going to cost?” ¬†Darla rapid fired her worried questions. (Questions you may be having right now if your cat has this rare side effect.)

Healing a Salivary Mucocele

Swelling under the tongue from trapped saliva interferes with normal eating

Close up of the swollen area under the tongue

“We are going to make sure Reina has good painkillers and prepare her food so it is easy to eat,” said Doc Truli. “Most of these swelling will be reabsorbed by the body within days to weeks with no medicine or surgery.

Making sure she eats and drinks is essential.”

The tongue flicks in and out for a cat to drink. Also, soft, canned, or pureed food for a few weeks while the mouth heals after oral surgery generally makes eating easier for a cat.

An essential tip for nursing a cat:

Separate the treated cat from other pets. Why? So you can watch “ins and outs.” How is your cat eating and drinking? How are the urination and bowel movement patterns? If your cats all share food, water, and the litter pans, then how will you know if your recovering kitty is doing well?

Tip for kitty recovery for small houses:

Acquire a large dog crate, preferably wire, not the hard plastic airline style ones. Alternatively, if you have a table with straight legs and medium size, you can attach chicken wire around the base of the table and make a door in one end to build a crate for kitty recovery that takes up the same space as the table. The area should be large enough for a litter pan, a bed, food and water and a lounge area.

If you do not have space or time to purchase a cage, then medical boarding at your veterinary hospital is worth every penny. The best post-op care you can give your cat is attentive nursing care.

Recovery from a Salivary Mucocele After Dental Surgery

Very rarely, a kitty may need surgical correction of the swelling. In Reina’s case, she ate very well and the swelling disappeared in 1 week, never to return again.

Doc Truli says:

“Each cat and each dental surgery is unique. Always consult with your veterinary dentist or surgeon who is your care provider for your cat for individual advice. This story is shared to give you an overview, help answer your worries after a diagnosis, or to help guide you to ask your vet more questions if you feel your cat still needs a diagnosis.”

*Please note, this kind of swelling is different from an actual blocked salivary gland, which can arise spontaneously and is fixed by surgical removal of the gland involved.



3 Comments leave one →
  1. Marissa permalink
    July 28, 2018 12:03 am

    My cat has developed one of these after having a lower molar removed 3 days ago. Your article helped bring me some peace of mind. Thank you!

  2. Denise Breslin permalink
    September 22, 2017 4:36 pm

    My cat has a hard bump in her gum oiver the area where a tooth was extracted It was swollen before extraction, but now it’s been over 2 months and, although it’s come down a bit, it’s still a significant hard bump. My vet said it’s probably some root fragments still needing to work its way out — to wait and seet. I’m wondering if the vet’s advice to just wait and see is smart. OR whether it needs a biopsy, x-ray which means sedation for my sweet girl. Very stressed over this.

    • October 10, 2017 9:14 am

      If you are not sure you want to follow your vet’s advice, ask for a referral for a second opinion. It may spur your vet to take action sooner or possibly refer you to a veterinary dental specialist. is the web home for the veterinary dental specialty college.

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