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Saving Sami: An Oral Health Story That's Worth Smiling About
Basepaws CatsBasepaws Oral Health ReportDental Health

Saving Sami: An Oral Health Story That's Worth Smiling About

Meet Sami. This loving and adorable fellow is one of four cats that Basepaws community member, Giuliano Argenti, rescued and welcomed into his family. At the wise age of 19, Sami is living a healthy and full life—yet this wasn’t always the case. Learn about how the Basepaws Oral Health Test helped Giuliano and his veterinarian save Sami’s pearly whites, and ultimately, his life. It’s a story with a happy ending that gives us all something to smile about!

Bringing Sami Home and the Journey Ahead

In 2008, Giuliano and his father came across a bedraggled cat on the streets. Much the worse for wear, the frightened feline had sustained head and mouth injuries, including broken and missing teeth. They took him home and named him Sami.

Sami’s road to recovery would prove harder than most. Despite the Argenti family’s best efforts to rehabilitate their newly adopted cat early on, Sami’s health began to significantly decline in the months and years that passed. When he reached around 12 years of age, Sami was suffering from heart problems, which, as it turned out, were only the beginning of his troubles.

Getting to the Root of the Problem

Despite treatment after treatment at different veterinarians’ and specialists’ offices, Sami’s heart issues would temporarily subside, only to then reemerge. In domino-like fashion, other organs in Sami's tired body exhibited signs of failure, further compromising his health. Giuliano and his family were at a loss of what to do. 

In his quest to potentially learn more about any root issues that could possibly be causing what was going on with Sami, Giuliano conducted a lot of his own research alongside his discussions with veterinarians. That’s when he stumbled upon Basepaws and our new (at the time) Oral Health Test for Cats that is now included in our flagship Breed + Health Cat DNA Test.

Meanwhile, given all of Sami’s other issues and how quickly his state of health was now declining, Sami’s internists were narrowing in on how to address his failing organs. That process ultimately led to a decision to schedule Sami for general surgery.

After receiving the test in the mail, Giuliano performed the quick 10 second swab of Sami's mouth to collect his DNA and then sent it off to Basepaws. As he waited for Sami’s results, he researched and learned more about how poor oral health can not only cause dental issues in cats, but also more serious overall general health conditions such as heart, kidney, and liver problems. Considering Sami's mounting health struggles, this made Giuliano wonder about whether he might also be suffering from a dental condition.

Did you know that by age three, 70 percent of cats have signs of periodontal disease?

The day came for Sami’s results, which were delivered right to Giuliano’s email inbox. His results showed that he was not at risk for any of the genetic health conditions for which Basepaws tests—but Sami’s oral health test results were another matter altogether. 

a number of different types of food on a table
a number of different types of food on a table

Sami’s oral health test results showed that he was at high risk for currently having periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a painful condition that can often go unseen by the naked eye. One reason is that it begins with the buildup of plaque on the tooth’s surface, and in the earlier stages this results in inflammation of the gums (aka gingivitis). If gingivitis goes untreated and is not addressed with dental cleanings at home and professionally at the vet’s, the inflammation begins to destroy the structure of the tooth and becomes periodontitis (aka periodontal disease). Sami was also at high risk for currently having bad breath (another indicator of dental problems) and for tooth resorption, which is a painful disease that occurs when enamel and the bone-like tissue in the tooth, called dentin, begins to erode and causes irreversible damage. 

A Dramatic Shift in Sami’s Care Plan

In the time leading up to his scheduled surgery, Sami exhibited a range of other symptoms, including pressure buildup in his face and eyes that made his eyes appear sunken, and he began to experience vision problems. He had also been leaving mysterious white stains on his food bowls, bedding, and other areas of the house.

As soon as Giuliano shared Sami’s oral health test results with a new feline dental specialist, they immediately recognized what the Basepaws report was showing. It turned out that Sami indeed had a case of advanced periodontal disease. That white stuff that he’d been leaving around the house? The feline dental specialist said that it was pus and necrotic bone—both signs of a severe dental infection.

Instead of continuing with chemo treatment and the scheduled surgery for an operation on Sami’s organs, Giuliano’s family worked with the dental specialist to schedule an emergency dental procedure for Sami. The procedure included a thorough cleaning of Sami’s teeth and gums, several tooth extractions, and a planned course of antibiotics to treat the infection.

Sami’s New Lease On Life

I can confidently say that Sami is still alive only because Basepaws was able to identify his dental issues with their oral health test. He was about to undergo an invasive surgery on his organs and instead, we were able to find out the real issue of Sami’s health problems.

Giuliano Argenti, pet parent of Sami the cat.

a black and white cat sitting on top of a table
a black and white cat sitting on top of a table

Giuliano shared his certainty that the identification of Sami's periodontal disease, and the subsequent decision by a feline dental specialist to address and prioritize his dental health, has “100% to do with Basepaws' oral health test”. He went on to share with us that Sami hasn’t had a single health issue since the periodontal disease was treated—and that he’s now 19 years old! Giuliano says that Sami is “healthier and more energetic than when he was around 9 years old.”

Every year, February is highlighted as National Pet Dental Health Month. Yet Sami’s story shows us just how important every month, even every day, is to the dental health of our cats and dogs. Just like we have to brush our teeth everyday to prevent dental disease, cats also need to have their teeth cared for on a daily basis to protect their oral health.

Adopting and rescuing pets does add a layer of complexity, though. Especially for kitties like Sami who were adopted when they were older, and when pet parents like Giuliano don’t necessarily know their cat's health history. Unfortunately, by age three, 70 percent of cats have signs of periodontal disease that typically go undetected for two reasons: (1) they can be difficult to see with the naked eye, and (2) our sweet feline companions have natural instincts, such as hiding pain so as to not appear vulnerable to predators (real or perceived) that make it hard to tell if they’re suffering.

I was so relieved that Sami’s life was saved as a result. I’m getting every cat and every friend of mine’s cat a Basepaws Oral Health Test. It was amazing to have these answers—it gives you so much more clarity about things as they relate to your cat’s health.

Giuliano Argenti, pet parent of Sami the cat.

a person petting a cat on a couch
a person petting a cat on a couch

That’s why it’s important to know what’s going on inside your cat’s mouth every month of the year, and Basepaws is here to help you do just that. You can think of the risk assessment in our Oral Health Test for Cats as an early warning system. As it did for Giuliano, it lets you know if your cat currently has dental disease, which eliminates the guesswork and provides you with the power to address it with your veterinarian and at home.

When a dental condition is caught early enough, it means that there are more options to treat it so that its progression can be slowed, and oftentimes reversed. The bacteria in your cat’s mouth responsible for the buildup of plaque and tartar that causes dental disease can also enter the bloodstream, potentially causing issues in other bodily systems. This is why oral health is so important—a healthy mouth supports a healthy body.

In addition to our Oral Health Test for Cats, we regularly share resources such as:

Read More Basepaws Oral Health Stories

If you’d like to read more success stories like Sami’s and learn how important it is to assess your cat’s oral health no matter the time of year, read Baby’s story to find out how the Basepaws Oral Health Test helped her pet parent realize that she needed a professional dental cleaning ASAP, and that in preparation for the procedure, Baby’s veterinarian uncovered a health issue that ultimately saved her life. 

You and your favorite feline can also participate in Basepaws' research programs that aim to improve the lives of all cats. If your kitty has been diagnosed with a health condition, a simple 10 second swab that collects their DNA could help us create new screening tests for earlier disease detection in cats. Learn how to join our amazing community of citizen "kitty" scientists on the Basepaws Research page.