Mr Hill, my history teacher from High School (back in the 1980's) got upset with me in one of my history examinations. He was angry that my discussion about World War II was back to front. So, in keeping with my teenage self, I shall start at the end stages of a pet's life as I talk about teeth.
It is at this stage of their life where age is a disease, as like any other disease, it affects the pet's ability to get the treatment they need for the problems they may have. As a vet though, we are trained to think, and many of us believe, that age is NOT a disease.
Its a constant challenge for me when I have owners saying "at their age, I don't want to put them through that" when I have the knowledge that their pet is in pain now. Ignoring this pain is not going to make it go away.
And at their age, they are not getting any younger. No owner wants to think that their pet is pain, but it is a sad reality for many of our pets out there.
|An old Teddy!|
The comorbidities may be enough to make the owner think twice about dental work - you know, the pet that is arthritic, has heart disease, kidney disease. Is it the dollars that is stopping them too? If there is alot of disease, it is likely to cost alot of money, into the thousands, to address this.
The pet where the owner sometimes wakes up some mornings, only to go over to their pet to wonder if they are still alive.
|Very much alive, but sleeping.|
These pet owners are often (understandably) loathe to subject their elderly pet to an anaesthetic just to clean some teeth.
This is where the problem lies - whenever I recommend a dental procedure for a pet, it isn't just to get them back to being pearly white, but to examine, identify, and then treat any disease that is hiding in that mouth of theirs. My goal is to make their mouth pain free.
|Abscessed teeth - identified on radiographs, but the mouth didn't look "too bad" visually.|
If all I am doing is flicking tartar (brown stuff) off teeth, well, you might as well do that yourself, or get your dog's hairdresser to do that.
|An older photo of our dental set up|
To say that is what a "dental" is, is to not understand what a "dental" is. (that is a soap box talk all of its own).
What can we see in older pet's mouths?
|Advanced dental disease in a fat maltese terrier - still eating well but so much pain.|
- Draining sinuses from fractured teeth
- Ankylosis of bone and tooth
- Periodontal disease (significant bone and/or gum loss ) - although not necessarily an old dog disease
- lumps on the gum or bone
- broken teeth
- fractured jaw from advanced dental disease.
|Fractured jaw from advanced dental disease|
And the signs they show we often subscribe to just being old. They may chew slowly, not move around much, not be so keen to play. But they are still eating well.
Please do not let your pet's first anaesthetic for a dental procedure be when they are older. Start your pet's dental program from when they are younger, address any issues as they come along.
This is the best gift you can give your fur-companion.
Book your pet in now, whatever age they are, for a dental check. They are free at Russell Vale Animal Clinic all year round. For the month of August, selected Vet hospitals all over Australia are also offering FREE dental checks.
Even if your pet has had a recent vet check for their vaccinations, take them in for a dental check alone, to make sure that sufficient time is given to discuss your pet's oral health, and to give you information on how to keep your pet's mouth healthy.
I am Dr Liz, the mad vet of Bellambi at Russell Vale Animal Clinic, all for happy healthy pets, which comes with great oral health.
Looking forward to seeing you all soon.