Friday, November 2, 2012

Did you know that there are dog dentists?

My girl River has pretty clean teeth.  She hasn't needed a dental yet and she's 5 years old.  We brush her teeth at least once a week and she seems to love it.  We also play ball with her everyday, which she also loves.  We were even warned early on not to use tennis balls as they wear on the teeth, so we use kong balls.

So, when I noticed that her teeth were still wearing we started to get worried.  Then River started to drool only in the afternoons, but not everyday and months apart.  This drool was more like someone had turned on a faucet and had forgotten to turn it off all the way.  It was a little hard to figure out that she was only drooling after she played ball.  The drooling would stop after a few hours.

Last week she drooled for two consecutive afternoons so to the vet we went.  We got high marks for everything:  weight-excellent, teeth-great, eye and ears-great, heart and lungs-excellent, temperature-normal, coat-gorgeous and shiny.  Since the vet could not see anything wrong with her while she was awake they sedated her to look closer at her mouth.  And when the probe went into her right top canine stuck.  The vet hit a pocket of soft material which meant that the root canal on that tooth was open and probably infected!

The canine tooth on a dog has a very large root, so this is a job for a dog dentist!  

The dentist told us that the best option would be to try and save the tooth by doing a root canal.  This procedure is pretty much the same as the procedure done in a human, only dog's don't have dental the price is a bit painful.  But she's our pup and we do everything we can for her, so the root canal will be done next week.  The only other option is an extraction, which would be just as pricey, but way more intensive and painful for River.  The video below is from a different veterinary dentist, but what he discusses in the video is what my veterinary dentist discussed with me in order to make the choice to do a root canal instead of an extraction.

The big worry about having an open socket like this is that the root canal leads into bone.  When the canal gets infected the infection comes out the end of the tooth and starts to eat into the bone!  While the dog may not give you signs that it is in discomfort, the bacteria is eating into their facial bones and when it gets through the bone it starts to eat away soft tissue and creates an abscess.    

River does not have an abscess, but the tooth does need the root canal.  The procedure should only take about an hour and a half or less.  If your dog is going to have surgery make sure you ask questions about it.  The veterinary dentist we are going to does not work at our regular clinic and we had to ask the questions below.

Make sure you ask:
-How they keep your dog warm during the surgery.
Some vets do not have a way to warm the dog while they do surgery and the dog gets very cold and they are harder to wake up after surgery.  Other vets have heated tables and blankets that keep the dog warm and at temperature, which helps the dogs to wake up quicker and more comfortable after surgery.

-What type of pain management do they use before, during and after the surgery.
Some vets don't use pain meds as much as others.  It's very important that the dog doesn't suffer pain, and the vet should be using pain meds before, during and after surgery.

-What type of monitoring they do during the surgery.
Some vets don't have monitoring machines and do monitoring manually, don't use these vets as they cannot accurately monitor blood oxygen and anesthesia levels.

-If they use an IV catheter and fluids.
This is the best way to administer emergency drugs if they are needed and to keep the dog hydrated during the surgery. 

I hope that your dog never needs surgery, but if they do, do not be afraid to ask lots of questions.  The vet will appreciate your concern and should be happy to help you feel comfortable with the procedure and the clinics procedures.