Don’t Put Off Needed Surgery/Dentistry For Older Pets

Here is a real-life example of what can (and did) happen when fear of anesthesia causes a pet owner to delay important needed care.

Dutchess came to our hospital in October, 2008, for a routine vaccination visit. We had previously diagnosed cataracts in both eyes, a heart murmur in her chest, a growth that needed to be removed near her tail and severe gum disease and calculus buildup in her mouth.

We had recommended preanesthesia laboratory testing to help reduce the routine risks associated with anesthesia, to be followed by removal of the growth and dental scaling and polishing.

Our goal with preanesthesia testing is to reduce the risk of anesthesia as low as possible.

Anesthesia today is nothing like anesthesia from twenty or more years ago. Today we commonly anesthetize patients in the age range of Dutchess, ten years, and much, much older with complete safety.

Here is what has transpired since October, 2008. The growth by Dutchess’ tail has gotten a little bigger. As I discussed with Dutchess’ owner then, our goal with prompt surgery was to prevent enlargement that would mean a longer, more invasive surgery which might also result in disfigurement by causing the tail to be pulled to one side. The larger the growth gets the more tissue must be removed. Removing more tissue increases the risk that Dutchess’ tail will be permanently pulled to the left.

On the dental side Dutchess now has green pus coming from the top row of teeth all along the right upper quadrant. She has at least one loose tooth that is painful (all loose teeth are painful, as their movement in the socket during eating, chewing and barking results in discomfort).

As with people, when our mouths are not healthy, the rest of the body is not healthy. Dutchess’ oral disease may even be playing a part in her worsening heart condition (we upgraded her heart murmur from Grade II/VI to Grade III/VI today).

Here are our recommendations, today, for Dutchess. First, preanesthesia laboratory testing (CBC, Chemistry Profile, Urinalysis) and a chest radiograph (X-ray). The preanesthesia chest X-ray is important in Dutchess’ case because of her heart murmur.

Then, if everything looks good. we will schedule the procedures: clean Dutchess’ teeth, extraction(s) as needed and remove the growth.

Please remember, your pet’s doctor cannot reduce the risk of anesthesia to zero, she can only assure you that she will perform Dutchess’ procedures with all of the skill she possesses as a surgeon, dentist and anesthesiologist.

The sooner these procedures are performed the lower will be Dutchess’ risk and her pain level.

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