Canine dental care giving me a toothache

By From page A5 | March 28, 2012

Richard Esposito

Sobbing from examination room No. 2 at Sierra Animal Hospital reminded my wife and me that pets, like all other living things, don’t live forever. Moments earlier, a gentleman carrying his dog in his arms joined his wife in the room and the door closed behind him. The sobbing from inside the room brought tears to my wife. We both knew what the dog’s fate would be and the emotional pain of its owners.

Fortunately for our dog, this visit was just a routine physical and preliminary dental exam.

Ollie came to us from daughter No. 1. She rescued him from the Humane Society in Chattanooga, Tenn. while attending school there. We then rescued him from our daughter when she moved on to graduate school in Chicago. So, you could say he’s on loan, staying with us on a temporary basis until she graduates and lands a job. However, something tells me he’s going to be around much longer.

Ollie’s bad breath was an indicator he needed his teeth cleaned. Apparently the mint flavored breath mints I had been sharing with him weren’t working. So after his initial examination we scheduled him an appointment. To those unfamiliar with the dental care of a dog, the procedure requires your pet to be sedated. This allows the vet to thoroughly clean the teeth while making any necessary extractions — from his mouth and my wallet.

Ollie, we would later learn, needed 11 teeth pulled. Yes, you read that correctly – 11.

The medication the clinic provided was extensive.

“Give him one of these pills every 12 hours and one of these tablets twice a day,” I was instructed. “Then he needs this antibiotic once a day for four days. Be sure he takes this on a full stomach.”

A full stomach? I thought. Are you kidding me? How is he going to eat minus eleven teeth? Gum his food? Our 18 pound (slightly overweight) miniature pinscher would soon be on a forced diet.

“How many teeth does a dog have?” my wife inquired after hearing the news.

A quick call to my brother and we’d soon have the answer. He’s an equine veterinarian and has lots of experience with animal teeth. A few years ago, I had an opportunity to make a house call with him. After sedating the horse and securing its mouth open with a wire bracket, he went to work filing the horse’s teeth with metal files of various grades. The sedated horse just stood there as my brother stroked the file back and forth grinding down his overgrown teeth. But that’s for another column.

A dog has 42 teeth my brother informed us. And despite the removal of six molars, three pre-molars and two incisors, our dog will live a healthier life without gum disease that may have resulted from his rotting teeth.

Of course most dogs don’t require professional teeth cleaning. Chewing bones does the job. To prevent tooth decay you could always brush them yourself like my brother-in-law does. He uses meat flavored toothpaste. Now that sounds appealing — if you’re a dog.

Somehow I don’t believe Ollie would welcome me shoving a toothbrush in his mouth, especially after the extensive procedure he just had. His mouth is off limits these days but at least his toothache days are behind him.

I, on the other hand, started developing a toothache shortly after paying the vet bill for all this oral hygiene care.

“What do you mean I can’t claim this on my dental plan?” I asked our human resource manager at the newspaper.

We’ll do anything for our pets. They’re part of our families — our lives. And now that Ollie has clean teeth I was hopeful our dog care needs were finished for awhile. That was until my wife informed me Lily, our other family dog is losing her hearing.

“She’s 12 years old and has trouble hearing me,” my wife explained. “Do you think we should take her in and have her ears checked?”

“What was that?” I replied. “I’m having some trouble hearing you.”

Richard Esposito is publisher of Village Life and the Mountain Democrat. Contact him at [email protected]

Richard Esposito


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