What a vet can learn from his own dog

Welcome to our new blog. It is a new year, we have a new website and we thought that we would keep going with the new theme by adding a bi-weekly journal of things that we find interesting, informative or topical. This is a place for you to learn a bit more about Caledon Mountain Veterinary Hospital and what is going on inside the doors. The theme for January and February is animal dentistry, and we thought we would start off with a personal experience from Dr Rob. Thanks for reading.

Kajun- Dr Rob’s 13 year old mixed-breed dog, at home by the fire

I had an interesting experience a few weeks back. My own dog, Kajun, had been scheduled for a dental cleaning 3 times over the last 2 months, but we had never actually got him in to have his dentistry done. Something else always came up and I kept saying “Its ok, we can do it later”. But I knew it was important and it bothered me that I wasn’t giving my own dog the level of care that I wanted to provide to our clients, so we booked a day and decided it was finally going to happen. Kajun is 13 years old in April, so as a routine safety procedure i performed a complete physical exam, some wellness bloodwork and a urinalysis to check his kidney function. It all came back normal and I was finally able to get him under anesthesia in our dental suite. As with most pet owners, I admit I don’t brush Kajun’s teeth as often as I should and I had noticed yellow tartar building up above the gumline with a bad odour every time I got near his face. I was expecting to clean his teeth and find nice healthy gums under all of that yellow build up, but to my surprise, two of his lower molars showed significant infection and damage to the roots. They weren’t actually lose, but I am sure that they would have been if I had left them any longer. “How could I let this happen?” I thought. “He eats a Dental diet” I thought, “He never showed me any signs that he was uncomfortable” I thought. These are all things that I hear on a regular basis from clients, but it is all of sudden a different story when it is MY dog dealing with the problem. I am a veterinarian and I am supposed to do better than this.  I did dental surgery on Kajun to remove the teeth that were affected as I knew that they wouldn’t get better, started him on pain medication and antibiotics, and hoped that he would forgive me for missing this serious dental issue that he had been dealing with.

 

This experience is not uncommon. Most people don’t open up their dog’s mouths and look inside to see what their gums look like. And when we do, we often find that things are worse than we thought. But this also highlights to me that however thorough a physical exam is, there is no substitute for a full oral examination under anesthesia for identifying dental problems in our pets. Kajun is owned by two veterinarians (my wife, Emma also graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in 2009) and has probably had his teeth looked at over 100 times in the past 2 years. Still I was surprised by what I found in there. Regular dental care such as food, treats and toys are great; brushing is better, but there is no substitute for getting into your pet’s mouth while they are safely and peacefully sleeping, cleaning all the areas a toothbrush just can’t get to, and doing a full oral exam. I recently saw a continuing education talk by veterinary dentist Dr Brook Neimiec in which he suggested that every pet should have a dental cleaning under anesthesia every year. After my surprise with my own dog Kajun, I will be following his suggestion in the future.

 

-Dr Rob Hillerby, DVM