(by Dr. Tibor Toman)
I would like all of you to meet Schmitzi – unless, of course, you know her already. She is our good old wirehaired dachshund lady, and we love her to pieces. She arrived in our home more than thirteen years ago and since then she shared it with our cats, Strawberry the guinea pig, and recently the new addition (and Schmitzi’s breed-mate), Beppa. Despite of her arthritis that unfortunately started bothering her from young age, and some other health issues she had along the way, she always had a smiling and happy personality and – not surprisingly – won the “Waggiest Tail” category twice in a row at the Taste Of The Kingsway Dog Show. Schmitzi has a big heart: both metaphorically and literally. Soon it will be two years that she was diagnosed with advanced heart valve disease and consequent dilation of her heart, and has been on heart medication since. She already surpassed the cardiologist’s predictions about the expected progression rate of her disease – at least for now she beat statistics. And we are keeping all our fingers crossed, that she continues to do so!
Being a dachshund, Schmitzi was never keen on having her teeth brushed, therefore her oral health mainly relied on Dental Formula dog food and various chews, and occasionally she had to come in to the clinic to have her teeth cleaned professionally – under general anaesthesia. Last September our family came to the conclusion that she is “ripe” for another dentistry: her breath was becoming noticeably worse, and we could see that she was not such an avid chewer any more, her gums were becoming too tender. As in the case of every pet owner, questions were raised about the risks of the procedure under general anaesthesia, having in mind Schmitzi’s age and relatively advanced cardiac disease. We consulted Dr. Borozan the veterinary cardiologist, took some chest radiographs, and the decision was made: Schmitzi was stable enough for the procedure (with usual precautions when patients with her condition are anaesthetized), and she would definitely benefit from having her gum infection taken care of. After making sure there was nothing new and alarming in her blood work, we went ahead with the procedure: using a carefully tailored anaesthesia protocol, closely monitoring her blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation and with adequately dosed IV fluids during the procedure, Schmitzi had an extensive dental prophy, when all her teeth were thoroughly cleaned from deposits (using both sonic and hand scaling), pockets that she already had developed around a few teeth were treated, and finally all teeth were polished nice and smooth. She didn’t need any extractions. She recovered uneventfully and happily went home that evening to show her clean and shiny teeth to everyone and throw a few nice and fresh kisses around. After “sleeping it off”, Schmitzi noticeably perked up right from the next day. Everybody noticed the difference in her attitude: she looked happier, had better energy, was more communicative and playful and definitely ate with bigger gusto than just a couple of days before.
I wanted to share our experience with you because so often we hear from worried pet owners about their concerns regarding general anaesthesia, especially with older pets, and their reluctance to get dentistry done, even when there is evidence of severe and painful dental disease. I wish we had a chance to do more “preventative” dental cleanings, and less dental surgeries and therapies. The reality is, we regularly treat geriatric patients with advanced dental disease, that desperately need help. Often, they require multiple extractions and other procedures. As Schmitzi’s example illustrates it, we pay very close attention to them to make sure the procedure and the anaesthesia are maximally safe. The results are obvious: when the pain and source of severe infection in their mouth is eliminated, these pets go through a true metamorphosis, and their families realize what a big difference it made for them.
Schmitzi, our 13 years old wire haired dachshund is now kissable again