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Anyone have experience with elderly dogs/teeth issues?

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  • Anyone have experience with elderly dogs/teeth issues?

    My little dog is 19 this year, and overall pretty incredible - her heart, lungs, kidneys and liver are all at the levels of a much younger dog, and while she's much frailer than she was, she's comfortable and happy to snuggle up all day and has a great appetite. She's deaf and blind, but finds her way to her feed bowl and asks to be put out to pee, and her only physical issue is a looser hip she dislocated years ago - she slips on it a bit, and needs more care than she did last year - which is understandable at her age!

    She's always had teeth issues, and every few years would get a cleaning and have more pulled - she's been going a bit downhill from issues due to her bad canines now, causing her to not want to eat/drink due to pain, then she gets dehydrated and her enzymes/elecrolytes get all out of whack.

    I've had her on two courses of antibiotics, but as soon as she comes off, the problem will flare up again - the teeth are caked in tartar and rub against her cheek, causing it to get raw, sore and infected.

    My current vet is very pushy about her age, and seems to see it all as a sign that she's too old and it's time to "let her go" - I'm prepared for this, and know the time will come, and won't let her go through anything uncomfortable if I can help it, but I've had her 19 years, and am very familiar with her moods and signs of discomfort, and have trouble with the fact that it's only a tooth infection affecting her health - my vet keeps citing her kidneys as the probable cause of ill health, when she just had her bloodwork done and her kidney levels are unchanged in the last 6 years. I think I may have to get a second opinion just to get a fresh look at her, unclouded by personal opinions.

    I'm wondering if anyone has had any experience with older dogs and tooth cleaning/care in creative ways - she can't have them pulled as it would involve breaking the bone, and is too big a procedure for her age. Maybe a mild sedative and some gentle descaling to control a bit of it, while on antibiotics to combat infection in the bloodstream? It may not be a longterm thing, and she may develop complications down the road, and I know that - but it's such a simple problem that I'd like to treat as long as she's feeling good and comfortable. She's on my lap asleep right now after a big chicken breakfast

    I would love any feedback from those of you with older dogs, dogs with bad teeth, etc, I appreciate it so much!

  • #2
    My best friend recently adopted a boston terrier that I think they estimated to be about 12-14. He was in BAD shape, barely had hair, mostly blind and deaf, and a ton of dental issues. I know she had similar concerns for him with taking care of his teeth, but had it done a few weeks ago and he did really well through it. I know they took a lot of special precautions but were able to do quite a bit to make him more comfortable. I'll give her a call after work and see how they managed it, maybe it will be helpful for your little girl.
    High Quality Tack Resale


    • Original Poster

      Originally posted by JSjumper View Post
      My best friend recently adopted a boston terrier that I think they estimated to be about 12-14. He was in BAD shape, barely had hair, mostly blind and deaf, and a ton of dental issues. I know she had similar concerns for him with taking care of his teeth, but had it done a few weeks ago and he did really well through it. I know they took a lot of special precautions but were able to do quite a bit to make him more comfortable. I'll give her a call after work and see how they managed it, maybe it will be helpful for your little girl.
      That would be SO nice of you, thank you! Any experiences with creative ways to clean their teeth in a low-impact way is what I'm looking for! When I asked my vet she just said, oh, there'll be too much gingivitis, it won't help. But if it takes off some of the abrasive points, surely it can't hurt?


      • #4
        No first-hand knowledge, but just wanted to encourage you to get a second opinion. The current vet sounds like he/she's reached a mental block because of the dog's age - which is amazing, btw, kudos! - and you need a fresh set of eyes.


        • #5
          Our Cubby dog is a 15 year old 65lb Newfie mix. His teeth and gums were infected and it was affecting his energy. We had bloodwork done and it was great. We (recently) had the vet sedate him with IV to better monitor him and clean and extract 10 teeth. She said his blood pressure dropped at one point so they increased the fluids to stabilize him during the procedure. He recovered just fine and is back to his old self.

          We promised him (and the vet) that this is the last deep cleaning, but I think it will give him a good life quality for awhile.

          I'm not sure if I would proceed that way on a 19 year old dog, but I agree that you should do something if the bloodwork is good. Definitely get a 2nd opinion.
          "Crazy is just another point of view" Sonia Dada


          • #6
            I would find a canine dentist..they do have specialists in this area, and see what they think...your normal vet should be able to fax over the current bloodwork. A consultation is never a bad idea. Dogs are living much longer these days and there may be another answer than put her down, or allow infection to kill her...


            • #7
              I also would be inclined to get a second opinion. Our 17 year old daschund
              had the same deteriorating mouth issued - scaling, pulled teeth over time.
              Then I asked the vet if his age would make anaesthetic dangerous, and he told me the numbers were good for a dog that age. We went ahead and the rest of his teeth were pulled. He recovered amazingly and had a whole new lease of
              quality life. Think of all that bacteria being swallowed - can't be good for them.
              Best thing I ever did kfor him --- good luck.
              Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


              • #8
                Another vote for 2nd opinion. I'd be adverse to putting down a dog that still has a positive quality of life, as well as being adverse to doing any procedure that would cause stress.

                Even though we'd kept up on our Husky's cleanings, etc., after a couple of extractions were necessary & she was approaching Age 17 (yes, 17 for a Husky), my vet didn't want to pursue any further procedures that would require sedation/anasthesia. Said to just make her food softer.

                We lost her just a few months from what would have been her 18th birthday. Good long life for a Husky.


                • #9
                  If she is 17 and all her bloodwork/PE looks good except the teeth, there isn't really a good reason not to address something that will improve her quality of life.

                  Just make sure your vet will be on top of the anesthesia (hopefully a licensed technician will monitor anesthesia) and will monitor blood pressure and treat hypotension aggressively.


                  • #10
                    At 19 is anesthesia a risk? sure. It's a risk at 19 months too. But there isn't really any reason not to do it in an otherwise healthy dog. When you say her kidney numbers are unchanged, what are they? Unchanged in the normal range is very different from unchanged and elevated.

                    Have her canines been radiographed in the past? Just trying to ascertain why it would require breaking the bone to remove them. If the roots are too calcified to be pulled without having to drill them out(which still shouldn't break the bone?) then I would sedate her and do a very good cleaning with root planing and polish those puppies till they sparkle. While she may still need antibiotics more frequently it would at least keep her from getting sores on her cheeks.

                    And as a side note, some vets are very skilled at cracking off large chunks of tartar with their nails...... which doesn't come close to a cleaning but might be just enough at her age. I would recommend a second opinion with another vet as well and a dentist would be best if there is one nearby. If you have radiographs of the teeth take those with you too.
                    You can't fix stupid.... but you can breed it!


                    • #11
                      Tough decision - I dont know if I would put a 19 year old under anesthetic, unless it was the option to euthanize or anesethize - then under anesthetic you go!

                      Did your vet talk to you about long term antibiotics? At age 19, I dont think this would be an unreasonable solution.


                      • Original Poster

                        Thank you so much for all this feedback, it's all super helpful - she's just finished a two week course of antibiotics - she was 2 wks on , about 2ks off, and then 2wks on again.

                        The vet hasn't mentioned staying on antibiotics longterm, I didn't even know that was an option - I'm terrified she's going to flare up immediately now that she's stopped this course. Anyone had a dog on them longterm? I do have her on probiotics, I figure it can't hurt.

                        I don't have recent radiographs, but she's had her teeth cleaned several times, so could probably get them. I think if I could just get them tidied up to the point that they're not rubbing and festering on the cheek, they could probably be controlled for a good while.

                        I can't remember the numbers of her kidney levels - but on the charts they're split into thirds - low, regular, high - hers are at the high end of normal, right on the cusp, which is almost identical to about 2 years ago when they were last checked, and only a few fractions above the year or two before that - heart and lungs sound good, pancreas was off the charts last visit, but she was terribly dehydrated and had acidosis from not eating/infection - the vet said it was most definitely pancreatic cancer, so really nothing to do. A bag of fluids later, she was fine and eating like a horse again, and hasn't had an issue since. There's no indications of anything wrong with the pancreas other than this one flare up, but she needs more bloodwork again now that she's hydrated and fine again, and I hope it will show the enzymes back to around normal.

                        I wish this vet would try just some mild sedation and descaling -I def. need a second, more seasoned and reasonable opinion - hopefully I'll find someone this week, I'm scared to wait too long.

                        18 yo Husky is fabulous! I knew a husky mix - looked like a little coyote so I don't know what she was - that lived to 20 - my girl is a miniature poodle - tough as nails - used to go on 10 mile trail rides, was attacked by a moose, and once chased a ball off a second story balcony and kept running when she landed - she's not exactly most people's idea of a 10 lb poodle

                        Thank you again, and any other feedback or experiences are always appreciated.


                        • #13
                          I probably shouldn't even say this but when my guy got too old to safely go under anesthesia in a non emergency situation I would sit him on my lap and take a horse sized hypodermic needle and use it to scrape the tarter off his teeth. He would lay quietly on my lap on his side so I could use both hands, if yours won't do that you might need help. Just scrape down the length of the tooth away from the gum. It would chip off pretty easily when the needle was sharp.
                          McDowell Racing Stables

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