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What You Need to Know About Senior Dog Tooth Extraction

Senior dog teeth in bad shape

Did you know that good dog dental care can extend your dog’s life? According to Dr. Jen Emerson-Mathis DVM, CVJ, it can actually lengthen it by an average of two years. Now, who wouldn’t like to have man’s best friend around longer?

In fact, not only can you extend it but you can also make it a happy one just by practicing daily brushings, regular examinations and dental visits. We all know that as dogs age, they get slower and want to sleep more. But the reality might be they are slowing down because of dental issues.

Unlike humans, they can’t tell you if they’re in pain or suffering from a cracked tooth, so they just deal with it, and over time those issues become a drain on their energy levels and ability to cope. Hence, your dog’s tail hardly wags, they become lethargic and sleep most of the time.

Think about it. If you had dental pain and couldn’t get it fixed, would your tail be wagging? Probably not.

So, you’ve had Fido or Princess for more than ten years and they’re definitely getting long in the tooth. You’ve brushed and had their teeth cleaned as often as recommended, but now they have dental issues anyway, just like us, and now to your horror the vet wants to put them under anesthesia so as to extract a tooth or two.

Dog tooth extraction complications.

Small dog having teeth examined by gloved hands
  1. Fractured or Broken Roots
  2. Root Tip in Nasal Cavity & Mandibular Canal
  3. Hemorrhaging
  4. Dehiscence
  5. Iatrogenic Trauma
  6. Malocclusion
  7. Death from anesthesia due to incorrect dosage procedures or underlying health issues ignored

Yes, there can be complications, therefore it is important to talk with a veterinarian you absolutely trust before doing anything or more importantly, doing nothing at all.

Now, we all know that as one ages, going under anesthesia posses more and more risks, therefore it is important to find out if your dog can handle it or not.

According to AKCCHF dogs older than 12 years of age run the risk of anesthetic death at a rate seven times higher than their younger canine friends.

But the reasons are generally underlying diseases that make it difficult for your geriatric dog to be anesthetized and have a favorable outcome.

According to the report, geriatric dogs need to have a full physical examination, which includes the following;

  1. X-rays
  2. Ultrasound
  3. Medical history of previous diseases
  4. Complete blood count/work
  5. Heart auscultation 
  6. Evaluation of current medication

It is important to note that older dogs generally receive doses 50 percent lower than normal, younger, healthier dogs to account for their age, recovery ability from the effects of anesthesia and increased sensitivity coupled with reduced physiological functioning ability.

Dog under anesthesia having tooth removed by veterinarian

However, Dr Nora Mathews points out geriatric dogs can do quite well if drug protocols are carefully monitored.  

Most dog owners are actually surprised to learn that it isn’t as dangerous as they suspected and will do less damage to the vital organs than what the bacteria or infection is doing to them.

If you still have reservations about putting a senior dog under for a much needed dental procedure, Dr. Julie Buzby points these important factors out.

  1. 99% of healthy dogs live to bark another day after being put under anesthesia. (A dog in pain may not feel like doing much barking and we all know that dogs love to bark.)
  2. Age and infirmity are risk factors but the rewards far outweigh the risks in most cases.
  3. Age should never be the sole reason for opting out of the procedure.

And frankly, as a lifelong pet owner I would like you to ask yourself this question. What kind of existence is it for your dog to live in chronic pain if something can actually be done about it?

Sure, we don’t want to lose them, but not having the surgery seems to be more about keeping them around then what is best for them. So, please be open minded about the procedure. I’m sure your dog will thank you, no matter the outcome.

Ten Things To Know About Senior Dog Tooth Extraction

Man in red scrubs examining senior dog's teeth
  1. Willows recommends feeding your dog before 8pm the day before the extraction. Water is okay until you leave the house.
  2. If your dog is old or frail, they may have to stay over night for observation, but in most cases, should be allowed to return home with you.
  3. Your dog most likely be groggy after leaving, but do not worry. It may take some time for the effects of the anesthesia and the pain from the extraction to wear off. 
  4. According to the East Valley Animal Hospital, expect your dog to feel pain at the extraction point for 4 -5 days after. therefore, your vet will be giving you pain killers. Cherished Companions says that you might be given antibiotics to battle infections.
  5. They will need stitches, but those stitches should dissolve in 2 – 4 weeks time.
  6. He might not be too hungry for the first couple of days, due to the pain, but his eating habits should return to normal soon after that.
  7. Do not give them normal kibble, unless you add some warm water to it to soften it. Doing so will make sure that they do not pop a stitch, injure the area and get the nutrition they need. Cherished Companions recommends no teeth brushing until after their follow up visit. 
  8. You will have to watch over him for the next few days. Bleeding from the gums is normal, but consult your vet if the bleeding is excessive.
  9. No chew toys until after a follow up visit.
  10. Light exercise is okay, but nothing excessive until after their follow up visit. 

How to Handle an Old Dog with Rotten Teeth

person's fingers pulling back dog's lips to expose bad teeth

Well, this is a tricky one. First of all, you may need to make sure their teeth are not further damaged by hard dog food, so a switch to soft dog food will help to relieve further damage. Here are some good ideas for food for older dogs with bad teeth.

When dogs suffer from rotting teeth a lot of pain is involved, so brushing their teeth once they have a severe periodontal disease won’t help much, according to Jennifer Summerfield, DVM CPDT-KA.

Brushing is for the prevention of periodontal diseases. They need to be taken in for a complete dental cleaning under anesthesia by a vet who will work to remove tartar build up and address any infections or issues present.

This really isn’t an issue that can be dealt with at home. I really must stress this. They are in a lot of pain, but there is something your vet can do to make your dog’s life much easier.  

Can My Dog Have a Tooth Extraction without Anesthesia

Dog with tube in throat with gloved hands removing a tooth with surgical instruments

It depends on two conditions.

  1. The dog’s temperament. Most dogs are not going to be willing to have a vet go pulling on a tooth that is in obvious peril.
  2. The willingness of a veterinarian to get bit by said dog as he pulls on that tooth.

The answer then is no. Besides the lack of willingness by dog and vet, it is cruel and the tooth must not only be removed, but the root as well. If not then an infection may result by such an unnecessarily dangerous and ill-advised procedure. 

As a long time dog owner, I still have to lean towards tooth extraction, simply because quality of life is the most important thing for me as a pet owner. It has to be about my dog, not about me.  

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