You’re at the veterinarian with your pet. Your veterinarian recommends a dental. You flip his lip up and do not see a lot of tartar. His gums look fine. You brush his teeth regularly. You take the recommendation and leave, thinking his teeth look great. There is no need for a cleaning. It seems like a waste of money not to mention the risk of anesthesia.
I am hoping to change your mind on all of this. This is Mo’s story.
My nine year old dachshund Mo came to me three years ago. He is a rescue dog from Saving Grace. (Side note, fantastic organization!) He was the sweetest, happiest boy I have ever met. People often say that the dog rescued them not the other way around. I now truly know what that means. He rescued both me and my other dog, Mocha Bean. We had just lost Cayenne, Mocha’s beloved partner in crime. And I was going through a rough time personally. The minute he jumped into the back seat of my car and settled down next to Mocha I knew everything was going to be okay.
He had wonderful manners but did not know how to play or chew on a chew toy. He would watch Mocha and very slowly started to figure it out. One of the other things that Mo was not used to was having his teeth brushed. It took me almost a year to get him completely comfortable with the idea. I was doing a great job. Or so I thought. His teeth were graded a 1 out of 4 on the dental scale, meaning that he had virtually no tartar or plaque.
One day in the fall of 2016 I noticed his nose had started to drip and he was hiding more. I took him in and he was prescribed some antibiotics and an antihistamine, we thought that if it did not get any better then we would do further testing. It got better.
Spring came and the nasal drip came back with it. At first I was assuming it was allergies again. Maybe a sinus infection. It did not go away this time. I started to worry. I am one of those people that immediately goes to the worst case scenario. My thoughts included, “He has cancer. A nasal tumor.” I scheduled the exploratory and x-rays for the next week. I was terrified. I do this everyday for other’s pets. I should not be this scared. But it is always frightening when it is your own baby.
The doctor looked at his teeth first while he was awake and thought everything looked great. He had very little tartar or gingivitis. So even though it was on the list of rule-outs, a tooth root abscess seemed less likely. She started probing around his teeth. I heard her yell, and saw that the probe had completely disappeared up into his nasal cavity. Yup. He had an oronasal fistula, meaning a hole between his mouth and his nasal cavity! I could not believe it. Not my Mo. After all, I took such good care of his teeth!
The doctor extracted the tooth and biopsied the surrounding tissue. I am beyond happy to say that the biopsy came back as inflammation and infection caused by extreme dental disease. He was put on antibiotics and pain medications, and was soon back to being his happy, sweet self.
Having this happen to my own pet has really reminded me that dental disease is not only the plaque and tartar that you see on the outside. It is something that can effect any pet at any age and with any level of home care, and proper evaluation under anesthesia is needed to get the full picture.