For most of us, when we think about dental care for ourselves, we think about going for a check-up, having our teeth and gums inspected, having the plaque and tartar removed and getting a good lesson in how to maintain our dental health at home with brushing and flossing. So for our pets, it should be as simple as that, right? Wrong!
When we feel like there is something going wrong in our mouths, we are able to tell our dentist all about it, where it is and what is happening. Our pets aren’t able to do that. Which is why we can’t stress enough just how important it is that we take our pets to have comprehensive oral health exams on a regular basis. And it’s not just about cleaning their teeth…Why? Let me tell you about Phoebe, a beautiful Golden Retriever who came to visit us this time last year.
Phoebe’s owner Mustika is a diligent pet owner that would bring Phoebe in every year for her annual vaccinations and dental health check. As the years progressed, more plaque and tartar accumulated until it was time for Phoebe’s first scale & polish treatment under a general anaesthetic in August, 2019 at 8 years of age. While under sedation, the vet has a chance to perform a thorough examination and assessment of the entire mouth which is usually quite tricky to do while the animal is awake. This time, Dr Joe found a small off-coloured lump just under her front teeth beneath her tongue. A biopsy was taken and sent off for testing.
A few days later the results came back indicating it was a well differentiated melanoma. Luckily, there was no evidence that the lymph nodes were affected, which means we had caught it early. Phoebe was not exhibiting any signs or symptoms that could have alerted her owner to the presence of the melanoma, by the time she did it would likely have been too late to be able to isolate and treat the problem effectively. The only real option for long term success was to perform a surgery to remove the lower portion of her jaw containing the melanoma.
A month later, a specialist surgeon, Dr Eugene Baffa, was brought to the Ark Hospital to perform the mandibulectomy with Dr Joe. The surgery was a success with no complications and Phoebe was sent home the next day to rest and recover, with lots of love and TLC from her owner Mustika. A few days later Phoebe developed a post-op bleed from the surgical site. While quite alarming and scary for Mustika, this was a fairly common complication of this particular surgery and after a quick overnight visit to the Northside Emergency Veterinary Service, she returned home the next day feeling much better.
At her 3 week post-op check back at the Ark, Phoebe’s surgical site had healed well and there was no evidence of infection or swelling. Phoebe was out of the woods.
Almost a year later in July 2020, Phoebe returned for her next dental check-up and again, Mustika opted to go ahead with the comprehensive oral health assessment and treatment under general anaesthetic. After a thorough examination, there was no further evidence of any suspect lumps or concerning issues and a routine scale & polish was performed to keep the rest of her teeth clean and healthy. What a relief!
Mustika would like every other pet owner out there to remember that at the end of the day, we are the best advocates for our pets. They can’t tell us how they are feeling, but I feel that as pet owners, it is our responsibility to provide them with the same level of preventative care that we would give to ourselves to stay healthy. A routine check and actually going ahead with the recommended procedure ended up saving Phoebe’s life and we can’t thank the amazing team at Ark enough for the care they gave her.
Free Dental Checks
This month, our vets are offering FREE dental checks to all of our clients. We’ll check their teeth and gums and recommend whether or not your pet is in need of a comprehensive oral health examination and treatment under anaesthetic. Just like Phoebe, it could save your pets life. After all, we brush our teeth daily and we still go to the dentist for a professional clean on a regular basis. So why wouldn’t it be the same for our pets who can’t brush their teeth at all?