I got excited this week. I got excited because I got the opportunity to fix something that really needed fixing. You might think that happens all the time, but you don't always see such a great opportunity to handle a painful situation in such a rapid fashion.
This is Dawson. When his loving owner "inherited" him three years ago, she asked her regular veterinarian about what she could do to help his awful mouth odor. Unfortunately, that doctor mis-estimated a couple of things: the owner's commitment to caring for the pet, and how long this dog would live.
Mama was told that Dawson was too old to anesthetize, and the other doctor periodically prescribed antibiotics to "control the infection".
We saw him on Thursday. You could smell his mouth across the room. He was in constant pain, whining, rubbing his mouth, and at last he was hurting badly enough to quit eating. "I just have to do something for him". I felt the same way. When I touched his mouth during the exam, he really cried.
Amazingly enough, Dawson hadn't gotten any younger in the last three years. At fourteen, he's still "too old". He's a little overweight, and you can hear some fine crackles (like emphysema) all over his lungs.
The owner was happy to let me assess him for anesthetic risk factors. His chest X-ray was actually pretty clear, no fluid in his lungs and only mild heart enlargement. His blood chemistries were nearly normal. His electrocardiogram was just fine. I called the teaching hospital at the University of Missouri's veterinary college. An anesthesiologist was happy to advise me about the best course for Dawson.
The next day Dawson was successfully anesthetized, meaning he slept through the procedure without evidence of pain, and he woke up again pretty quickly. Having good monitoring equipment lets us know when he needs more support (which he didn't, much), and sevoflurane gas lets us adjust his anesthesia rapidly.
We removed these nasty snags and sutured up the gums. He doesn't have a tooth in his head, but he doesn't need them to eat dog food. He will need some additiona surgery to close up some old sockets that have been open for a long time. For now, though, his constant pain has been relieved. He's not too old for that.