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Date:   24 October, 2008
Focus: Small animals - dogs, cats, hamsters & rabbits
*10 a.m - 5 p.m (Mon - Sun, except Sat). Dr Sing Kong Yuen. By Appointment Only.

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Appointment preferred.
Tel: 6254-3326, 9668-6469
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Be Kind To Pets
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Toa Payoh Vets Clinical Research
Making veterinary surgery alive
to a veterinary student studying in Australia
using real case studies and pictures

Older Dog Anaesthesia and Dentistry

The knowledgeable internet girl
Dr Sing Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS

"What are the chances of my dog dying on the operating table?" the internet girl asked me. I call her an internet girl because she had done all the necessary research on dentistry and anaesthesia in older dogs and read in the internet forums about dogs dying under general anaesthesia when sent to the veterinarian for dental work.

Now she had made a decision to get her 7-year-old Jack Russell dental work as there were much benefits to having healthy gums and teeth for older dogs. Bad breath and a mouth full of bacteria and ulcers and later on, oral tumours do not permit her dog to live long and pain free.  

Her thick jet black eyebrows and hair brought out the fairness in her oval-shaped face. She was the type of young adult whose femininity was part of her personality that stands out. I thought she would be in her mid twenties and working. But I was way off the mark as she was in junior college. 

"It is not common for old dogs to die on the operating table if they are healthy," I replied. "There are no statistics about the outcome of anaesthesia in older dogs in Singapore. Have you ever undergone general anaesthesia?"

"No," she shook her head.

"Recently I had general anaesthesia at the Singapore General Hospital. One week before the surgery, the doctors took my blood for a health test and did an ECG to check my heart. For your dog, blood test ought to be done to find out whether he has abnormal blood count, liver and kidney disease. But that adds to the veterinary costs. Do you want to do it?"

The internet girl wavered.

"I will check the dog's heart condition and if he has no heart disease, I will proceed to do the dentistry," I said. It is quite difficult for the average student to foot out money for general anaesthesia dentistry and blood tests as both could be over $500.

The Jack Russell's heart was normal. His appetite and behaviour were normal and so I decided to get on with the dental work.

The Jack Russell growled as he must be fed up with me for opening his mouth so many times to examine for oral tumours and ulcers as well as to assess the condition of his teeth. I would say that loose teeth and greyish black tartar and gum diseases made his mouth painful. He was patient enough to let me open his mouth once. But he was running out of patience with this troublesome vet gripping his muzzle to open his mouth.

To prevent the dog biting and struggling, I injected him with a very low dose of xylazine tranquiliser at 0.2 ml IM. After 10 minutes, he vomiting yellow froth and was given isoflurane gas. He slept peacefully. He was all right at 1% maintenance gas. He had no problem under general anaesthesia gas as his tongue was a healthy pink.

9 loose and decayed teeth were removed. The rest were scaled. The roots of the upper premolars were exposed as bacteria had eroded the gum line. The dog may

"Wrap your forefinger in a piece of rough cloth and "brush" his back teeth at least 3 x per week," I said to the internet girl. "This will save you a lot of money in buying dog toothbrushes and tooth paste and another dentistry one year later. Also, tartar will form in 12 months time and bad breath recur if you don't maintain the teeth."

As this Jack Russell has exposed gums for his upper pre-molars, he would strenuously object to brushing. I don't know what the young lady would do. I do not know if had heard incorrectly. Her brother had said that dogs do not dentistry as bad teeth would just drop off.

Veterinary costs are sometimes not paid by the parents and therefore children dependents like this internet girl need to save up to get the older dog dentistry to prevent diseases so that her pet can live longer lives. The internet generation has gained so much more knowledge than pet owners just 20 years ago. Veterinary costs have also gone up much more than 20 years ago as Singapore becomes a developed country. 

A Top 10 movie - Nights in Rodanthe starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane.
In this movie, Richard Gere who acted as a surgeon whose patient die during surgery for removal of a face lump said: "1/50,000 patients die during anaesthesia".

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