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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Doggie dentals

That's right. The girls went in for the "Big D". Dental surgery. I know. Its not something I really wanted to do, but felt needed to-for several reasons. The first being that their teeth did need a cleaning. They both had some tartar and staining, and I wanted to make sure any problems that might be minor now, didn't get the chance to turn into major ones down the road. Heidi had broken two of her upper premolars a few years back (I think on a dumbell), so I wanted to make sure that none of her other teeth looked weak or diseased. Shelby had a tooth that was definitely questionable; her little incisor next to her lower canine tooth looked either like it had a small chip broken off, or was tilted to the point where it was half hidden by her gums. Food was getting trapped in there, and the gums around it looked a little swollen, so I wanted to make sure that I had it checked before it turned into an abscess.

Now people have been asking me, (and some of you may be wondering) why I have to get them done anyways, as "don't I feed raw?" Yes, I do feed a raw diet, but I do not feed raw bones. Well, I don't feed whole raw bones. They do get them, but they are ground down and already in their food. I used to give raw lamb ribs and pork backs, but I stopped because the girls would eat them and then vomit them back up. Cleaning the pre-digested bones up one time, I noticed the broken, chewed bones that had been previously (albeit briefly) in their stomachs were still shards as sharp as chipped ice. I decided right then that even raw, I didn't really trust them nor did I want to risk splinter-like bones having to make the dangerous pass through their entire digestive system. Don't get me wrong, they get plenty of things to chew. They usually get bully springs and y-tendons; things that with a bit of chewing and saliva usually turn into a sticky mush rather than a ball of meat and bone shards. But the chewing alone doesn't quite do it. And I have been neglectful in my end of the deal: brushing their teeth. I'll do it and get on a schedule, and then miss a day and the system will fall apart. I have to now do better and be more diligent to make sure they don't have to do this again. For all of our benefits.

A routine dental cleaning for our hospital is over 400$; a moderate or severe goes up from there, depending on the number of dental extractions and x-rays needed to make the mouth healthy. We do get a generous discount at work, but that is going to be changing (see a future post). And even with it, I don't have that extra money to be spending to just have a little bit of plaque removed under sedation every year. And I know that all of that anesthesia is not healthy for them to begin with. So I scheduled these procedures knowing that I would have to pick up the slack, and keep my end of the bargain; which translates to actively brushing the girls teeth during the week to help keep them clean.

So I booked the dentals for the Tuesday right before Thanksgiving. I had a few PTO ("paid time off") hours to burn through, so I took a half day; that way I could work in the morning while the other dentals scheduled for that day were done, and then I could spend some time with the girls when they were knocked out and then woken back up. I had no intention of staying out back through the whole procedure; that kind of pressure wouldn't be fair to the Dr. or the tech. I planned on bringing a book and staying to read or something. But then I was approved to do a few extra hours of work (reminder calls, it turned out to be ) in the time I was not with the girls, so that ended keeping me pretty busy. Heidi had to go fist because she kept trying to eat that pesky catheter out of her leg. Yes, she ended up in the "cone of shame" because she wouldn't stop trying to chew it. She took the pre-med sedation pretty well, and fell right asleep with the anesthetic too. They had no trouble with the intubation, and her dental took less than an hour.

The technician came to let me know she was done, and I spent the next little while with her in the cage snuggled up with her; I know how tough it is to wake up to sedation: you don't know whats going on, or where you are. Your delusional and you try to fight off the meds. I wanted the whole process to go as easy as it could for the girls; they don't know what just happened or why. Poor Heidi was swaying and licking her tongue out of the side of her mouth. I kept trying to put it in STRAIGHT, but she kept forcing it out the side so it just hung there, limply. But overall she took the wake-up quite well. They had her tucked into a blanket and a pillow for her head, and she just slept it off. But her sister was a bit of a different story.

Her sedation was a bit more difficult. First the premed didn't seem to have any affect on her at all. They actually had to give her a second dose to make her a bit more sedated. She went from standing up right and wagging her tail (1st dose) to lying down with her head hung drowsily. Then they put her on the table for the actual anesthesia. She fought this too. She actually remained standing for a few seconds before it over took her. Then she fought the tube! Bad dog! But then she went ni-nights and went off to Sheltie dreamland too.

A little while later, the doctor came to find me to discuss that pesky incisor I had shown her. She said that she did x-ray it, and although it wasn't in trouble right this second, it didn't look healthy and its root was so close to that of the canine tooth, that she thought it might become even more troublesome later on. So we decided to pull it. I finished up the last of the calls and then went to go check on the girls. When I walked out back, this awful screechy sound met my ears. Yeah, it was Shelby who appeared to be in a delusion-induced panic. I went over to her cage (while passing Heidi's-who was fine, but had a look like "PLEASE shut her the hell up so I can get some sleep!") and saw that she had her mouth open, her tongue hanging out and was in a wide-eyed SCREAM. I crawled into her cage, as I had done for Heidi, and wrapped my arms around her. It took a few minutes, but the screeching then turned into a dull, but monotonous whine. A little while later, she had settled down enough for me to eat some lunch and make the plans to bring them home.

I didn't just want to scoop them up right there and whisk them away, because both were still quite drowsy. I wanted to make sure that they were OK and it was safe to bring them home. So I took Heidi out for a potty break (which it turned out she didn't need, because she had wet the blankets in her cage =0( and then offered her some food. I was sticking with The Honest Kitchen because although "raw", it being dehydrated and processed eliminated a lot of the bacteria in it (unlike their regular raw). Its also pretty gentle so I knew it would be an OK "bland-ish" diet for them while recuperating. Heidi ate with gusto...she ate about 1/2 of a regular meals worth and kept it down no problem. I asked one of the technicians if they could feed Shelby while I went to run some errands (including hitting the bank to get some cash to pay for the dentals!)

I went back about an hour and a half later to see if they were OK to pick up. Shelby had eaten (and like Heidi, happily and with no problems) but she had also peed in her blankets. She was in her cage with 2 warm saline bags, as her temp had dropped while I was gone. But I checked with everyone, and they said they were both fine to go home. I packed up the car, packed up the ladies and took them home where they could sleep off the rest of the drunkies.
Heidi passed right out; she just slept and slept for hours. Shelby still seemed to want to fight the sedation that remained in her system. She kept pacing and not wanting to settle; she'd get on the couch, sleep for a little while and then move again. When she finally DID get to sleep, it was with her head on my hand...as it slid down as she drifted into a deeper slumber, her teeth were dragged along the skin of my hand! Those nice clean teeth left some pretty deep impressions, let me tell you!

When it was time for all of us to go to bed, I picked Shelby up off my lap and put her in my bed. When I went to go get Heidi, I couldn't wake her up easily. I picked her up and put her on the bed too, and then went to get something to drink. When I came back, I REALLY couldn't wake her up. I kept smacking her thighs and calling her to no avail. Just when I started to really panic, I grabbed some of her scruff and shook. That did the trick. She just blinked blearily up at me like "Ummm...do you mind? I'm trying to get some rest!" Talk about holy-heart failure! I decided as both were still pretty out of it, I couldn't be completely sure that they wouldn't roll off the bed. (Especially Heidi, who tries to sleep upside-down but sometimes just rolls over...) So I put their beds from my room on top of their doggy-stairs in case someone fell off; those stairs would hurt! I know, maybe this seems a bit much but Heidi has fallen off the bed WITHOUT being high on meds, so...I wasn't taking any chances!

When I woke up in the morning though, they were both still where they should be: snuggled next to me on the bed. They spent most of that day and the next sleeping off those drunkies. But by Friday Heidi was back to attacking my towel as I dried my hair and Shelby was out chasing birds out of her yard. It was nice to have a few days quiet while they recuperated, but it was nice to have them back too! They were on the honest kitchen diet for 1 week, until Shelby's recheck (for her pulled tooth). That went great, so they got raw back the next day, They had no problems transitioning right back to their regular diet and haven't had any problems with their mouths at all. I'm glad I did them now, and have started getting better about brushing their teeth. As a matter of fact, I just got back from taking them on their walk...I should go brush them now! Here are some pictures of what the girls teeth looked like before and after (we do this for all of our patients):

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