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Meet Stanley in this Disabled Dogs video!

Video by: Tiffany Obembe | @tfobembe

Stanley is an 8 year old Pekingese with intervertebral disc disease.  He's been disabled since 2008 following two major back surgeries on herniated discs.  Paralyzed twice, re-learned how to walk twice, and his medical file is 4 inches thick. 

The Stanny Diaries is a dog blog with a special interest in caring for disabled dogs—emotionally, financially and practically. 

Disclaimer: We are not veterinarians or animal experts. We are also NOT a rescue, foster or non-profit organization. We are dog owners writing about our experience with our dog.  Always consult with a vet before following novice advice on the internet!

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Dental Health Tips For Your Disabled Dog


Pet Dental Health Month is coming to a close, so I thought we'd share our veterinary dental experience.  I regularly check Stan for new lumps and bumps at least once per week, including a mouth check.  It was during one of these weekly home checkups in the Fall of 2010 that I noticed one of Stan’s teeth appeared to be broken and had some pus coming out of it.  

A few days later the vet told me Stan had cracked a tooth, likely from biting down on a stick or something else very hard.  The root was exposed and if it wasn’t removed he could end up with an infection, which could lead to worse problems including spreading to his organs or even death.  Our vet told us that while Stan was under anesthesia getting his tooth removed and the rest of his teeth cleaned he’d be unable to protect his fragile back and discs.  Thus, he could wake up with another disc issue, or even worse, paralyzed again.  

We decided to take him to Angell Memorial where he’d had his back surgeries where we felt he’d be in the best hands to manage not only his dental issues but also his intervertebral disc issues.  We met with Dr. Stiles who was by far one of my most favorite vets ever.  He was incredibly thorough, answered all my questions, and was very aware of Stan’s back issues.  He even explained exactly how they would handle Stan and position him while under anesthesia. 

Before we had the dental surgery Stan underwent a cardiac work-up with the Cardiology group at Angell to make sure it was OK for him to go under anesthesia for the third time.  Also, Pekingese can be prone to Congestive Heart Failure, and he’s at the right age to start having problems.  Stan also has a mild heart murmur, so just to be safe we had him worked up with the cardiology group.  He got the all clear and we now have a baseline set of cardiology tests to compare in case he develops cardiac issues or a cough as he ages.

Surgery went off without a hitch. They pulled not only the damaged tooth but some other diseased teeth, and gave him a good teeth cleaning and scaling.  They also trimmed his nails and aspirated a fatty lipoma we’d found on his chest, which came back benign.  Stan’s follow up care was very easy: some pain medicine, softened food, and lots of rest.  He had a follow up visit a few weeks later  and we had no complications.

Tips For Your Disabled Dog's Dental Health

It is incredibly important to check your dog’s teeth from an early age.  The more you brush their teeth when they are young, and check their mouth regularly, the more they will get used to it.  Stan is more likely to let me stick my fingers in his mouth than the vet, so I usually get a better view of what's going on in there.  Now I know what “normal” looks like for his mouth, so I can spot trouble easily, which saved us complications had his broken tooth gone unnoticed. 

You can find information all over the internet about how to brush your dog's teeth and information on dental care for your pets.   We make sure to brush Stan's teeth if he's had peanut butter or something sticky.  Stan has always eaten dry food, which some vets think is better for a dog's dental health, but some think is a myth.  That said, I probably brush Stan's teeth more than most pet owners.  It's a good habit to start young.  I'm also very careful about what Stan chews on so we don't end up with another cracked tooth. 

Fido Friendly has a great article on what to look for in your dog's mouth on the regular: change in breath, gum color, sensitivity, signs of pain while chewing.  The ASPCA also has some great info on their site right here.  Most importantly, if you have a disabled dog, particularly a dog with intervertebral disc disease or a history of ruptured or slipped discs, it's important to work with a veterinarian and a veterinary dentist who understand the risks associated with putting your disabled dog under anesthesia.  They must understand the importance of moving your dog very carefully while they are asleep, even more so than they would with an uninjured dog. 

The last thing you want is for a routine dental cleaning or tooth removal to turn into another slipped or ruptured disc, or for your dog to wake up with worse back problems!  The chances of it happening are slim, but better to be safe (and educated) than sorry, right?


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