Meet Nicky. He could tell you a thing or two about pain. Nicky has a bad back. In 2011 he was diagnosed with intervertebral disc disease (a slipped disc). He required surgery to relieve the pressure on his spinal chord from several slipped discs. He recovered and other than a few ear infections he did well until a few months ago.
In Dec. his owner noticed weight loss, poor appetite, and occasional vomiting. We examined Nicky and did some blood tests which indicated a liver problem. During this exam we also noticed fairly advanced dental disease. I was unsure which problem, liver or dental, was the reason for Nicky’s decline in health. We treated the liver in hopes that Nicky could then have a dental treatment. He improved and was maintined on pain medicine for his sore mouth until he could see Dr. Hale, the veterinary dentist.
The day before his dental treatment he had another episode of back pain and became partially paralyzed. A different part of his spine was effected this time and he might have once again needed surgery. The team at the Ontario Veterinary College decided that even though he was partially paralyzed it was best for him to go ahead with the dental treatment. If he needed back surgery the rest of him would be infection free and therefore pose less risk to the back as it healed. So to the dentist he hobbled. Dr. Hale found more than we expected. Nicky had CUPS, chronic ulcerative paradental stomatitis. The cause of CUPS is not fully understood but dogs with CUPS seem to be plaque intolerant. Anywhere the lining of the mouth contacts plaque it becomes ulcerated. These dogs have mouths full of painful, infected ulcers. The combination of CUPS and periodontal disease meant the only treatment for Nicky was extraction of all his teeth.
Nicky awoke toothless and still partially paralyzed. He had a tough couple of weeks ahead of him. He needed pain medicine for both his back and his mouth which he usually took with food. He did not want to eat and, to not undo any of his oral surgery, we were instructed not to touch his mouth. A pain patch got him through those first few days.
Nicky’s back got better and his mouth healed and to me he is a changed dog. He has always been anxious and afraid when he visits the clinic. And in the past he felt his only hope of escaping was to bite. And bite he did. He would need a tight hug from an assistant for us to do anything to him. This restraint didn’t make thing easier for him. Now that his bite won’t injure us we no longer have to give him a big bear hug. What surprised me is that he doesn’t try to bite. I expected to feel his gums but he is a changed dog. The last time he stood on my exam table he looked at me and wagged his taiI. Maybe Nicky knows he can’t bite so he doesn’t try but maybe Nicky is happier because he feels better.
I would never wish that any dog has to lose all its teeth but living pain free is every pet’s right.