Westbury Animal Hospital
713.723.3666 · 4917 S. Willow Dr. Houston, Texas 77035 

As a veterinarian I often recommend anesthesia for procedures in older patients such as dental cleanings and mass removals. I am often faced with owner fears about placing their pet under anesthesia, which I certainly understand. Anesthesia should never be taken lightly no matter how old a patient is. It is important to weigh the risks and benefits every time we talk about putting a patient under anesthesia.

                Anesthesia can be very scary for owners and this fear often leads pets to not get the treatment they need. This is where the risk benefit aspect of anesthesia comes into play. Electing not to clean the teeth of a 10 year old dog when they are otherwise healthy can lead to serious long term health and quality of life issues. Dental disease leads to increased numbers of bacteria in the blood stream which can then affect the function of vital organs such as the kidney and liver. Dental disease can also cause chronic facial pain and difficulty eating.

                To illustrate my point, let me tell you about a patient of mine named Larry. Larry is a 16 year old beagle with horrible breath, multiple dental abscesses and difficulty eating his food. His owner, Mrs. Paul, loved Larry dearly and was understandably afraid to place her beloved geriatric pet under anesthesia. We discussed getting his teeth cleaned for 2 years before we finally agreed that his quality of life was suffering. Larry was carefully screened for diseases that might make anesthesia more risky and found to be a good anesthetic candidate.

                The day of the procedure I examined Larry thoroughly and carefully prepared an anesthesia plan that would best suit a geriatric patient like Larry. He was placed under anesthesia and the dental procedure began. The dental cleaning and oral exam revealed 8 teeth with root disease; 3 of which had dental abscesses. All affected teeth were removed and the gums sutured closed. Midway through extractions Larry developed low blood pressure and intravenous fluids were administered to help support the cardiovascular system. Larry’s blood pressure responded well and Larry woke safely from anesthesia 1 hour later.

                Larry’s owner called me 2 weeks later elated with how well Larry was doing at home. He was eating and seemed to be acting like he was 5 again. He even wanted to play tug-a-war which he hadn’t done in years! Anesthesia should never be taken lightly but the benefits often outweigh the risks. If you are concerned about anesthesia in your pet, discuss your fears with your veterinarian so the best decision can be made for you and your pet.


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