JANE KIMMES, CVT
Imagine living with a half-dozen toothaches from broken or rotting teeth, exposed nerves, or sores in your mouth.
It’s a dog’s life — and a cat’s, too. But it doesn’t have to be. You can liberate your pet from pain.
One reason: Dogs and cats feel pain, but they show it differently than humans do. Pets might paw at the mouth, drool more than usual, refuse to eat, or become cranky or listless (declined energy).
When you see your pet behaving in those ways, it’s smart to suspect that your pet may have an achy tooth — or several of them. What to do?
Schedule a pre-dental exam with your veterinarian. Many veterinarians will invite you to take a look inside your pet’s mouth. You may not like what you see: brown and yellow buildup on teeth and sores (called lesions) on the gums.
Just imagine what your mouth might look like if you went years without brushing or flossing.
Don’t be surprised if, after the exam, your veterinarian recommends that one or more teeth be extracted (pulling a tooth out of the gum line). This is especially common in cats.
Before you say yes to any dental work, ask whether the practice offers pain medication during and after the procedure.
Pain management in animals is crucial for extractions and drilling. As a matter of fact, pain management for dental procedures is recommended for all veterinary practices accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association.
Treating patients for pain during dental procedures is just one voluntary standard that sets AAHA-accredited practices apart from others. To become accredited, practices are evaluated on the basis of 900 mandatory and voluntary standards for quality patient care, of which 46 standards are mandatory.
If you go to an accredited hospital, as a mandatory standard, pain management is provided for the anticipated level and duration of pain; this includes dentals.
If your accredited hospital is insisting on providing pain medication for your pet’s dental, as a pet owner, you should insist on it, too.
You can imagine how much pain dental work can cause. Declining pain management for your pet is taking away the likelihood of less pain during recovery. At its most basic, pain management is part of being a responsible pet owner.
It’s also a matter of practicality.
Let’s say that you bring your pet home from the veterinary clinic. It is not whimpering or crying, so you assume everything is fine — until you wake up the next morning, and your pet has pawed at the painful spot so much that the sutures are torn open and bleeding (hemorrhaging).
The cost of pain management is money well spent. As a matter of fact, the best way to be sure that your pet receives pain medication is to review the veterinarian’s treatment plan for dental work. Look for charges for:
- pain management treatments before and during the dental procedure
- pain management drugs you can take home to administer to your pet
If the treatment plan doesn’t include these charges, stop everything. Tell your veterinarian you are concerned about your pet’s pain, and ask for pain management drugs during and after the treatment. As a client, you may insist that your pet be treated for pain.
Imagine a world where going to the dentist doesn’t hurt. For your pet, you can make it so.
Imagine your pet smiling.
AAHA is the only organization that accredits animal hospitals throughout the U.S. & Canada. AAHA-accredited hospitals adhere to the highest-quality standards available, which helps ensure the best care for your pet. Learn more about AAHA accreditation, and find an AAHA-accredited hospital.
Jane Kimmes, CVT, is an AAHA practice accreditation coordinator.
This article originally appeared in PetsMatter Sept/Oct 09 - Volume 4 Issue 5, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2009 AAHA. Find out more.