Dental Pain in Pets

 Dental Pain in Pets

Pets have teeth too! Unfortunately, most pets also have dental disease and, with that, dental pain. Sadly, dental pain often goes unrecognized in our pets. Just like animals in the wild, it goes against a dog or cat’s instincts to show pain. To show pain is to show weakness and to show weakness is to be more susceptible as prey. This holds true for our domestic indoor pets even though they may not have any natural predators. Painful dental conditions that would send a human running to a dentist, or an ibuprofen bottle, for relief are tolerated by pets who usually do not show outward signs of discomfort.

Many pet owners wrongly assume that if a pet is still eating normally they do not have oral pain. This is often the farthest thing from the truth since a pet’s survival instinct to eat is so strong they rarely stop eating and there are no changes in their appetite.

Pets with dental pain may have subtle behavior changes that a pet owner attributes to “just getting old.” One of the more satisfying parts of treating pets with dental pain is to have owners report that their dog or cat “seem younger” after treatment. It is not unusual for us to have pet owners tell us that their adult pets are acting like puppies or kittens and far more playful and active.

The doctors and staff at Animal Dental Care and Oral Surgery firmly believe in “multi-modal” pain relief with our patients and are dedicated to staying on the cutting edge of this practice.

This practice will involve multiple steps or “layers” of pain relief as outlined below:

  1. This begins with pre-emptive pain relief prior to a dental procedure. Giving pain medications prior to an oral surgery will decrease pain after the pet goes home. This usually involves the safe administration of opioids in combination with other sedatives and analgesics 20-30 minutes before the beginning of anesthesia.
  2. Intra-operatively we preform local nerve blocks prior to starting a surgery. This allows us to use less anesthetics and increase the safety during and after a procedure.
  3. We frequently use intra-operative constant rate infusions (CRIs) of pain medications that are slowly administered in small doses, which also decreases the need for stronger medications, such as anesthetic gases.
  4. Intra-operative non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) will decrease pain not only during a procedure, but after as well.
  5. Our patients are always discharged with oral pain medications to be given at home by their owner during their pet’s recovery. Owners are reminded that pets do not show pain after a surgery as a human would and that it is very important to give pain medications as directed.

Our goal is to alleviate our patient’s dental pain before, during and after an oral procedure. More importantly, we strive to prevent painful conditions from starting or recurring. Our extensive experience in treating pets in pain has taught us how integral our role is in improving the length and quality of their lives.

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