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Q: Is safe to put an older dog under anaesthesia for dental work?

Original Question: "My Chihuahua is almost 11 years old. The problem is that she needs her teeth cleaned and she will probably have some pulled, is she too old for this surgery? This is why I haven’t done it as I’m so afraid of losing her during or after surgery. However, she has had two bouts of sickness where I thought she was going to die and I think I need to take the chance of having it taken care of instead of her having problems with her teeth. The vet thinks the sickness she just had is due to her teeth and her breath is very bad. Please advise and thank you so much." - Consuelo


Vet Certified Answer | Answered: August 30, 2017

Hi Consuelo,

Thanks for you question.

I can tell you that you are not alone in this situation, and it is something many pet owners struggle with. Dental and periodontal disease can cause many problems if not treated. It can be incredibly painful but often our pets will hide their pain and continue to eat and do normal activities. The subtlety of signs often delays and prevents their owners from acting early in many cases. Often, we will do an extensive dental procedure on a pet and the owner notices an immediate change in their energy level and appetite afterwards. 

I typically do not avoid dental work or anaesthesia in a pet solely because of their age. I will however, recommend a thorough screening for potential sources of complications prior to anaesthesia. This usually involves blood work, urinalysis and other screening tests based on a thorough physical exam. We can mitigate and plan ahead for anaesthetic risks with this information. Ultimately, anaesthesia always carries inherent risks, which are unavoidable. However, the benefits of resolving chronic, painful dental disease can provide a pet with dramatically improved quality and longevity. Consider discussing your concerns in more detail with your veterinarian – perhaps they can walk you through the process and show you all the steps and equipment involved. This may help to relieve some concerns you may have. 

I hope this is helpful for you and your little friend.

Dr. Kim Hester


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