Moose, a Mini Maltese, Goes to the Veterinary Dentist
Read how one pet parent is doing all she can to ensure the safety of her tiny dog
By Anna McCollister-Slipp, Moose’s mom and advocate and Ryan Hospital client
The scariest part of Moose’s dental abscess surgery was the anesthesia.
After the tragic death two years ago of our six-month-old Maltese puppy “Falcon,” I began hearing stories from other dog owners, many of which were about healthy dogs dying from anesthesia during routine veterinary procedures.
The stories were anecdotal, but the narratives were consistent and frightening. Before I would allow a vet to anesthetize one of my pets, I needed to understand the process and know what I could do to work with the vet to ensure my pet was safe.
When we chose to bring home a new tiny dog, we knew that Moose’s size –2.5 pounds – would bring with it risks, one of which was anesthesia."
So when we learned that Moose had a tooth abscess that would require surgery, we were forced to confront the anesthesia issue. I was determined to learn as much about the process as possible to ensure that Moose’s care was the best available.
Our vets, a husband and wife team who provide excellent primary care, said they felt they did not have sufficient experience anesthetizing such a small dog. Moose needed a specialist, somebody with more expertise who could provide him with the care needed to keep him safe.
Then the vet told me something I found shocking – very few vet clinics have an anesthesiologist on staff. Our vets strongly recommended we take Moose to a hospital associated with a veterinary school, so that the anesthesia would be overseen and administered by a board-certified veterinary anesthesiologist.
Prior to booking an appointment, I learned everything I could about anesthesia, so I could make the best decision for Moose. I talked to friends, queried Maltese news groups and emailed other pet parents. I received emotional support, but very little insight that would inform my ability to advocate for my tiny dog.
Then I went to Google, scouring pet-related Web sites and blogs, looking for tips and advice. When that turned up little information, I went to the veterinary professional societies.
There I got lucky: Both the American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists and the American Animal Hospital Association had recently released guidelines for anesthesia, which provided recommendations about what a clinician needed to consider at various points in the process of anesthetizing a dog or cat.
Armed with the guidelines and bolstered by my research, I felt much better about my ability to advocate for Moose. I had what I needed to ask the right questions to determine if the veterinary team had sufficient standards of care to ensure that Moose would be as safe as possible.
Now I needed to find the team to perform the surgery. Following my vet’s recommendation, I researched vet schools that were within a reasonable distance of my home.
While there were a number of options, I was impressed by what I read about Penn Vet and Ryan Hospital. I made an appointment with a veterinary dentist at the hospital and prepared to meet with Moose’s surgical team.
When we met with the doctors the day before the surgery, I made sure that I met with the dental surgeon as well as the anesthesiologist who would be overseeing Moose’s care.
Dr. Paula Larenza, the head anesthesiologist at Ryan Hospital, spent an hour with me, giving me a tour, answering my questions, showing me monitoring equipment, safety checklists, emergency preparedness protocols and introducing me to some of the surgical nurses and support staff. She thanked me for my level of concern for Moose’s safety, and gave me her email, telling me to contact her with questions or concerns.
By the time we left Ryan Hospital, I felt hopeful and reassured. They had demonstrated a willingness to answer my questions – and in fact encouraged me to ask more if needed. They were not dismissive, patronizing or arrogant. They seemed encouraged by my commitment to ensuring Moose’s care was the best possible, and I felt like they were with me in my efforts to keep my special little puppy safe and healthy.
Still, I was nervous about the surgery. There are no guarantees. But, I felt like the ground was laid for Moose’s surgical team to do the best job they could do for Moose when we brought him in for the procedure the following morning.
Six months later, Moose is fully recovered and back to fetching tiny tennis balls, launching vicious attacks on his much larger brother Buckley, giving my husband and me incessant puppy kisses and getting belly rubs at multiple points during the day. For this, I am incredibly thankful.
I am grateful to the skilled and professional veterinarians at Penn Vet and Ryan Hospital who provided Moose with top-quality care. Their commitment, professionalism and compassion help give me hope that my fellow pet lovers and I can find good quality health care for our furry loved ones.
The above article was excerpted from www.pethealthadvocate.me, a blog started by Anna McCollister-Slipp, that aims to help empower pet parents to gain the knowledge and resources they need to advocate for the quality of their pets’ veterinary care. You can subscribe to the blog at www.pethealthadvocate.me, like the Pet Health Advocate page on Facebook or follow future postings on twitter via @pethealthchamp.