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QUESTION: Hi there i hope you can help me. Ive got a 15 year old dog. Hes never a dog that you can look into his mouth. He will bite. Anyway his breath is smelly and he does have plaque on his teeth. Making his gums a little red. Is there anything out there that can help break the plaque up or reduce it and help his gums. I have to muzzle him at vets so wouldnt know how they would be able to look into his mouth if he wont let us. If you can let me know of anything that will be greatly appreciated. Also he does eat but hes very very fussy in his old age so very picky.

Hi Lyndsey,

Even though your dog won't allow you to look into his mouth, and you need to muzzle him at the vet's office, your veterinarian may still be able to do dental work on him, despite his age. Your vet would need to give anesthesia or use a mild sedative in order to do the exam and whatever work is needed.

Oftentimes, older dogs have an underlying condition that would complicate their ability to be anesthetized with a good outcome. For this reason before doing anything that requires anesthesia, your vet would want to do some blood tests in order to assess your dog's health. If your vet says your dog is a good candidate for anesthesia,  confirm that the office is equipped with anesthetic monitors: a pulse oximeter, blood pressure monitor, and ECG.  There are different kinds of anesthesia, some are better tolerated than others. One type of anesthesia that is recommended for older dogs is "isoflurane," an inhalation-type anesthesia that is quickly eliminated from the dog's body once inhalation stops. Some vets will clean an older dog's teeth using an ultrasound scaler with the help of a mild sedative. If having your vet do the dental work and cleaning is at all possible, this would be the way to go. Dogs are quite stoic about showing pain or discomfort, but that doesn't mean your dog isn't living in pain. Being so fussy about food could be a sign of dental pain.

Some veterinarians now offer anesthesia-free dental cleanings in their clinics, in recognition of the fact that some dogs may be adversely affected by anesthesia, and yet would benefit from dental care. It sounds like your dog would require a sedative, but that isn't the same as being completely "knocked out" by an anesthesia, so it might be an option. Talk to your vet about the dental treatment options.

Unfortunately, if your dog won't allow you to even look into his mouth, doing some home dental hygiene doesn't sound like an option. Besides, your dog would benefit from the professional cleaning and exam at this point, and may need an extraction or two. I wish there was a magic pill that would remove tarter, but even if there were, chances are pretty good your dog is having some decay or periodontal disease, which lands you back to the vet providing care. There really isn't a substitute for professional dental care. Eating a good diet and crunchy food only gets you so far, and at some point both people and dogs need dental work to stay healthy.

Sorry I couldn't be more of a help.
Best of luck,


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you. I did contact my vets. Hes booked in for pre-op next week and blood tests. Everytime hes went to vet hes in good health they are really happy with him. So fingers crossed hes fit and can get the go ahead and hopefully solves his eating habit


Hi Lyndsey,

I'm so glad to hear back from you, to hear you're taking steps to have your dog's teeth examined!

I hope the blood work comes back great so that this treatment can get underway, and that in a very short time your dog will be much MUCH better!

Best of luck,



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To date, I've owned 7 dogs, all of which have lived into old age. Having cared for them in all stages of life, I feel I can offer sound advice to other pet owners, and people considering getting a dog. I am knowledgeable about the AKC (American Kennel Club) dog breeds, training and exercise, caring for sick and elderly pets, feeding, as well as many holistic treatments pets can benefit from. My only request is that you write me using standard English and punctuation.


My life experience in this field is more like "on the job training" rather than an actual degree in animal welfare. You may benefit from my experiences over the past 30 years. Aside from the dogs I've owned, I'm also involved in "breed rescue" and have fostered several dogs, all of which have been adopted to wonderful "forever homes". I find helping people who want a dog very rewarding.

Real life experience, based on over 30 years of dog ownership.

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