Observation Skills for Dog Owners: Observe, Analyze, Deduce

You can't celebrate things going well without jinxing something, can you? Fortunately, this was a very minor incident. The reason I'm sharing the story has more to do with observation skills than the problem itself.

Dog Conditions: Real Life Stories - Observation Skills for Dog Owners: Observe, Analyze, Deduce

Just as I published an article marveling at the benefit that chewing on raw meaty bones has for Cookie's dental health, I was reminded how important it is to always be vigilant.

Cookie was chewing on her beef neck bone as usual. I always keep an eye on things, but I haven't noticed anything amiss. All seemed normal.

Sometime after that, I was going to give Cookie her thyroid pill peanut butter "chunkies." She loves peanuts and peanut butter. The only time she'd refuse it is when her belly is upset. That happens rarely, and almost exclusively in the morning--when her stomach has been empty for too long.

But she was turning away from the peanut butter I was offering.

Could her stomach be upset anyway? Could she have swallowed a piece of bone that was too large and was that bothering her? I was quite positive I would have noticed her doing that.

After a bit of trying, I convinced her to take the peanut butter just for her to spit it back out. Then she got up, walked to the door and looked almost as if she was going to throw up. Now I was getting really concerned.

When I took her outside, she went towards some bushes and acted as if she was trying to bury something. No vomiting. So we came back.

To see what is what I decided to offer her a piece of meat.

She shouldn't be getting food with her medication, but it was for diagnostic purposes. It should help me figure out what is going on.

She took the piece, but I could see that the problem was not her stomach but her mouth.

Could she have broken a tooth while chewing on that bone?

I try to keep giving her raw bones as safe as humanly possible. But things can happen no matter how hard one tries. Yes, there are many articles about the dangers of raw bones. But it's not like a dog couldn't break a tooth on the "safe substitutes."

When you're taking what you consider a reasonable risk, you always hope that the odds of something going wrong are really close to zero. Should something happen, you find yourself in a different movie.

I offered Cookie another piece to see if I can gain more information before we go rummaging through her mouth.

Now I could see clearly that whatever the problem was, it was on the left side.

Knowing where to look was a useful piece of knowledge. So we went looking.

First I looked for broken or chipped teeth. They all looked intact. As I was looking further, I noticed a little white "blob" between teeth where should not be any. When I touched it, it was hard.

Cookie had a little piece of bone stuck between two of her molars--the large one and the small one next to it.

Foreign objects stuck in the mouth can do quite a bit of damage.

I didn't want to rush to a vet immediately, but I didn't want to poke around Cookie's mouth with a toothpick or anything like that either. I carefully tried poking the piece out with my fingernail. It came out with medium pressure applied to it, and it looked like I got all of it.

Cookie immediately looked happier and was ready to eat her peanut butter pill pockets.

I kept a close eye on her through the evening and the next day. Everything seemed fine.

What would happen if we didn't discover the problem?

If nothing else, Cookie would have been quite uncomfortable. If she kept refusing to eat, we'd end up at a vet's, naturally. If she did start eating, the chunk might have remained between those teeth.

It wasn't a location where it would cause a considerable amount of damage, I don't think, but such things can literally wreck havoc in the mouth, even lead to tissue necrosis. Can you imagine?

It is essential to pay close attention and not dismiss any findings.

Cookie sure was glad I watch her like a hawk.

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Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog now available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog is an award-winning guide to help you better understand what your dog is telling you about their health and how to best advocate for them. 

Learn how to see and how to think about changes in your dog’s appearance, habits, and behavior. Some signs that might not trigger your concern can be important indicators that your dog needs to see a veterinarian right away. Other symptoms, while hard to miss, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or limping, are easy to spot but can have a laundry list of potential causes, some of them serious or even life-threatening. 

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog is a dog health advocacy guide 101. It covers a variety of common symptoms, including when each of them might be an emergency. 

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