Is dental disease the underlying problem?

Case of the Month, Dogs, Senior Pets

Case Study – Eye and Ear issue in a geriatric patient!

The diagnosis – Dental Disease!

The main reason Tess was brought in to see her Fur Life Vet was because she was rubbing her right eye and ear. But the final Diagnosis was dental disease! 13 Year old Tess, a bright and friendly Border Collie, presented to Fur Life Vet Echuca Clinic with fur loss around the right eye and ear and smelly breath. It later became apparent that this behaviour was linked to tooth root pain, as the behaviour soon resolved following extraction of the rotten teeth!

Tess is a shy girl so we have used a photo of another gorgeous old Border Collie in this Case Study!

The Examination


Examination of her eyes showed signs of cataracts, not unexpected in an elderly dog, and on the right eye, the third eyelid was exposed and coming across the front of the eye. Further examination of the right eye was performed with Fluroscein staining  revealing a 5mm superficial ulcer.


Right ear hairless, red and mildly thickened. The opening to the ear canal was waxy and narrowed. Her left ear was normal.


Strong halitosis (ie. Bad breath). Several rotten and wobbly premolars and molars. Also, severe gingivitis and gum recession around the canines.


  • Superficial ulceration of the right eye and inflammation of the right ear – could these injuries be as a result of her rubbing her face due to dental pain?
  • Grade 4 periodontal disease (ie. Dental disease).
  • Mild, non-regenerative anaemia and an elevation of mature white blood cells (ie. a stress leukogram) on the pre-anaesthetic bloods. 
  • These findings reflect chronic infection of the mouth, associated with the severe dental disease.


  • Antibacterial eye ointment (Chlorsig) was prescribed for the ulcerated eye. Tess was also given a Bravecto oral chew, to rule-out external parasites (such as mites) as the cause of hair loss and itching around the right ear and eye.
  • Tess was booked for a dental and otoscopic examination of the right ear under anaesthetic.


However, 10 days later, despite the chlorsig eye drops and parasite treatment, Tess continued to rub at her right face and ear. The dental was then performed.

The Dental

Given Tess’ advanced age, her anaesthetic regimen was adjusted to minimise the blood pressure-lowering effects in geriatric patients: She was given premedication and maintained on a constant low-rate IV infusion in order to provide profound pain relief. Local nerve blocks were delivered in the mouth for further pain relief before extractions.

The extractions:

17 teeth were extracted. Many could be easily pulled out, due to how rotten the roots were. There was a grass seed embedded in the gums around a rotten tooth of the upper right jaw, which was extracted.

Other procedures performed under the anaesthetic:

Gentle debridement of the scarred edges of the right eye ulcer with a moistened cotton bud, to promote healing.

Otoscopic examination:

Examiniation of the right  revealed a narrowed ear canal, excess wax but no foreign material. The ear drum appeared intact and healthy.

The Outcome

Recovery from the anaesthetic and extractions was rapid: Tess was bright and eating her dinner and medications within 30 minutes of waking from the procedure. Several medications were prescribed after the dental, including: oral Pain relief for 7 days, medicated ear drops for the right ear, and antibiotics for the infected gums and bones of the mouth.

Recheck: A dental recheck was conducted 12 days later. The owners were very happy with the outcome; they reported her stinky breath had cleared, her appetite had picked up and she’d stopped rubbing at her right eye and ear. Examination of the right ear revealed the wax and redness had cleared. Fluroscein staining of the right eye showed a reduction in ulcer size to 1 x 1mm, and her third eyelid was no longer exposed. Furthermore, Tess’ anaemia had resolved, with her red blood cell percentage having returned to an acceptabel level.

Nine months on: Her owner says ‘Tess is now enjoying her food, including bones. The dental surgery has made a huge difference in her quality of life. She is now a Happy Puppy.’


This was an unusual case of dental disease in a geriatric patient. The main reason for Tess’s vet visit was not her teeth – it was that she was rubbing her right eye and ear. It became apparent that this behaviour, the hair loss, and potentially the eye ulcer and redenned, waxy ear were linked to her tooth root pain, given the behaviour, and symptoms were soon resolved following extraction of her rotten teeth.

Looking after your pet’s teeth can help them maintain a healthy and happy life!

Did you know that Best Mates Members get a FREE Dental Scale and Polish with every year of membership*

Prevent dental disease before it starts with a Fur Life Vet Best Mates membership!

* Best Mates Membership provides for a Free Dental or Desex per 12 month membership.

How to enter

Simply share a photo on your Facebook page of your dog rugged up for winter or enjoying the winter sunshine and use the hashtag relevant to your state.

What you can win

There will be three prizes in total – one for QLD entrants and two prizes for entrants from VIC, NSW and TAS combined prize. Each prize includes a winter pet pack to the value of $100.

Click on your state to reveal the hashtag you need to use to enter!

QLD Residents

Share a photo of your dog enjoying the winter sunshine or snoozing in their favourite winter clothes and tag #furlifevetQLD

VIC Residents

Share a photo of your dog rugged up for winter or snoozing warm inside in their favourite winter clothes and tag #furlifevetVIC

NSW Residents

Share a photo of your dog rugged up for winter or snoozing warm inside in their favourite winter clothes and tag #furlifevetNSW

TAS Residents

Share a photo of your dog rugged up for winter or snoozing warm inside in their favourite winter clothes and tag #furlifevetTAS

Terms & Conditions

Information on how to enter and prizes form part of these conditions. By participating, entrants agree to be bound by these conditions. Entries must comply with these conditions to be valid.

Entry is open to Australian residents that meet the competition requirements outlined below during the Competition period 1 June 2022 – 31 August 2022. Employees and their immediate families of the Promoter and its agencies associated with this competition are ineligible to enter.

To enter, each entrant must, during the Entry Period, upload a photo of their pet rugged up for winter or snoozing warm inside in their favourite winter clothes to social media (on their personal profile) and use the hashtag corresponding to the state they are in (e.g. #furlifevetVIC, #furlifevetNSW, #furlifevetQLD, #furlifevetTAS).

Winner of the competition will be determined by:

  1. Appropriate photo uploaded (photo of their pet rugged up for winter or snoozing warm inside in their favourite winter clothes to social media (on their personal profile)
  2. Relevant hashtag used (state residing in: #furlifevetVIC, #furlifevetNSW, #furlifevetQLD, #furlifevetTAS)
  3. Number of likes (photo with highest number of likes at end of competition period with all other criteria completed will win)

The competition will close for entries Wednesday, 31 August 2022 at 12:00pm [AEST]. Failure to meet any of the competition requirements will deem entry invalid and will not be eligible to win.

There will be three prizes in total – one for QLD entrants and two prizes for entrants from VIC, NSW and TAS combined.


Competition requirements:

Entrants must be a current client of a participating Apiam/Fur Life Vet clinic.

Entries must be received by the Promoter during the Entry Period. Entries received after 12:00pm [AEST] 31 August 2022 not be accepted.

The competition commences at 00:01 [AEST] on 01/06/2022 and closes at 12:00 [AEDT] 31/08/2022.

Queensland prize includes a pet pack to the value of $100.00.

Victorian, New South Wales, and Tasmanian prize includes two separate pet packs to the value of $100.00.

All taxes (excluding GST) which may be payable as a consequence of receiving a prize are the sole responsibility of the winner.

The Prize is not transferable and is not redeemable for cash.

The Promoter assumes no responsibility for any failure to receive an entry or for inaccurate information or for any loss, damage or injury as a result of technical or telecommunications problems, including security breaches. If such problems arise, then the Promoter may modify, cancel, terminate or suspend the competition.

If the prize becomes unavailable for reasons beyond the Promoter’s control, the Promoter may substitute a prize of equal or greater value.

The winner will be notified by email on or by 10/09/2022.

Entrants consent to the Promoter using their name, images submitted, pets name, comment, and/or voice in the event that they are a winner in any media for an unlimited period of time without remuneration for the purpose of promoting this competition (including any outcome), as well as any other communications outside of this competition, and/or promoting any products manufactured, distributed and/or supplied by the Promoter. If you are not willing for these uses or disclosures to occur you cannot participate in the competition.

Further, entrants agree that the Promoter has an unrestricted, irrevocable, transferable, divisible right and licence to use and modify their entry for the purposes of the Promoter’s business including for promotional purposes without the payment of any further fee or compensation.

If requested by the Promoter, the entrant agrees to sign any further documentation required by the Promoter to give effect to this arrangement. To the extent permitted by law, entrants unconditionally and irrevocably consent to any act or omission that would otherwise infringe any moral rights in their entry. Entries remain the property of the Promoter. Details from entries will be collected and used for the purposes of conducting this competition (which may include disclosure to third parties for the purpose of processing and conducting the competition) and for promotional purposes surrounding this competition. By entering this competition entrants consent to the use of their information as described and agree that the Promoter may use this information, or disclose it to other organisations that may use it, in any media for future promotional purposes without any further reference or payment to the entrant.

By entering this competition, entrants consent for the Promoter to use entrant’s name, email address, phone number which entrants submitted to enter for the purposes of administering and operating the competition. Entry is conditional on the Promoter acquiring the aforementioned information. All personal information collected by the Promoter will be handled by the Promoter in accordance with the Promoter’s privacy policy (PRIVACY) Entrants have the right to access their personal information, request correction of any errors and/or obtain a copy of the Promoter’s privacy policy by contacting getvetchecked@furlifevet.com.au.

The Promoter is Apiam Animal Health Pty Limited (ACN: 604 961 024) at 27-33 Piper Lane East Bendigo, 3550, Victoria, Australia.

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