Tomorrow Betsy and I take Barnum to the dentist — a veterinary dental specialty hospital across the state from us. This is because two weeks ago, when he went under general anesthesia for dental x-rays, not only did the vet not fix the problem, the staff created some new ones (which are not related to his mouth and which I will post about another time).
Barnum has been on antibiotics (clindamycin) since May 10. The longer he’s been on it, the more he has changed. Not only have I seen changes from how he was a month or two ago — or six months ago, when I first started trying to find the cause of his bad breath — but I’m also seeing changes that hearken back to a year or two ago. I think he’s had a problem with his mouth for years, and it’s only now that I’m seeing it mostly reversed in a short amount of time that I’m realizing what a problem it was.
A few weeks ago was when things were most noticeably wrong, before he started on the clindamycin. He was lethargic — slowing down and losing heart part way through his walks, and at his worst, spending most of his time napping by himself; his breath had gone from bad to worse, and I could smell it across the room; he was drinking excessively; he was drooling excessively; and I discovered he had pain on the left side of his muzzle when he’d scratch himself there and then yelp.
So some of the changes I’ve seen in the last four weeks are what I might have expected:
- His mouth went from smelling like an open sewer grate to smelling like nothing at all.
- He went from excessive drooling to only rarely drooling (such as when he is waiting for treat).
- He no longer yelps when he scratches his face and is more willing to have that side of his mouth handled.
- He has returned to drinking his usual amount of water.
- His energy went from sad, distant, and lethargic to bouncy, happy, and energetic.
- His reaction to my feet moving toward his face when he is lying on the foot of my bed went from startling, growling, jumping up, and running off the bed to startling, jumping up, looking for a treat, or no visible reaction.
- I’m not sure if he’s still having any bleeding or swelling in his mouth because I haven’t been brushing his teeth for the past month — since I don’t know what’s going on I don’t want to aggravate anything, spread any germs around, or hurt him.
However, what I did not expect were several other changes:
- Not only is he more playful and more interested in working than he was when he got noticeably ill, but for the past two weeks he has been more energetic and mentally sharp than he has been in a very long time.
- The type of play he is interested in has reverted back to what he used to enjoy when he was a pup. He used to love to play tug and to play fetch with a squeaky ball. When he lost interest in this type of play, I thought it was just because he had matured and grown out of it. But earlier this week, Barnum spent about two hours chewing, retrieving, and carrying around a plastic squeaky ball — including while we went on a walk — which he has never done before. I must’ve thrown that ball for him 40 times!
- Barnum has always been hesitant and tentative when retrieving large, bulky, or heavy items, even though he is a better retriever than Gadget was, and Gadget never seemed to have problems with these types of items. However, a few days ago, I was training Barnum to retrieve my lap desk, which is a foam pillow with a pressboard top which I use all the time and which I am having trouble manipulating due to my wrist problem. I’ve made halfhearted attempts to train a retrieve of this in the past, but it always seem to confound Barnum. But this time, once Barnum realized that I wanted him to retrieve the lap desk, he was very eagerly picking up and bringing me this big, bulky, somewhat heavy and awkward thing like he’d been doing it forever. Then, after about 10 minutes, he started to become tentative again.
- I had always thought that Barnum was rather droolly, but in the last two weeks he’s drooled less than he has in years. However when he does drool it seems to be on the left side.
- All Bouviers have dirty beards, but Barnum’s has been particularly so, which I blamed on the baked kibble he eats. I also blamed the kibble’s consistency for the fact that there is often a gummy paste of it around his back left molars, between his cheek and gums. But now I have noticed more food debris collecting on the left side of his beard.
So it seems obvious from various behavioral clues that Barnum has been having pain or discomfort in his mouth for a very long time and that being on this long course of antibiotics has relieved a lot, but not all, of that discomfort. In addition to the issues I noted above, such as the debris in his beard, the drooling, and the pain or fatigue returning after repeatedly retrieving something large, he is still showing some other problems:
- When I give him something that requires chewing, such as a large piece of raw meat, he chews almost exclusively on the right side of his mouth.
- In the last couple of days, he seems to be worsening slightly again — sometimes slacking a little bit more on this walk or showing a little less interest in pulling a tug cord or retrieving something large or hard.
The big question, of course, is what IS the problem? What is CAUSING the oral infection he’s had for the last few weeks? Because I am certain that now that he’s had his last clindamycin today, without fixing the root of the problem, the infection will return. And even though he’s 100 percent better than he was for the previous six months, there are still a few little hints that something is wrong.