dog teeth cleaning risks

Dog Teeth Cleaning with Anesthetic

Have you ever wondered what is involved in a canine dental cleaning? You do, in fact, have a couple of options available but you must make an informed decision for both your peace of mind and the safety of your four-legged friend.

Working in a busy veterinary hospital, I am able to watch both canine and feline dental procedures on a daily basis. The veterinary hospital I work at does not offer non-anesthetic dental care. In our practice, any animal that is scheduled for a dental cleaning, or SPF (scale, polish and fluoride), is required to begin a course of antibiotics two days prior to the cleaning and continue the antibiotics at home for five days after the cleaning. A pre-exam is conducted, with the owner present and the teeth are graded with mild dental disease scored a one and severe dental disease scored a three. Owners are also told, in advance, if teeth may need to be pulled or any abscesses may need to be lanced and drained.

The dog is fasted the night before the procedure and has pre-surgical blood work drawn and analyzed in the morning, just prior to the cleaning. If the blood work indicates that the dog cannot safely go under anesthesia, the dental cleaning is canceled and the owners are notified. An IV catheter is placed in the dog’s front leg and s/he is given a pre-sedative so that a trachea tube can be placed. The dog is then put under anesthesia and one of our veterinary technicians, trained in dental procedures, begins the procedure. Any necessary extractions are performed by a veterinarian as are any procedures necessary beyond a general scaling. The dog is monitored by an assistant or a second technician to ensure its safety.When the cleaning is complete, the dog is brought out of anesthesia and is monitored until s/he has woken up completely, is able to walk on its own and urinate and/or defecate. The owner is contacted, if they wish, to advise them of the dog’s successful dental cleaning and are given a time that they can come and get their pet. The catheter that was placed remains for several hours in case any problems suddenly arise requiring the animal to go back on an IV.

Are You Concerned? Ask a Veterinarian!

Some pet owners are leery of having their dog go under a general anesthetic for a dental cleaning, though veterinarians agree that the process is often safer for both the pet(s) and the veterinary staff. Isoflorane is a commonly used anesthetic that is considered to be quite safe. In fact, the benefits of a dental cleaning far outweigh the risks associated with a healthy pet being given an anesthetic. If you are concerned, be sure to ask what pre-testing services are required or offered by your veterinarian.

Dog Teeth Cleaning Risks without Anesthetic

If you do decide to opt for a dental cleaning without the use of anesthesia, there are some things you should be aware of. The AVDC, American Veterinary Dental College, explains the following risks of this procedure:

  • Any slight movement by the pet during the procedure can cause injury to the oral tissue.
  • Removing tartar under the gum line is impossible to do in a patient that is awake. If this tartar is not removed, the effects of the cleaning will not last.
  • Areas of disease may be missed due to uncooperative patients. Looking at the inner surfaces of the teeth is very near impossible while a pet is awake.
  • Instance of bites to veterinary staff is high when dental cleanings are attempted on patients that remain awake and alert.
  • Depending on the severity of dental disease, the procedure can be quite painful.

Canine Teeth Cleaning is Important!

No matter what you decide, proper oral care is important for the overall health of your pet. There are many products you can use to reduce the necessity of frequent dental cleanings: dental diets, chew materials and oral rinses. You can also brush your dog’s teeth daily using a finger toothbrush and a canine toothpaste to ward off dental disease!