January 7, 2016

by Dr. Hope Jankunas


Q: Why does my pet need to get his/her teeth cleaned by the veterinarian?

A: Bacteria associated with tartar can invade the area under the gum line and cause tooth and bone decay.  This causes the tooth to become loose and painful, making it difficult to eat.  This bacteria can also travel through the blood to vital organs such as the liver, kidney and heart and cause illness.  It is also responsible for your pet’s bad breath.


Q: How often do I need to have my pet’s teeth professionally cleaned?

A: The time between dental procedures varies between pets based on their breed, age, lifestyle and whether or not they receive daily oral care (brushing the teeth, applying Oravet, etc.).   It is not uncommon for a pet to need the teeth cleaned by the time they are 3-5 years old, and some pets may require it even earlier.  Many pets require annual dental cleanings, and some require it as often as every 6 months.


Q: Why do you have to anesthetize my pet for the dental cleaning?

A:  Anesthesia is used to immobilize the pet for a thorough examination and cleaning, to provide pain management, and to allow us to intubate (place a breathing tube in the airway) to prevent fluid, bacteria and debris from entering your pet’s respiratory tract.  Be aware of businesses that advertise “anesthesia-free dental cleanings,” because if they are not anesthetizing and intubating your pet they are not doing the procedure properly and are putting your pet’s health at risk!


Q: Is anesthesia safe?

A: A physical examination and blood analysis will be performed prior to anesthesia to ensure that your pet is at optimal health for anesthesia.  A Blood Chemistry test allows us to investigate vital organ function (such as kidney and liver) and a Packed Red Blood Cell Volume test checks the oxygen carrying capability.  In pets that are older or have chronic diseases (such as a heart murmur, Diabetes, thyroid disease, kidney disease, etc.), your veterinarian may recommend more in depth blood tests or X-rays to make sure your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia.  We will never put your pet under anesthesia if we feel that it is unsafe to do so.

Your pet will have an IV catheter, which allows direct access to the vein for administering fluids (that help maintain good blood pressure during anesthesia), and emergency drugs if needed.

We use monitoring equipment, such an ECG and pulse-oximeter, to monitor the heart rate and rhythm and oxygen content of the blood.  This is the same equipment used in a human hospital!

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