Vail Pet Talk column: Dental procedures require pets to be sedated
Have you considered getting your pet’s teeth cleaned and hesitated scheduling the appointment because anesthesia makes you uncomfortable? Well, you are not alone. It is very common that considering putting a pet under anesthesia makes a pet owner nervous. It’s very important to remember, though, that in order to keep your pet safe and ensure that the teeth are cleaned as thoroughly as possible, anesthesia is necessary.
Prior to considering any anesthetic procedure, it is crucial to have blood work performed on your pet. Blood work is important because it tells us how the internal organs are working, such as your pet’s kidneys, liver and many other organs inside their bodies whose proper functioning is necessary for them to stay healthy.
Blood work also ensures us that your pet is making enough cells that are necessary for proper body function, such as red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Blood work is easy to have performed and relatively stress-free. Your veterinarian and his or her staff have to obtain a small sample in order to run the proper tests. In addition, many veterinary hospitals have the capability to run the samples on-site, eliminating the wait time.
For their own good
It can be very stressful for an animal to have to be restrained in order to get their teeth cleaned, which is another reason why we prefer them to be under anesthesia. It can be very scary for them to have to sit still while their mouth is worked on, as they don’t understand that what we are doing is for their own good.
In addition, there is no way that we would be able to be as thorough as we’d like without anesthetizing them. Just like human dentists, veterinarians like to get into every nook and cranny to clean and inspect to be sure we are leaving the animal with the healthiest mouth possible.
There are certain dental procedures that require the animal to be perfectly still in order to perform them. Dental X-rays are one example. We need to use a small plate that can be harmful to your pet if they bite into it. Also, the plate needs to be kept still while we shoot the X-ray, which is not possible unless your animal is asleep.
If your pet needs a tooth taken out, they need to be perfectly still so that the veterinarian can be as efficient and meticulous as possible. Also, tooth extractions are painful, and we certainly wouldn’t want your pet awake for that type of thing.
When we clean a pet’s teeth, most veterinarians use an ultrasonic scaler similar to that which is used at a human dentist’s office. The scaler isn’t painful for a dog or cat but feels funny. The animals don’t typically like the noise it makes and the sensation they feel. Therefore, for the pet’s safety and to minimize their stress and discomfort, they need to be anesthetized for this.
Lastly, and I feel mostly importantly, it is crucial that your pet be anesthetized for a dental procedure so that we as their veterinarian can protect the airway. A pet with dental disease carries a lot of bacteria and infection in their mouth, and when we are removing the tartar and calculus on their teeth, the gross stuff needs to go somewhere. We don’t want that somewhere to be their lungs.
We also use water when using the ultrasonic scaler, the drill and to rinse their mouth. The pet’s airway needs to be protected in order to prevent the water from going into their lungs. How do we protect their airway, you may be wondering? We place an endotracheal tube in their trachea that provides fresh oxygen and anesthetic gas directly to their lungs. We also place clean gauze in their mouth to prevent water and the gross stuff from going down their throat.
We as veterinarians want what is best for your pet as much as you do, and I feel that this is an important way to ensure your pet’s health during a procedure. Contact your veterinarian to gain further information regarding dental cleanings and what we do to be sure your pet is as safe as possible.
Happy fall, and enjoy the beautiful colors this season provides.
Liz Foster, DVM, is an associate veterinarian at Mountain Mobile Vet and The Animal Hospital Center. She can be reached at 970-328-7085.