Anesthesia for Canine Teeth Cleaning – Is it Necessary?

When you take your dog to your vet to have his teeth cleaned, you may be surprised to learn that he may need to undergo a general anesthetic for this procedure. Is this potentially dangerous procedure really necessary?

A general anesthetic may be necessary to allow your veterinarian to thoroughly examine your dog’s gums and teeth.  While it’s easy to detect tartar on the outside of his teeth, it’s harder to see it when it is on the inside surfaces.  Also, periodontal disease, or disease of the gums and support structures of the teeth, occurs under the gum line and is very difficult to visualize.  Your dog isn’t likely to lie still and open his mouth to let your vet look at his teeth, remove any tartar and polish the enamel. On the other hand, is the risk of anesthesia worth the risk?

Reducing the Need for General Anesthesia

General anesthesia and dental care can be expensive especially if your dog needs extensive cleaning and extractions.  How can you avoid that expense, and reduce any risk to your dog’s health while still making sure his teeth and gums get the best possible care?

This part is easy.  If you clean your dog’s teeth regularly, you will prevent the build up of plaque and tartar that leads to periodontal disease.

Ideally, brush his teeth daily, or at the very least, three times a week.  Make sure you clean the front and back surfaces of his teeth, and don’t forget those big molars at the back of his mouth.  Brushing will remove any plaque and food debris before they cause dental disease.  He will have a healthy mouth and fresh breath, and will be less likely to need a general anesthetic for teeth cleaning.

Home Dental Care for Your Dog

There are a range of products that are safe to use for cleaning your dog’s teeth.

Don’t be tempted to brush his teeth with your own toothpaste because he won’t enjoy the lather that is produced which is actually unsafe for dogs.  (Remember, we spit out our toothpaste but dogs can’t spit!)

Instead look for toothpaste made especially for dogs like the Vanilla flavored Kissable toothpaste that contains Tetrasodium & Tetrapotassium Phosphate which remove tartar, while kaolin polishes the teeth and smooths their surface.  Another ingredient is tea tree oil which is a a natural antibacterial and antifungal agent and breath freshener.  Couple the Kissable toothpaste with the unique Kissable toothbrush to effectively clean all surfaces of your dog’s teeth at the same time.  It is designed to fit into any sized mouth and its molded handle makes it easy to hold as you move it around the inside of his mouth.

What if your dog just won’t let you near him with a toothbrush? You can still help to prevent dental disease by using Dental Wipes.  Although they aren’t as effective as a toothbrush and toothpaste, they will still help to remove plaque and control the bacteria responsible for gingivitis. For more alternatives to brushing, click here.

Oh if I must

A full general anesthetic for dental care involves a very carefully balanced drug protocol with intravenous fluids, heating pads, frequent monitoring by trained veterinary technicians and pain relief.  This is the only way that a complete dental exam and teeth clean can be done.  It allows the veterinary dentist to thoroughly explore his mouth without him fidgeting or moving, and without causing him pain.

Even though you clean your dog’s teeth frequently, he will still need regular checkups with his veterinarian.  If you put the time and effort into preventing dental disease at home, this checkup won’t take long and he is less likely to need treatment under anesthesia.

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