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Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleaning
It’s natural to have concerns about general anesthesia, whether for ourselves or for our beloved pets. After all, no matter how young and healthy the patient, there is always some associated risk. For this reason, anesthesia-free dental cleaning for pets has become more and more popular. And with no anesthesia, the cost of cleaning Fido’s or Fluffy’s teeth is significantly reduced- clearly another attractive feature. Anesthesia-free dental cleaning for your pet sounds rather tempting, doesn’t it? Before you jump on this bandwagon I encourage you to consider whether or not this option truly serves your dog’s or your cat’s best health interest.
I’m a big believer in regularly brushing your pet’s teeth at home. Thoroughly removing dental tartar on an awake animal, however, is a whole nother ball game! Even with highly skilled hands and a super-cooperative animal, it is impossible to successfully and painlessly remove tartar from underneath the gum lines and along the inner surfaces of the teeth (the surfaces in closest proximity to the tongue). And, if the end result of cleaning is anything other than polished, super smooth, dental surfaces, tartar will quickly reaccumulate. Anesthesia-free dental cleaning definitely gives the outer surfaces of the teeth a cleaner look. While this may be pleasing to your eye, there is no significant benefit to your pet’s health. For all of these reasons, if and when dental cleaning is warranted for your dog or cat, I strongly encourage that it be performed with the aid of general anesthesia.
Now, there are some caveats that accompany my recommendation. For some animals, the risks associated with general anesthesia clearly outweigh the benefits, for example a dog or cat with advanced heart disease or kidney failure. Even for the healthiest animals, general anesthesia should be accompanied by careful monitoring of the patient’s status at all times. A list of important questions to ask your veterinarian about general anesthesia can be found in Speaking for Spot within the chapter called “Important Questions to Ask Your Vet…and How to Ask Them.”
The American Veterinary Dental College also advises against anesthesia-free dental cleaning. Here is an excerpt from their recently drafted position statement:
“Owners of pets naturally are concerned when anesthesia is required for their pet. However, performing nonprofessional dental scaling on an unanesthetized pet is inappropriate for the following reasons:
How do you feel about anesthesia-free versus anesthetized dental cleaning? Keep in mind, for some folks this is a rather heated topic. Let’s keep the conversation civilized!
Happy holidays to you and your loved ones,
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Veterinary Dental Services, LLC
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