Why Do We Anesthetize Our Pet’s for Dental Treatments?

So your veterinarian has recommended  a dental cleaning for your pet Fluffy.  What is involved in this?  We often call “Dental Cleanings” a COHAT.  That is a Complete Oral Health Cleaning, Assessment and Treatment.  It involves much more than just a cleaning of the teeth.  It is important to not only clean the visible tartar above the gumline but also to clean below the gumline, probe around each tooth to check for periodontal disease, x-ray the teeth to look for cavities, broken roots and tooth root abscesses.

Since Fluffy will not likely sit still for 45 minutes to an hour with their mouths open and rinse and spit on command we do pet COHATs under a general anaesthetic.  This is the safest and best option for pets.  It allows the technician and veterinarian to do a thorough job of cleaning, examining, x-raying and probing the teeth.  The anesthetic allows us to put a tube down their throat to maintain a safe airway, prevent rinsing water and tartar and bacteria from the teeth from going into their lungs and help us deliver oxygen and anesthetic gas to the pet.  If a tooth needs to be extracted Fluffy will not feel any pain and will remain still allowing the veterinarian to do a good job.

Before Fluffy goes under the anesthetic we run blood work to ensure all the organs are functioning well and there will be no bleeding issues.  Once we get the blood work results back we give Fluffy some medications to make him sleepy and take away any pain or anxiety.  This takes about 15 minutes to have an effect.  During this time an iv catheter is placed in one of Fluffy’s arms after a freezing patch has had time to numb the skin.  IV fluids are started to maintain hydration and help the body maintain blood pressure during the anesthetic.  It makes the procedure as safe as possible.

Once Fluffy is relaxed and calm an intravenous medication is given to help him fall asleep and a tube is placed in his throat.  Oxygen and anesthetic gas is given to help him stay asleep.  A monitor is hooked up to help us watch the blood pressure, heart, breathing and temperature.  Fluffy is kept warm on a heated table and the dental cleaning procedure is started.

Once the COHAT is finished and Fluffy wakes up he will be watched closely and kept warm until he is fully awake.  Pain medication is given if needed.  It usually takes an hour or so for Fluffy to be fully awake and ready to go home.

If you have any questions about safety or what else is involved in a dental cleaning please do not hesitate to contact your veterinary staff.

Written by: Dr. Morag Maskery