Dental Cleanings for Dogs – Q & A with Shawn Messonnier, DVM

Q: “I have a question about dental cleanings for dogs. What should I be concerned about when taking my dog in for his dental cleaning? He is a 15 pound poodle who is currently 11 years old. For example, should I request gas or injectable anesthesia (any pros/cons I need to know would be appreciated.) What about preanesthetic lab testing?”

A: Good question. Because every doctor does procedures differently, I strongly encourage pet owners to discuss these topics with their veterinarians. Here’s the way I approach anesthetic procedures.

First, I think it’s important to make sure that the pet is healthy prior to performing any anesthetic or surgical procedures. Except in emergency situations, most anesthetic and surgical procedures are elective procedures that can be performed any time. If the pet is not in the best health prior to the procedure, it’s usually best to improve the pet’s health then move forward with the procedure. This means a thorough examination and lab testing, such as blood, urine, or radiographic testing, should be done prior to anesthesia. Since many pets have one or more abnormalities on the exam or lab testing (most of which do not necessitate postponing anesthesia but may cause problems later,) this pre-anesthesia evaluation is important.

Assuming nothing on the pre-anesthesia evaluation postpones the procedure, the type of anesthesia is important. In our practice, we use a balanced holistic approach to anesthesia so that pets go to sleep quickly, wake up quickly (most are ready to go home within 5 minutes of the procedure,) and experience no pain. For dental cleanings, gas anesthesia administered via an endotracheal tube placed in the pet’s throat is essential (veterinary dentists consider it malpractice to perform dental cleanings if this is not done.)

Discuss these concerns with your doctor to make sure the procedure is done safely and quickly. One final note:age is NOT a reason to skip cleaning your pet’s teeth. Most older pets, using a holistic approach, are safely anesthetized and do very well.

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Written by Shawn Messonnier DVM

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