Why Do Our Pets Need a General Anesthetic to Have Their Teeth Cleaned?

One of the main reasons your pets require general anesthesia for dentistry is safety. A very small percentage of dogs actually have their teeth brushed every day and due to the fact that they chew on various objects (sticks, toys or rocks), they often require a more in-depth procedure. We are often faced with fractured or worn teeth, gingivitis, heavy tartar and periodontal disease. This can be a long, painful procedure and unfortunately, our communication with pets does not include “Say ahhhhhh and try not to move for the next hour or more.” Therefore, a general anesthetic is the safest, shortest way to accomplish the best results for your pet.

General anesthetics do carry some risk but in today’s protocols with IV fluids to support blood pressure and kidney function, blood work to check liver and kidney values and complete blood counts, anesthetics are quite safe. Registered Technicians are monitoring heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate and temperature during the procedure as well.

We often get asked why we can’t sedate your pet for it’s dental. Although sedation in the right circumstance is completely safe, sedated and or restraining your pet for a moderate to severe dental procedure could cause aspiration or a compromised airway because of the positioning needed to do our work. We prevent this in general anesthesia with the placement of a breathing tube.

Lastly, we need to address genetics. Pets come in various shapes and sizes, some with fantastic teeth and others no matter how much brushing is done… they have terrible teeth and gums. Diet can play a roll in maintaining a healthy mouth but hand in hand with genetics, your pet may still require a dental.

The most humane and safest way for our pets to have a thorough evaluation of the mouth through probing, x-rays, dental scaling above and below the gum line, extractions or reparative dental work is to have a general anesthetic. The added benefit is it is also safe for the technicians, veterinarians and assistants working with your pet too!

Written by: Sherry Duncan, RVT