Dear Lola: I'm a miniature dachshund with some really bad breath, plaque and tartar build up. At my recent vet visit my mom & I were told that I would need to be put under anesthesia to have my teeth professionally cleaned. So, of course being the apple of my moms eye and her little princess the thought of anesthesia has caused much worry. Is anesthesia really necessary? What else can my mom do at home to whip my teeth into shape?
Sincerely, SLEEPING BEAUTY
Dear SLEEPING BEAUTY: We all know that our teeth are very important part of our smile. But the key to a beautiful healthy smile is proper cleaning. Like humans, dog & cat teeth deserve the same attention on a daily basis. Although routine daily teeth brushing every day is ideal, saying "Aah" at least 2-3 times a week is sufficient.
Persistent brushing will surely help get some of the plaque & tartar off, but in your case can only do so much. It's never a walk in the dog park when getting your annual vet check up, only to hear that you need to go under the dental drill for a proper tooth cleaning. However, sometimes the best things for us are the hardest to do. But there is something to smile about, good dental hygiene has been proven to add dogs years to your life.
Constant bad breath, toothaches or oral issues can signal that a pet dental cleaning is in order. Often times when plaque & tarter buildup becomes quite a chore for even that most trusted toothbrush. Dental reinforcements must be called in to chisel, scrap, polish and do battle on our behalf . But here's something that will put a big grin on your face. Once you get those teeth professionally cleaned you can finally breath a sigh of relief and take over from here. You and your mom will immediately see a difference in your smile and your health will improve. Not to mention it will be much easier to maintain that beautiful healthy & happy smile your vet worked so hard to give you.
Professional Pet Dental Cleaning 101:
However, as a concerned dog parent the thought of anesthesia can be scary & worrisome there are benefits. Although your mom may not be to keen on the idea of putting you under. Major pet dental work usually requires general anesthesia as a safety precaution. Since a typical pet dental checkup includes full oral exam (i.e. checking for oral growths or ulcers), treatment/removal of diseased teeth, removal of plaque and tartar, and finally polishing the teeth. Sadly, "spit," "rinse", and "open wide" are not commands that the canine world can understand. Not even the Dog Whisperer can help you with this one. Anesthesia has a way of making this otherwise stressful situation less painful & uncomfortable for all parties involved.
The dentist will be using tools that create sounds reminiscent of a construction zone or workshop. These unknown sounds can be scary, terrifying and can spook you into sudden movements which can do serious harm. So for both you, your moms, and vets peace of mind anesthesia is an important safety precaution. Because even the most well behaved & obedient dog may not be cooperative in the dental chair. The noise and possible discomfort involved with a full dental cleaning will require sedation.
Don't let the noise and thought of possible pain scare you, there is a silver lining. The great news is that dental cleanings are routine procedures done on a daily basis. While the dental procedure is not as invasive as a spay & neuter surgery (a private matter which does not require elaboration at this time), the risk of complications from the anesthesia remain quite the same. It is comforting to know that the risks of anesthesia complications occur only in 1 every 100,000 animals, which means the odds are clearly in your favor. Just remember you are in the hands of a qualified vet so there is nothing to fear. Recently, I had to be put under because of a foot injury and still here to tell the "tail" . As you can see by my long winded blog post I am okay and back to my old sniffing ways again. Hey, if you are a lucky brave pup like me perhaps your mom will make you a tray of pup-sicles.
Prior to the procedure your vet will do extensive test to make sure the anesthesia & dental procedure is safe for you. To ensure you are low risk for complications basic blood tests, kidney & liver evaluation, heart exam, and urinalysis to check for kidney disease or issues will most likely be performed. Just like your moms doctor, your vet wants to give you as thorough an evaluation as possible to determine the correct diagnosis and proper treatment for your teeth and over-all health. Extra precaution is taken for senior dogs undergoing procedures requiring the use of anesthesia, ask your vet for more information.
If you do pass the health exam and lab testing with flying colors, the nice vet will schedule an appointment for cleaning and dental work to tackle that tartar. While you are under anesthesia the vet will do a general examination, x-rays, decayed tooth extractions if needed, tartar removal & polishing. In terms of time frame, it all depends on how healthy your teeth are and the amount of plaque or tarter buildup. Some vet dental cleaning are brief while other extensive cleanings require a lot more TLC and time. The time frame of the procedure can only be determined once the vet begins the full oral examination. The vet will notify her immediately if any problems arise during the procedure. As an added safe guard some vets may advise a pet to stay overnight so they can monitor any possible issues that may arise from the anesthesia. Please bark the word to mom that the vet will keep her informed every step of the way during the entire process from start to finish.
After the procedure your mom will be given any necessary special instruction and a vet dental care program. For examples, pups who undergo tooth extraction will be on stricter diet of softer foods for a short period of time or may need to take an antibiotic to prevent infection. If any additional care or follow-up exam is needed that vet will let you know.
Tips on How to Maintain Your One of a Kind Beautiful Grin
Once the dental cleaning is done you can breath a sigh of relief and get back to your dog duties of eating, snoozing & playing. But keep in mind the key to maintaining that healthy smile is lies in the hands of the one doing the brushing, your parent. But you can do your part by sitting still & cooperating for your daily teeth brushing. Besides...did I say treats are in order for good doggy behavior.
Here are some tips to keep bad breath, tartar and plaque buildup at bay. By following these simple dental habits the hope is that you won't have to see the sights of the dental drill for a long time or those costly vet bills.
1. Regular teeth brushing 2-3 times a week. Get into the habit of regularly brushing your dog's teeth while they're still in good condition. It is always good to start brushing at puppy age, but it better late then never.
2. Crunchy Treats & Chews. Chomping on hard, crunchy kibble and organic treats will help remove some of the plaque.
3. At home dental exams. Have your mom examine your teeth on a regular basis for signs of tooth problems or dental disease. Some of the warning signs may include, tooth pains, redness, swelling, abnormal gumline, difficulty chewing. This should be done each time you are groomed.
4. Schedule Annual Vet & Dental checkups! Mark your calender, make sure you get your annual vet & dental checkups and cleanings. Once a year for young lads, and bi-annually for senior dogs.
6. See a Qualified Vet. Of course, make sure your teeth are in good hands of a qualified veterinarian since you only have one smile. Annual checkups will help rule out if a dental cleaning is necessary.
Lola the eco dog
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