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Teeth Cleaning and Anesthesia: What You Need to Know!

teeth cleaning and anesthesia what you need to know boulder holistic vet angie krause

Has your veterinarian recommended that your pet have a dental cleaning under anesthesia? Are you worried about the possible side effects and dangers? Have you heard horror stories of animals dying? While anesthesia carries a risk to your pet’s health, untreated dental disease carries a much bigger risk. Like, A LOT bigger.

Many anesthetic deaths are due to poor anesthetic protocols and monitoring. It is important that you know that not all veterinary clinics practice dentistry or perform anesthesia properly. I want to empower you with the knowledge to help ensure your dog or cat has the safest anesthetic experience possible.

The following is a list of questions you should ask before sending your dog in for routine dentistry:

1. Does my animal need blood work before the procedure? The only correct answer to this is yes. If your dog or cat has hidden disease, this can make anesthesia more dangerous.

2. Who will be monitoring my animal’s anesthesia? There should be one dedicated technician or nurse that is only monitoring your animal. From a staffing perspective this is hard for some clinics. While understand the business side of this, I really want what is best for YOUR animal.

3. Will my dog or cat have dental x-rays? If you are going to put your animal under anesthesia, don’t skip this. Most dental disease is hidden under the gum. Taking x-rays is the only way to see this in many cases. You could be leaving very painful disease in your pet’s mouth.

4. Who will be performing extractions if necessary? Only veterinarians should be performing extractions. There are really no exceptions here. This is  pretty major surgery, depending on the tooth and location. It is against the law for non-veterinarians to perform surgery. If your veterinarian tells you that their technician is better at this part than they are, find a new one.

5. Will the veterinarian numb the tooth that is being extracted? Dental surgery is painful. If the area is not numbed with a nerve block, the animal will require more anesthetic to stay asleep. This is bad. If the animal does not experience pain under anesthesia, we can keep them very light. Less anesthetic equals less risk. Also, if your animal does have an extraction, make sure there is a dental x-ray taken after the extraction to ensure that all parts of the tooth were removed.

6. Will my animal have IV catheter? The only correct answer to this is yes. Having instant access to your animal’s vein means instant access to their cardiovascular system. This can be life saving. Don’t skip this.

7. Will you give my animal fluids? This one is getting trickier. Generally I would say that the answer is always yes. However, there is some more thought being given to this in the profession. We are not sure this is always helpful but it is common practice.

8. Who will be with my animal while they are recovering? This is a really important time. Make sure someone will be monitoring your animal during this phase.

If your veterinarian does not like these questions, that is a huge red flag. We work for you. You are your pet’s advocate and we are here to guide you. Please empower yourself to make good decisions for your animal. Overlooking dental disease for fear of anesthesia can be a big mistake. If you are not comfortable with your regular veterinarian, seek a board certified veterinary dentist. They tend to have excellent anesthetic standards and are very fast and efficient. You can find one here.

As always, I welcome any questions and feedback. I love to hear about your animals and help in any way that I can!

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9 thoughts on “Teeth Cleaning and Anesthesia: What You Need to Know!”

  1. Our 7 year old lab went in for a dental cleaning at 8 am. They said she would be done around noon so I called at 12:30. They had not even started on my dog but assured me she was comfortable. So I called again at 1:30 pm they told me she was next. I became concerned they said they had an emergency??? I understand that . They said they needed to do an extraction .But I picked up my dog at 5:30 that day and her whole body seemed twisted so to say and she was dragging her back right leg the next day. Needless to say we called back got steroids and asked if they had dropped our dog. The vet looked at her again and took basic x rays to confirm. nothing was broken and said it was a lumbar spine issue like a slipped disc. So here we are on our second round of steroids . We cannot get into see a well known orthopedic vet for a month. Our lab was perfectly healthy before her dental cleaning and we just feel terrible for our baby. She is maybe 10% better but she drags her back paw. Our is amazing and we just want her healthy again. Any advice.

    1. Hi Amy,

      Oh goodness, I am so sorry! This sounds really stressful and traumatic. I am sending you such a big hug.

      I think seeing an orthopedic vet makes so much sense! I am REALLY glad you have an amazing vet right now, and are working closely with her.

      I know this blog is written about Dr. Angie’s holistic approach to arthritis, but I do think some of these suggestions may be of benefit to your pup too. Always consult your vet if you have concerns, or to see if they have any additional referrals as well.

      Will you keep us posted?

      SO much love,

  2. Dental Cleaning Longmont CO

    Great information! When we go for teeth cleaning, we know about the procedure and can handle it easily but pets are not very comfortable with that. Anesthesia plays a very important role in teeth cleaning of the pets. Thanks for the wonderful information. Surely, this will help a lot of people.
    Dental Cleaning Longmont CO

  3. my 5 years old Pomeranian is going under sedation for her teeth cleaning and then one x-ray to check her maxillary molar . doctor asked me if she had done blood work before and requested to send all the documents to him before sedation, I said I cant reach up to her previous vet. im worried that the vet dosn’t take my dog’s blood test and put her on risk before sedation. how safe is it to put dogs under sedation for teeth cleaning ?!!!! from 9am until 4pm for recovery .

    1. Jacquie Edie, Veterinary Nurse for BHV

      Hi Shakiba,

      Thanks for reaching out! This is a great question! While anesthesia always comes with some risk, your veterinarian will customize anesthesia for your Pomeranian that is as safe as possible. Pre-anesthetic blood work is a very important part of creating this plan, as it can uncover underlying issues that may affect what your vet chooses for anesthesia. Your dog should always have recent blood work prior to anesthesia (we recommend within 3 months). If you are unable to get the records from the previous vet, your current vet should be able to repeat the blood work. I hope this helps! Keep us posted how it goes!


  4. I just lost my best friend Precious,he was a cat.
    He went in for a dental,was a diabetic,in remission.
    I was never tolld it was dangerous,he had blood work done,and an autopsy revealed HCM,and also fluid in his lungs.
    Should they had detected a murmur,as HCM is always accompanied with,or heard something wrong with his breathing with the stethoscope?
    This would have càlled for an ultrasound,not dental work.
    Had I known,or been informed of the dangers of anesthesia,especially on a delicate diabetic in remission I never would have taken the chance at “the vet”

    1. Hi Jason,

      I am so sorry this happened. Sometimes cats with HCM have a murmur but not always. The tricky part is that dental disease can cause heart disease (not HCM). Did your vet hear a murmur? Are you able to talk through what happened with your veterinarian?

      Sending you lots of love.

      Dr. Angie

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